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What Is Fabric Softener?

By Deborah Ng
Updated May 21, 2024
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Fabric softener is a product used while laundering to make clothes soft and eliminate static cling. Depending on the brand one purchases, it can be added at the beginning of the laundry cycle at the same time detergent is dispensed or during the rinse cycle. It can also come in sheets to be placed in the dryer.

The benefits of using a fabric softener are many. For instance, it reduces static cling. After using it, socks don't stick to sweaters when they're taken out of the dryer and all who come in contact with you won't receive an electric shock. It also reduces wrinkles in clothes. Some materials will still have to be ironed, but adding a little to your laundry will help reduce the amount of wrinkles your laundry usually has. Many busy housekeepers appreciate any time that can be saved on chores such as ironing.

Of course, fabric softener makes clothes feel better too. This is very apparent on laundry items such as towels and sheets, especially those that are hung outside. When this product isn't used, these items tend to feel stiffer. Who doesn't want to crawl between a nice soft set of sheets or dry off with a fluffy towel? The fabrics we use on a daily basis shouldn't be abrasive.

Allergy prone people or those with sensitive skin may have problems using fabric softener. The allergic reaction might be due to the ingredients giving the product its fresh scent. If this is the case, a non-scented one might be preferable. There are also organic products on the market. If fabric softener simply cannot be used, vinegar can be added to the rinse cycle to make clothes softer and eliminate some of the static.

There is an assortment of fabric softener products on the market today. They come in many different sizes and price ranges. Many people have their favorites, but truthfully, one brand is not necessarily better than another. Choose the brand in your price range with a scent you enjoy, or no scent at all if that's more to your liking.

Use trial and error to see if one brand works better for your family's needs than another. You'll find, in most cases, that brand doesn't matter. The soft feel of your clothes and the elimination of static cling are what's most important.

When taking care of your laundry, consider using both laundry sheets and fabric softener for the best results. While laundry sheets can effectively clean your clothes, using a fabric softener can add that extra touch of softness and freshness. However, it's important to choose a fabric softener that aligns with your eco-friendly values, avoiding harmful chemicals that can harm the environment. Look for the best laundry sheets and a compatible fabric softener that work together to keep your clothes clean, soft, and environmentally conscious.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon280357 — On Jul 17, 2012

My mother in law uses fabric softener as detergent. Can't see this as smart.

By anon133483 — On Dec 10, 2010

It's not easy to get fabric softener out of your clothes, but you can try washing them with white vinegar. If you're having trouble getting the fabric softener smell out, try washing them with Orange Apeel. It's a liquid made from orange skins - totally biodegradable and very concentrated. It smells nice, too, if you like oranges.

By anon106508 — On Aug 26, 2010

You can use white vinegar as a more allergy friendly fabric softener. look up details on the web.

By anon90820 — On Jun 18, 2010

Borax works well to remove fabric softener build up also. Add 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup vinegar to your laundry with a fragrance free laundry detergent, at the hottest setting the fabrics allow, then dry the fabrics at a low setting for twice the normal time and that should completely remove the build up.

By anon74646 — On Apr 03, 2010

What compounds are being used to manufacture fabric softener?

By anon72800 — On Mar 24, 2010

The answers to questions 5 and 7 are the same: most fabric softeners are made with rendered animal fat. The main ingredient is Dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride, which is fat.

"a And since we all know fats are flammable, this explains the other question

By anon63425 — On Feb 01, 2010

is it true there is animal fat in liquid fabric softeners?

By anon58112 — On Dec 30, 2009

I am Manohar. Major manufacturer of detergent powder. I want to add fabric softener in my detergent powder. Can anyone please guide me the chemical name and the process to add in detergent manufacturing? Manohar

By anon38188 — On Jul 24, 2009

The laundering instructions on some articles of clothing, such as quick drying sports clothing, specify that fabric softner should not be used - what is the reason for this? What would happen to the fabric if you ignored the instructions?

By somerset — On Feb 16, 2008

The fabric softener I use does not show ingredients other than a "cationic fabric softening agent." This agent is positively charged and it counters the negatively charged fabric fibers. In checking the company's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) it shows that it contains ethanol. However, searching the web about what's in fabric softeners, I found that they contain a variety of chemical compounds including, benzyl alcohol, benzyl acetate, camphor, and chloroform.

If you have any reservations about using fabric softener, there are alternatives to store-bought products, such as vinegar and washing synthetics separately from cottons. To avoid static, it is better to hang synthetic clothing and air dry it.

By anon8238 — On Feb 10, 2008

What compounds and/or chemicals are used to make fabric softeners?

By anon6124 — On Dec 17, 2007

Vinegar will get fabric softener build up out of your clothing, but you may need up to 12 washes.

By sweetberries — On Jun 19, 2007

Can you please tell me how to get fabric softner buildup out of clothing, I have washed some items of clothing several times and am still having a problem.

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