Everyone wants clean-smelling soft clothes – which do not irritate the skin, which will flow over the body without clinging to the skin, and announces to everyone with their sweet fragrance that you are wearing new clean clothes. Soft and fluffy towels are much better than those brittle ones dried out in the sun. Not to say anything about kids’ clothes and diapers – you want them super soft against the skin.
In this article I will cover:
- Why are fabric softeners added?
- How does the fabric softener work?
- How to use the fabric softener
- Which fabrics are best to use fabric softeners? And which fabrics should not use fabric softeners?
- Why are fabric fasteners not so great on fluffy fabrics?
- Cons of using fabric softner
- Alternatives to fabric softener
Why are fabric softeners added?
Liquid fabric softeners are added to the rinse cycle of fabric washing for all these advantages.
They are said to reduce static build-up and the resultant clinginess to skin and to make the fabric soft and fluffy and also absorbent. You just have to run your hands over the fabric to know the difference – it will feel much softer than without the softener.
Another thing that attracts many to use the softener is that all the detergent gets washed off – the fabric softener neutralizes the detergent and this helps in taking it all out.
With some new-age fabric softeners, the fabrics wrinkle less. Ease of ironing is another claimed advantage. Some others claim resistance to staining. And some say their concoction is antimicrobial. And also that they do these all without losing the absorbency of the fabric.
And to top it all is the smell. They all have a special fragrance that lingers.
Dryer sheets serve the same purpose. Liquid Fabric softener is usually added to the final wash. A dryer sheet is added to the dryer. If you cannot be bothered with adding different things in the wash, there are washing powders with the fabric softener added to it. Two in one.
How does the fabric softener work?
The main ingredients of fabric softeners are conditioning agents, emulsion stabilizers, preservatives, fragrance and retainers to make the fragrance long lasting, and color.
A fabric softener works by coating the fabric with lubricating chemicals – it is these chemicals that work all the magic you see. The ingredients bind themself onto the fabric fibers and form this soft layer over the surface. This is what you feel as a waxy layer.
How to use the fabric softener
- Fabric softeners might not work as efficiently in hard water as it does in soft water. Soften the water first.
- Most of the washing machines have a dispenser for putting it inside. Use it if yours has it. The softener will be added automatically at the time of the last rinse.
- Do not put fabric softener along with the washing powder. Wait till the washing is over. It is used in the rinse cycle.
- Do not pour the fabric softener directly on the fabric. Pour into the water in the rinsing cycle.
- Remove any trace of fabric softener on the fabric if you mean to print or paint on it. It acts as a barrier.
Which fabrics are best to use fabric softeners? And which fabrics should not use fabric softeners?
It is best used with nylon, polyester, and acrylic fabrics.
Do not use fabric softeners on Microfiber fabrics for a long time – it will be fluffy at first but may harden over time. Performance fabrics also should not be washed with fabric softener as it can interfere with the moisture wicking property of these fabrics. Same with coated fabrics and fabrics with various finishes.
Why are fabric fasteners not so great on fluffy fabrics?
Fluffy fabrics like Microfiber fabrics, fleece, flannel are made from very fine fibers. These can easily get clogged by the fabric softener’s waxy residue. This can make the fabrics feel stiff and less absorbent overtime.
Cons of using fabric softner
Fabric softener is said to be the new villain of the washing industry. It is, after all, chemicals that get added to the fabric. Some studies link the ingredients of fabric softeners to even cancer, hormone imbalances, and asthma.
You may develop allergies because of the fragrance and color added
One of the most deterring qualities is that it can have some harmful ingredients that are bad for the environment. When the rinse water gets out the environment is polluted with these toxic things. The air inside the house itself gets contaminated.
Not all fabric softeners are made the same. Some are more effective than others. When some fabric softeners are used some fabric can become less absorbent than they usually are.
Some dryer sheets/fabric conditioners may leave an oily residue or oily stain.
Alternatives to fabric softener
A dryer ball is a round bumpy ball that is added to the dryer – it will serve almost the same purpose as the fabric softener, with much less negative impact. It serves the same purpose of your hands fluffing up the layers of fabric inside the dryer. You can use wool dryer balls or plastic.
Many people use White vinegar as a softener in the wash. A cup or two of white vinegar added to the rinse cycle just the same way that fabric softener is added can make towels and such clothes soft as well as absorbent.