What is Fabric Softener? Are you searching for ways to help make your clothes feel softer, smell fresher, and have less static? In that case, you should know about the benefits of adding fabric softener to your laundry. Here, you'll learn about what fabric softener is, how it works when you should use it, and how it benefits your clothes in general.
What is Fabric Softener and Should You Use it?
Fabric softeners are scented products usually applied to laundry during the final rinsing stage to enhance the softness of the fabric. Fabric softeners are also used to keep washed laundry smelling fresh and fragrant even when dried indoors.
Fabric softeners can also help certain fabrics come out of the laundry static and wrinkle-free. Basically, unlike laundry detergents, softeners can be considered as a type of fabric treatment aid.
What is Fabric Softener?
Early fabric softeners were usually based on a mix of water, soap, and either corn or tallow oil. These days, fabric softeners use a variety of compounds that effectively soften a wide range of different fabrics.
Unlike their modern counterparts, early washers did not have a dispenser for fabric softener to be added in advance of the wash. To manually add in the fabric softener, you had to make an extra trip to the washing machine before the last rinse cycle was finished.
This inconvenience led to a product called dryer sheets being created. Dryer sheets are small pieces of fabric embedded with fabric softener added to the clothes when they are in the dryer. Like liquid fabric softeners, the dryer sheets soften the material, add a pleasant fragrance and help to reduce the static of the clothes. While dryer sheets are still popular today, liquid fabric softener is the most popular and is considered by many to be more effective.
What is Fabric Softener - How Does it Work
Washing clothes can put stress on fabrics, especially with natural fibers like wool and cotton. This stress can make the fibers at the surface of the fabric flattened and frayed. As the clothes are drying in the air, these fibers harden and give the clothes a stiff feel.
Adding liquid softeners into the laundry's final rinse can soften the texture of the fabrics. The lubricating compounds in fabric softeners coat the fibers at the fabric's surface. This causes the clothes' fibers to stand from their surfaces and not flatten and fray, thus imparting a fluffier and softer texture.
The compounds in the fabric softeners also contain antistatic properties that can prevent the accumulation of electrostatic charges in clothes made from synthetic fabrics. This means that clothes will cling less when you wear them and make less of that crackling noise.
Another great feature that I love about fabric softeners is that they can make some clothes easier to iron by stopping some clothes from getting as many wrinkles in the first place.
Some people even suggest that using fabric softener can reduce the drying time of your clothes. This means that less energy is used when you put the fabric softened clothes into a tumbler. That feature is a win for you and the environment!
What is Fabric Softener - How to Optimize
Washers with a Dispenser
If your washing machine has a designated softener dispenser, all you have to do is add the liquid softener into it before operating the washer. Your washer will then automatically dispense the liquid at the right time and mix it thoroughly with the batch of laundry inside.
It is essential to check your washer's manual before adding fabric softeners into the dispenser compartment. The washer manual should include dispenser availability, dispenser location, and fabric softener filling instructions.
Washers With no Dispenser
Some washers may not have these dispensers; thus, you have to proceed with the manual process of pouring the softener into the laundry. Make sure to wait until the second to the last rinse before adding the liquid softener into the tub. It is essential to add it before the final rinse to avoid possibly staining your clothes by the fabric softener's color.
Moreover, you should avoid build-ups on your appliances or clothes by only pouring the right amount of fabric softener as instructed on the product's packaging. Some people also say that it can be vital to clean your washer regularly to eliminate the build-up caused by fabric softeners.
What is Fabric Softener - Limitations
Now that you've learned about how fabric softener works, what it does, and how to maximize its uses, you should also understand the product's limitations. Here, we will talk about whether you can use fabric softeners on all types of clothes.
Just because fabric softeners can add fragrance, improve texture, and reduce static on many types of clothes, it doesn't mean that it can be good to use all the time. Yes, it works well with most cotton and natural fibers, meaning it may be tempting to assume that it's okay to add fabric softener to every laundry load. It is important to note that some types of fabrics don't react well to fabric softeners.
As fabric softeners use lubricants designed for coating fibers and can leave behind films that affect the effectiveness of particular materials, such as workout clothes, it is always important to read the specific care instructions on your new-bought clothes' tags. Check whether the label recommends you use fabric softener on the clothes or not.
For your reference, here are some fabrics that don't always react well with softeners:
- Water-Repellent Fabrics - fabric softeners can reduce their water-repelling performance.
- Towels - absorbency will lessen when washed with excessive fabric softeners; only use softener in small amounts.
- Flame-resistant clothes - self-extinguishing ability will be affected.
- Athleisure and gym clothes - moisture-wicking ability will be impaired.
If you have allergies or sensitive skin, always read the ingredients of the fabric softener before use. If you are comfortable with the list of components, it can be a good idea to test the softener on just a small load of laundry. This way, you can check if that particular fabric softener is good for your skin.
What is Fabric Softener - Alternatives
Here are some great alternatives that you can use instead of fabric softener:
- Dryer balls - Made from balls of wool and readily available in-store and online, these balls are added to your dryer. They can help reduce static and add some softening effects to the fabrics. Also, dryer balls can be bought in plastic, wool and unscented options.
- Scented water - Add some of your favorite scent into a spary bottle. Spritz just a little bit onto your laundry before putting it into the washer.
- Baking soda - Add one to two tablespoons to the washer during the rinse cycle to enhance the freshness and smell of your laundry. Baking soda can be purchased cheaply at your local green grocer.
- Vinegar - Add one to two tablespoons of vinegar to the rinse cyle of the washer. Check your kitchen first to see if you already have vinegar. If you need to pruchase vinegar it can easily and cheaply be bought from your local supermarket.
What is Fabric Softener - In Conclusion
Like all products you introduce into your home, check the labels and ingredients to ensure that it is the right product for you. It is also good to test the fabric softener on just a small load of laundry first. This way, you can check that you are happy with the feel and the smell of your freshly laundered clothes and bedsheets.