Velocity Systems

The Danger of Optical Brighteners

This article courtesy of

Some detergents a hazard for ABUs

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska--Pictured, the Army Combat Uniform, with material identical to the Airman Battle Uniform, shows the difference optical brighteners make under ultra-violet lighting. Laundry detergents with additives known as
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by compiled from staff reports
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/4/2007 – EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — Laundry additives known as “optical brighteners” should not be used for washing the Airman Battle Uniform.

Laundry instructions for ABUs specify not using any laundry detergents that contain optical brighteners.

Optical Brighteners make the ABU more detectable by night vision equipment and make the ABU more visible in a low-light environment of any kind, by reflecting more of any available light.

Optical brighteners are chemicals that absorb the ultraviolet and violet region of colors in a fabric. They trick the eye into seeing a brighter shade and reflect more light.

Near Infrared (nIR) capability of the ABU is degraded when washed with detergents containing optical brighteners. Because most commercial detergents contain optical brighteners, there is generally no indication on the packaging.

The impact of optical brighteners is permanent, it cannot be washed out.

Laundry detergents that do not contain optical brighteners:
Bold Powder
Cheer Liquid (all versions)
Cheer Powder (all versions)
All Powder (all versions)
Surf Powder (all versions)
All Detergent Free Clear Country Save Liquid Detergent
Allen’s Naturally Laundry Detergent (liquid and powder)
Bi-O-Kleen Laundry Detergent (liquid and powder)
Charlie’s Soap (liquid and powder)
ECOS Free and Clear Laundry Detergent
Mountain Green Liquid Laundry Detergent
Nature Clean (liquid and powder)
Ecover Ecological Liquid Detergent
Oxy-Prime Powdered Laundry Detergent
Planet Ultra laundry detergents
Seventh Generation Laundry detergents
SportwashSun and Earth LiquidSurf Powder (not Surf Liquid)
Woolite, original and dark.

*No federal endorsement of products intended

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