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Optical Brighteners are added to detergents. They absorb light and give off a light in a blue range which is intended to make clothes seem brighter and whiter, the way that the color blue make white appear whiter. They would not appear on the fabric, but when exposed to light it helps to provide fluorescence. Chemists created the optical brighteners to replace "bluing", which was an actual dye used to help take the yellow hue our of white fabrics.