Materials which are not exposed directly to an intense and prolonged illumination retain their whiteness for a long time, and hence dress materials and hats which have been bleached with sulphurous acid should be protected from the sun’s glare when not in use.
223. The Removal of Stains. Bleaching powder is very useful in the removal of stains from white fabrics. Ink spots rubbed with lemon juice and dipped in bleaching solution fade away and leave on the cloth no trace of discoloration. Sometimes these stains can be removed by soaking in milk, and where this is possible, it is the better method.
Bleaching solution, however, while valuable in the removal of some stains, is unable to remove paint stains, because paints owe their color to mineral matter, and on this chlorine is powerless to act. Paint stains are best removed by the application of gasoline followed by soap and water.
224. Dyes. One of the most important and lucrative industrial processes of the world to-day is that of staining and dyeing. Whether we consider the innumerable shades of leather used in shoes and harnesses and upholstery; the multitude of colors in the paper which covers our walls and reflects light ranging from the somber to the gay, and from the delicate to the gorgeous; the artificial scenery which adorns the stage and by its imitation of trees and flowers and sky translates us to the Forest of Arden; or whether we consider the uncounted varieties of color in dress materials, in carpets, and in hangings, we are dealing with substances which owe their beauty to dyes and dyestuffs.
The coloring of textile fabrics, such as cotton, wool, and silk, far outranks in amount and importance that of leather, paper, etc., and hence the former only will be considered here; but the theories and facts relative to textile dyeing are applicable in a general way to all other forms as well.
225. Plants as a Source of Dyes. Among the most beautiful examples of man’s handiwork are the baskets and blankets of the North American Indians, woven with a skill which cannot be equaled by manufacturers, and dyed in mellow colors with a few simple dyes extracted from local plants. The magnificent rugs and tapestries of Persia and Turkey, and the silks of India and Japan, give evidence that a knowledge of dyes is widespread and ancient. Until recently, the vegetable world was the source of practically all coloring matter, the pulverized root of the madder plant yielding the reds, the leaves and stems of the indigo plant the blues, the heartwood of the tropical logwood tree the blacks and grays, and the fruit of certain palm and locust trees yielding the soft browns. So great was the commercial demand for dyestuffs that large areas of land were given over to the exclusive cultivation of the more important dye plants. Vegetable dyes are now, however, rarely used because about the year 1856 it was discovered that dyes could be obtained from coal tar, the thick sticky liquid formed as a by-product in the manufacture of coal gas. These artificial coal-tar, or aniline, dyes have practically undisputed sway to-day, and the vast areas of land formerly used for the cultivation of vegetable dyes are now free for other purposes.