Pros and Cons of Fabric Softener
There are many reasons why we reach for the fabric softener when it’s laundry day. Habit, for one. We also want our clothes and linen to smell fresh and feel cozy – and to come out wrinkle- and static-free.
Some consumers consider detergent and softener to be equally important (in fact, some companies offer multi-purpose formulations). Have you ever wondered whether fabric softener really works, and whether or not it impacts the garments you wash in a positive way?
Below, we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked laundry questions, as well as an explanation of how dryer sheets function.
Pros and Cons of Fabric Softener
1. Extends clothing lifespan
Detergents are certainly enough, without fabric softeners, to clean your clothing. Nevertheless, some detergents are harsh on particular garments like woolens and other delicates.
When you introduce a fabric softener, it helps to care for the fibers and to preserve your garments for longer.
2. Retains colors
Expect fabric softener to keep your clothes bright and colorful. This is because surfactants in softeners provide an extra layer to shield the fiber from friction during the laundry process. As a result, clothing does not fade quickly. A further advantage is that there’s less pilling, so no more (or at least much less) stubborn fuzzballs.
Among the major advantages of using fabric softener is making any fabric feel softer, bouncier, and pleasant to the touch. Fabric softener coats the fibers and therefore reduces the static that can otherwise irritate you if your clothing tends to cling to your skin.
4. Ideal for sensitive skin
If you get skin allergies or if your skin easily dries, the use of fabric softeners helps to counter the dryness that can be caused by laundry detergents.
If fabric softener is not an ingredient you use when washing clothing, your garments can feel rough, and that may irritate sensitive skin.
In addition to fabric softener, you may also wish to utilize a laundry detergent that is more gentle.
5. Ironing made easier
Do you of anyone that actually enjoys ironing? For many, while doing dishes might be quite a relaxing chore, ironing is merely something that has to be done.
When you use a fabric softener, ironing becomes less of a challenge. Because fabric softeners reduce surface resistance, your clothing straightens out much more easily. In fact, some clothing will no longer need to be ironed!
6. Quickens drying time
If you’re in a hurry for a particular outfit and yet, that particular outfit desperately needs to be laundered, by adding softener, it – the outfit – will dry more rapidly than if you use detergent alone.
Fabric softeners help to quicken the evaporation of water so the drying time is much reduced.
7. Beautifully scented
Freshly laundered clothing is a joy to behold in terms of the aroma and the soft feel upon the skin. There’s that ‘je ne sais quoi’ about fresh-scented clothing, bedsheets, and towels, wouldn’t you agree?
1. Irritating chemicals
Chemical compounds are abundant in many fabric softeners. For sure, such compounds can add to the look and the life of your garments, but there are also potential side effects to think about.
Among the main chemical and chemical compound offenders are:
Quats – otherwise known as quaternary ammonium compounds. These compounds are great for adding a soft feel to your laundry, but they can also trigger asthma. Some studies have shown that quats could impact reproduction. While there are numerous different squats, among the major ones are diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride, distearyldimonium chloride, and benzalkonium chloride.
Dyes and preservatives – the majority of fabric softeners consist of dyes and preservatives, both of which can cause irritation to sensitive skin.
Fragrances – the fragrances used in fabric softeners are frequently reliant on phthalates to release the scent. Research suggests that phthalates are linked to skin irritation, and breathing issues, and may cause other potential health risks. Dryer vents may release these chemicals into the air outside your home, resulting in asthma or impacting chemically sensitive neighbors.
If you have a preference for eco-friendly, sustainable products, it’s better to avoid many fabric softeners. There are numerous fabric softeners currently available that contain petroleum-based chemicals. These chemicals are not environmentally friendly and the majority of them are not biodegradable.
3. Consistently builds up
Fabric softener may well soften fabric but it also adds a coating that, given time, builds up. This coating has a preventative effect on water penetrating clothing during the wash cycle and that means your garments do not wash as thoroughly as before.
The buildup of fabric softener does not only damage fabric, it can actually impact your washing machine and clothes dryer thereby reducing their effectiveness.
4. Doesn’t work with all types of fabric
Certain materials, including cashmere, moisture-wicking clothes, wool, swimwear, microfiber, terry cloth, and down- or feather-filled clothing/items, can be damaged by fabric softeners.
These materials may become flattened and lose fluff or luster as a result of the wax-like buildup.
Using fabric softeners on microfiber towels decreases their ability to absorb moisture. The coating prevents water from entering the towel and washing the soiled surface.
Using fabric softener can make clothes less breathable by removing their ability to pull moisture away from the skin.
5. Less absorbent
Finally, though you may have always thought otherwise, fabric softener and towels don’t make a good partnership. We cherish our towels for their absorbency, and with repeated use, fabric softener renders your towels less absorbent.
It Depends on the Fabric Softener Type…
There are obvious advantages to using fabric softener. It’s a great way to keep fabrics smooth and unwrinkled.
Using fabric softener also helps reduce friction between fibers, and that produces less static cling and protects your clothing from wear and tear, prolonging the lifespan.
Besides serving as an easy way to add a splash of scent to your laundry, the effectiveness of fabric softener varies by type.
Fabric softeners, Dryer Sheets, and Dryer Balls are Far From Being Equal
According to a study by Consumer Reports, fabric softeners, of which there are three types – liquid fabric softener, dryer sheets, and dryer balls – are not necessarily made equal.
The research discovered that liquid softeners were most efficient at eliminating smells and conditioning clothes – unless the softener was comprised of detergent.
On the other hand, liquid softeners are the most costly per load and they contain chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin.
In terms of cost and convenience, dryer sheets win out. Their small size and light weight make them easy to carry to the laundromat or pack for travel.
Though they are convenient, over time, their filmy coating can leave your dryer with issues like clogging the filter and they can make lint on your laundry more apparent.
Wool or BPA-free plastic is used to make dryer balls, making them the most economical and environmentally conscious choice.
But while there are environmental advantages to using them, clothing often ends up feeling stiff or scratchy when dryer balls are used.
Fabric Softeners Aren’t Always Needed
It’s usually a good idea to add fabric softener to your load, but there are a few materials you should avoid.
For athleisure, it’s best to avoid fabric softeners entirely.
Why? It’s because workout clothes are typically made of moisture-wicking fabric, which helps sweat dry quickly and prevents it from becoming saturated by collecting it in the outer layer.
Because leggings can be expensive, you don’t want the material’s pores to be clogged, destroying its ability to wick moisture away.
Using fabric softener can degrade water-resistant materials and reduce the absorbency of terry cloth and microfiber towels, reducing their effectiveness.
If your towels aren’t as dry as they used to be after a few washes with fabric softener, it’s probably best that you avoid using fabric softener with your towels.
Instead of using more fabric softener, add a cup of distilled white vinegar to your next load to remove odors and make your towels feel as soft as when they were new.