Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting Ready To Run: Avoid Optical Brighteners

Many blogs have talked about what to have, and how to pack your bug out bag.

There's something else that is elemental that I think needs bringing to the foreground.

It's what you're wearing.

Many military people, hunters and outdoorsmen know about UV (ultraviolet) enhancers in laundry detergents. These chemicals are also called Optical Brighteners, or Optical Brightening Agents. These compounds absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit the light in the visible spectrum.

What this does is make your whites appear more white, and your colors appear brighter. The compounds do not actually make your clothes more white, or more bright, they just cause your clothing to emit more light giving the illusion of them being brighter and cleaner.

So, what does this have to do with you if you have to take to the hills?

You will stand out against the natural background of the environment in the right conditions if you're wearing clothing treated with Optical Brightening Agents.

Have you ever noticed as the day moves into dusk, and as things begin to fade into the darkness and become monochromatic, there's that guy running down the road in a white T-shirt that looks as bright as a 100 watt bulb?

What is happening is this. UV light, violet, and blue light (part of our Sun's spectrum of light) are easily scattered by what is found in the Earth's atmosphere. This is why our sky looks blue (for the most part). As the sun sets, UV light is still being reflected and scattered high in the atmosphere and actually illuminates the ground.

You just can't see it because the human eye can not react to that spectrum of light. But those optical brighteners are capturing that light and shifting it into the visible spectrum.

If you have your cammies on, you'll have nice bright cammies next to the background of your surroundings.

Even artificial light, such as flashlights and auto headlights, can have a UV component. There are specialty flashlights designed to emit only UV light. LED LENSER, a manufacturer of high quality UV LED flashlights, outlines benefits of a UV light.

Tracking a human in the brush is easier if they're glowing.

So, what do you do?

There are specialty fabric cleaners like Sport Wash available. Most Wal-Marts have it in their camping / sporting goods area. Some people have recommended using Ivory soap shavings. Soaps often do not have any optical brighteners in them, but they can fail to remove oils and can leave behind a fatty residue. Detergents are preferred for this reason.

The Army provides a very nice list of approved (does not contain optical brighteners) and non-approved (DOES contain optical brighteners) detergents at the Army Combat Uniform care site.

However, as we all know, manufacturers are always having to reformulate to meet various laws. So, the only really definite way to go is with Sport Wash.

Have at least one set of new clothes that you have washed with a product without optical brighteners. If you can't get a new set, wash a good serviceable set at least twice with a product that does not contain optical brighteners and then follow up with Sport Wash if possible. If not, then wash the items at least three times to try and remove as much of the brighteners as possible.

Pack them in such away that you can get to them quickly and easily.

DO NOT FORGET TO WASH YOUR UNDERGARMENTS in a similar fashion. If you can't get neutral colored underwear, buy some brown or dark green RIT Dye and dye a set at home.

Anything white really shows up in the woods, unless its snowing.

Nature calls, and you don't want to get caught with your pants down. Literally.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I'm running down to "Academy" to buy some Sport Wash for the cammies.

Sooner Gal

HermitJim said...

This is some very good information, Buddy!

I didn't even know about it, but I guess I should have...

Thanks for the information!

Catman said...

Hey Sooner,

Glad to be of help!

Hermit Jim!

Thanks, that's what we're all here for. Trading information. We can't all know everything, but we can sure work to close up the knowledge gap!

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Good Stuff, Catmeister. Nice end.