Last updated: August 16, 2021

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There is nothing like feeling comfortable in soft, fresh clothes. The feeling of comfort that the softness of our towels, sheets or garments does not give, is incomparable. Excellent texture and smell are the two missions that the fabric softener fulfils to perfection.

We know that buying a fabric softener has its science, there are components that we must know, as well as other advantages that the product can bring not only to our clothes, but also to our daily life. We invite you to learn with us about the virtues of fabric softener.




Summary

  • Fabric softener is a more complete product than it seems, although its function is to make clothes soft, it has special characteristics. It is important not only to know which one to buy but also the best way to use it so as not to damage the clothes, to take advantage of its smell and to give a fluffy effect to the garments.
  • When we think of softener, we immediately think of a big bottle of viscous liquid. Liquid fabric softener is indeed the best known and most used, but it is also possible to find it in the form of wipes, napkin type or as textured PVC balls.
  • When we say that fabric softener is a complete product, we do not mean that it has many factors that determine which one is suitable for your needs. Before you buy you should know the perfume, concentration level, types of garments and other particularities of the product.

The Best Softener: Our Picks

Buying Guide: What you need to know about Softener

The benefits of fabric softeners can be felt on the skin. You only need to use a soft, fluffy, scented towel to feel the difference. However, sometimes it's hard to decide because the choice can be overwhelming. We tell you all about fabric softeners to help you choose the best of the best.

A mother's happiness is to know that her little ones are comfortable and happy. Their soft clothes are the best way to pamper them. (Photo: Famveldman / 123rf.com)

What ingredients are in a liquid fabric softener?

Fabric softener is a liquid emulsion formulated from chemicals, mainly cationic surfactants, elements intended to combat static in the fibres. Although there are fabric softeners with other components, cationic fabric softeners are the most common because they provide greater softness with a low concentration of product.

The ecological versions avoid the most polluting ingredients

Other ingredients usually include deionised water, sulphactants, sodium chloride, some type of antibacterial, chemical components that add fragrance and colouring, depending on the softener. The eco-friendly versions avoid the more polluting ingredients such as alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, chloroform, etc.

Liquid, wipe or ball softener - what to look out for?

Most commonly you are familiar with liquid fabric softener in its liquid version for wiping because it is the most common of all and is readily available in any supermarket or grocery store, however there are other types of fabric softeners that are interesting as an option.

  • Liquid: Liquid fabric softener is an emulsion that is used mixed with water or when washing clothes in a washing machine. This type of fabric softener is very common because it can also be used in hand washing. Because it is the most popular, it has many variables such as for baby, for coloured clothes or different fragrances.
  • Wipes: These are used dry. They are literally towels, similar to napkins, which are placed in the tumble dryer during the drying process. With the heat, they release the cationic components causing the fibre to lose its static and stiffness and the clothes come out soft and fluffy. They are ecological because they do not pollute the water.
  • Balls: They are a very particular softener. It is the most ecological alternative of all because it does not release chemicals into the environment or clothes. They consist of textured plastic balls that eliminate static from clothes, leaving them soft and fluffy. They are reusable and in the washing machine they prevent tangling and stretching.
Liquid Wipes Balls
Perfume Floral freshness, citrus, baby, others Floral freshness, citrus, baby, others Unscented
Concentration level Diluted and concentrated Concentrated No concentration
Garment types Ironing clothes, thick and delicate All types of clothes Ironing clothes and thick
Particularities Ecological, all in one, static reduction, etc.Static reduction and odour activation, etc. Ecological -

Is it possible to replace softener with some homemade ingredients?

It is common for some people to want to use some homemade ingredients to perform the functions of fabric softener. The two most popular ingredients for this purpose are baking soda and vinegar, either alcohol or apple cider vinegar.

While it is true that both of these ingredients are powerful antibacterials and are likely to soften fabrics somewhat, the reality is that the effect of a commercial fabric softener will not be achieved by this alternative as fabric softeners are formulated to deeply soften, as well as mitigate odours, perfume and facilitate ironing.

What is the best way to use softener?

The most commonly used fabric softener is liquid fabric softener. If you are going to use it in the washing machine, we suggest you make sure which compartment your washing machine has for it (usually the one with the flower symbol) as the washing machine itself will know when to add it for it to be effective.

If you are washing by hand, it is best to dissolve the fabric softener in a bucket of water and soak your clean, damp clothes for 10 minutes, then drain and shop. Some fabric softeners do not require rinsing. For both types of washing, it is important to follow the suggested amount to be used depending on the volume of laundry.

Purchasing Criteria

Surely when you go to buy a fabric softener the only thing you look at is the smell. The scent of detergents is one of their distinguishing features and one of the most important for the user, which is why manufacturers are very concerned about innovation and variety. However, there are some other factors that you should take into account.

Perfume

This is a matter of taste and, as we already know, there is no need to argue. Each fabric softener has particular scents, whether they are stronger, floral, neutralising, etc. We could not cover all of them here, but we will remind you of the most popular ones.

  • Floral freshness: Cleanliness and softness are associated with freshness, spring and breeze. Flowers are the favourite scent of housewives. The important thing to know is that the smell the fabric softener has when concentrated in the bottle fades once it dissolves, so it will be softer on your clothes.
  • Baby: The scent of babies is tender and sweet, fabric softener manufacturers strive to find that perfume to give baby clothes a natural smell. The most remarkable thing about this special baby perfume is that its gentleness avoids allergies and discomfort. Look for a soft and delicate scent for your baby.
  • Citrus: Citrus scents are the strongest and most present scents on clothes. Even though they are not a very popular type of perfume, they are gaining more and more users, especially in the male sector, who prefer these scents to floral scents. Perhaps if you are one of those gentlemen who take care of their clothes, you may want to try citrus.

A good fabric softener will keep your clothes soft and brightly coloured. (Photo: Antonio Diaz / 123rf.com)

Concentration level

The concentration level of a fabric softener is a factor that you should take into account especially when applying the necessary dosage according to the volume of clothes. Sometimes we make the mistake of putting too much fabric softener and as a result we have a greasy garment.

Diluted

Normal fabric softener has little more than 5% cationic surfactants. Unlike the concentrate, the "diluted" characteristic is not indicated on the label as a special value of the product, since this is the most conventional formulation. Unless the label says "concentrate", you are opting for this variety.

Concentrate

Concentrated softener is widely used in industry and more recently at the household level. It has 10% more cationic surfactants than diluted softener. It is cost-effective and has a very good price-performance ratio. If you opt for the concentrate, you should know that even if it seems little, what you apply is enough.

Types of garments

The type of garment is also relevant when choosing which fabric softener to buy. Not all garments are the same in their texture, thickness or colours, so it is best to be careful to get just the result you want.

  • Intimate apparel: Just like baby clothes, for both men's and women's intimate apparel, it is best to use a fabric softener with a light scent and light density, as well as a neutral PH (7). In this case you could choose a baby fabric softener.
  • Thick clothes: For clothes made of thick fabrics such as towels, jeans or heavy coats it is advisable to use a normal fabric softener or maybe a little dense as these fibres are usually stiffer and require more powerful action for fluffy softening.
  • Ironing clothes: The fabric softener itself is an anti-wrinkle agent. During washing or drying the garments become less creased, however there are versions of fabric softeners created with special ingredients that make the garment easier to iron. It is ideal for use with shirts, blouses and dresses or synthetic fabrics.

Special features

Competition between manufacturers has meant that we enjoy a wide variety of fabric softener innovations so that we can really get the one that suits us best. If you're one of those who go off the beaten track, you'll be interested to know these options.

Ecological

More and more users are aware of the environmental risk we are exposed to due to the indiscriminate use of some components. There are fabric softeners made with natural products or without some aggressive ingredients with nature. It is always best to use biodegradable fabric softener.

All-in-one

The all-in-one fabric softener is characterised by the fact that it fulfils three steps: it eliminates detergent residues, drastically reduces wrinkles and protects the colours of the clothes. The first feature gives it its value as the detergent on the garment, hinders the effect of the softener. It is an ideal choice for machine washing.

Technology

Some fabric softeners are made based on technology specifically aimed at reducing static electricity in the fabric fibres, making odour last or come off with movement, as well as brightening colours. There is something for all needs, it just depends on what your preference is.

(Featured image source: Olena Yakobchuk/ 123rf.com)

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