Science Questions

Why is laundry lint always blue?

Sun, 6th Sep 2009

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Dolphin Burns asked:

Why is laundry lint always blue? Why is it that no matter what colour the laundry, I mean even white, the fluff that comes out of filter system at the other end, itís always lilac, purple or grey in colour?


Diana -   Thatís a good question actually.   And now, Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki has worked a bit on on this and he actually did win an IgNobel Prize for his lint research.  But he says that for both belly button fluff and laundry lint, is actually an average of all the colours of your clothes.  So all the stuff that comes off even your white laundry, will end up being sort of slightly grayish, bluish, horrible colour.  And if you think about even if you do have a lot of black clothing, and I'm sure most people will have at least one item of black clothing, will tend to sort of fade to grey and those are the bits that are more likely to disintegrate and fall off and become lint.

Dave -   Itís not always blue.  I once washed a bathroom mat from the floor, which was already fluffy and bright red.  And that shed completely, it jammed up the whole washing machine and the lint that came out of that was definitely red.  

Chris -   And the other slights a bit of additional information or perhaps you might or might not wants to know about Dr. Karlís study, he actually invited to send in their belly button fluff, to see that colour that was.  I think it came out pretty much the same, didnít it?

Diana -   Yeah, the IgNoble people told him to never, ever do research on this again.


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Dolphin-Byrnes asked the Naked Scientists: Why is it that no matter what colour the laundry (and I mean even white!) the fluff that is collected in the filter system of the washing-machine (I have two different brands in use)†is always but always lilac/purple/grey in colour? † Lucille Byrnes What do you think? Dolphin-Byrnes , Sun, 6th Sep 2009

Dr Karl's speciality ... RD, Sun, 6th Sep 2009

QFE glovesforfoxes, Sun, 6th Sep 2009


If you mix all colours equally the result is black. If you mix black with white the result is grey.
If you looked at the lint, (washing machine or navel), through a microscope I suspect it would contain strands of many colours mixed with white giving the typical grey appearance.

There may be a colour bias if your clothing/washing does not contain equal amounts of all colours ... RD, Sun, 6th Sep 2009

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