Mystery blue powder from the 1920s for polishing crystal?
August 21, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

What is this mystery substance? In an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, Rose and Daisy are cleaning crystals from the chandelier. Rose explains that "...then you give the pieces a wipe-over with this powder blue before the final polish and that gives the glass an extra sparkle." Screengrab here.

It's at about 23:15 from this episode, season 5/episode 5, if Netflix is helpful. Apparently it's also good for mirrors? I'm not Googling correctly and/or Mrs. Beeton doesn't cover this.
posted by mimi to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bluing powder. It's still available; it's mostly used for laundry and for hair products for silver-haired ladies, but my bottle specifically says it's useful to impart sparkle to decorative crystal and chandeliers.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:38 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Reckitt's Blue?
posted by kerplunk at 9:38 AM on August 21, 2012

Oh, what it is is very finely powdered iron. How it works is that adding a blue tint to a yellowed white makes it look bright white
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:40 AM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

whoops! ...because blue is the complementary of yellow.

kerplunk is right that it was probably Reckitt's Blue that would have been used in an English house of that era.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:43 AM on August 21, 2012

Wow! You guys are so fast and awesome that I'm afraid I just blue myself.

I'd thought it might be that, but somehow also thought it was only a liquid. Thanks!
posted by mimi at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2012

Blue is not the complement of yellow. It is the complement of orange. Purple and yellow are complementary colors.
posted by Dolley at 10:25 AM on August 21, 2012

Dolley, "yellowed" whites get that way because of orange from rust in the water. I appreciate your calling out my sloppy usage.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:33 AM on August 21, 2012

That was serious, no snark.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:34 AM on August 21, 2012

Not all that helpful in answering the question, but my Scottish grandmother added a few drops of "blue" from a tiny bottle when she was hand-washing whites. It's so lovely and old-fashioned!
posted by Savannah at 9:28 PM on August 21, 2012

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