Exposure of black carbon (BC) is associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes. A number of optical methods for estimating BC on Teflon filters have been adopted but most assume all light absorption is due to BC while other sources of colored particulate matter exist. Recently, a four-wavelength optical reflectance measurement for distinguishing second hand cigarette smoke (SHS) from soot BC was developed (Brook et al., 2010; Lawless et al., 2004). However, the method has not been validated for soot-BC nor SHS and little work has been done to look at the methodological issues of the optical reflectance measurements for samples that could have SHS, BC, and other colored particles. We refined this method using a lab-modified integrating sphere with absorption measured continuously from 350 nm to 1000 nm. Furthermore, we characterized the absorption spectrum of additional components of particulate matter (PM) on PM2.5 filters including ammonium sulfate, hematite, goethite, and magnetite. Finally, we validate this method for BC by comparison to other standard methods. Use of synthesized data indicates that it is important to optimize the choice of wavelengths to minimize computational errors as additional components (more than 2) are added to the apportionment model of colored components.We found that substantial errors are introduced when using 4 wavelengths suggested by Lawless et al. to quantify four substances, while an optimized choice of wavelengths can reduce model-derived error from over 10% to less than 2%. For environmental samples, the method was sensitive for estimating airborne levels of BC and SHS, but not mass loadings of iron oxides and sulfate. Duplicate samples collected in NYC show high reproducibility (points consistent with a 1:1 line, R2 ¼ 0.95). BC data measured by this method were consistent with those measured by other optical methods, including Aethalometer and Smoke-stain Reflectometer (SSR); although the SSR looses sensitivity at filter loadings above 90 ng/mm2. Furthermore, positive correlations (R2 ¼ 0.7) were observed between EC measured by NIOSH Method 5040 on quartz filters and BC measured in co-located Teflon filter samples collected from both heating and non-heating seasons. Overall, the validation data demonstrates the usefulness of this method to evaluate BC from archived Teflon filters while potentially providing additional component information.