According to Roy Morgan research, “almost a third of Australian grocery-buyers purchase some form of fabric softener in an average six months.”. That’s a lot of softener being sold, but do we really need it? If so, under what conditions and are there any downsides to using this product?
As always, we’ll award some BS Buster badges to the those who can help inform consumers on this issue.
I once tried it for a couple of weeks loads but found it didn’t make washing any better than without. I use Cold Power liquid have done since time began feels like - and I use a dryer always. Came about living in WA hot so bought a dryer and have used it ever since. So my towels in particular are soft and fluffy every time along with all else I wash.
So its surplus to my requirements. I do use Cold power liquid - as found this the best many years back and wont change when onto a good thing.
Fabric softener is a bit of a con job. It uses chemicals to make the fabric feel softer after it dries, but in realty leaves chemicals behind in the fabric to achieve the softening effect. It is better to not use them as the fabric will last longer without their use particularly if natural fibres eg cotton, and if bad smell is an issue after washing then it may mean you haven’t given the clothes/fabrics enough washing time (ie choosing an inappropriate/too short a cycle) to make them clean or have left them too long in the machine after the wash cycle has completed.
We use two things that may actually help your wash achieve better outcomes, use of borax in the wash cycle and using vinegar in the rinse cycle. Borax has a water softening effect making your wash powder more effective (great for woolens as well) and the vinegar helps neutralise any remaining soaps/surfacants/alkalines from the clothes.
I suspect that there may be some benefit as the softener will coat the washing prior to the final rinse cycle, but I always think our washing is okay the way it is and why buy something that we have not thought we needed…in other words, washing money down the drain.
We wash clothes to remove soil, oils and other marks and I haven’t really understood why one would want to put something back into clean washing, particularly when almost all of our washing is cotton fabric.
I used white vinegar in the rinse for years and haven’t noticed any difference in the softness of things like towels. Everything is line dried as well unless it’s raining and I’m desperate, which is only once or twice a year at most. I do think my machine is in better condition for it as well, not as much slimy gunk in the soap dispenser area.
I think the only people who really favour fabric softeners would be the washing machine repair fraternity . One look at the underside of a top loaders fabric softener dispenser will usually show and gelatinous deposit over the dispenser left by the softener. Checking down the inside of the agitator will show a similar build up . That’s the places you can see easily .
Coming from a back ground at Kelvinator white goods most manufacturers recommend only using fabric softener every fourth wash .
I used fabric softener years ago and found towels didn’t last long before going ‘crunchy’. It was after I serviced our washing machine and found thick black sludge build up throughout that I stopped using it. I have had many machines apart since then and can tell straight away which ones had softener used in them. Most washing machine repair guys will attest to this.
A family member uses white vinegar in the rinse cycle and we found the towels quickly start smelling really bad of fermenting vinegar . Fresh off the line they don’t have any hint of vinegar smell but after a couple of showers, pu. I did a towel wash at her place without the vinegar and the towels smelled fine after 4 days of use. Must be doing something different here.
I use vinegar for towels and set the machine to 4 rinses (2 is standard in mine) to assure all the detergent and vinegar are rinsed out. Never had a worry with odour.
We use the dryer for most things we want ‘soft’ and for many fabrics there is a huge difference between line and dryer drying, while some fabrics are as soft as could be on the line.
Most clothes state whether they should be line dried or can be tumble dried, but my suspicion is that merely protects the manufacturer against cheap or fragile fabric (regardless of item cost) for heat induced shrinkage.
An observation is there is also a difference in results between vented/sensor dryers and condenser/condenser heat pump dryers as they use different levels of heat for drying. Vented/sensor dryers are, I believe, hotter than the other technologies and thus harder on the clothes. I cannot find a reference to that in Choice so for now, maybe a Mythdefied comment or anecdotal story.
I stopped using fabric softener when my towels weren’t absorbent anymore. I always thought it was the toweling that was the problem. I now fill the softener space with vinegar and give them an extra rinse. No they don’t smell vinegary when dried .
I have found that plain old white vinegar (around a $1.80 / 2 Litres in most supermarkets, sometime less) is better for towels, as they are more absorbent than when fabric softener is used. I line dry, finish off in dryer only when necessary, which admittedly does make them fluffier. We’re not fussed on fluffiness, but must have them absorbent, or where’s the point of them? We also use vinegar in the rinse of our black sheets, as they tend to have less detergent residue and lint on them after washing like that.
I did use fabric softener for years, but when I stopped about 15 years ago didn’t notice any difference. I’ve never had a dryer, mainly for environmental reasons. (I’m told that it’s dryers that help towels to keep their fluffy texture, and I must admit that mine do not resemble hotel towels - but they work, all of my other washing is fine and IMO extra fluffy towels are not worth the cost to environment, space and my hip pocket!)
We used to use fabric softener and then had to clean out machine once or twice a year. We switched to white vinegar about 10 years ago. Clothes as soft, as are towels etc.
Machine no longer sets build up in it.
Washing powders, & liquids are alkaline (technically powders only become alkaline when mixed with water)
Rinsing with water takes away most of the alkaline, the small addition of an acid, in vinegar helps neutralise any residual detergent.
While we do lab test fabric softeners, the official CHOICE advice states that “Fabric softeners are largely unnecessary, expensive and have a number of downsides”.
The downsides include reducing the fire retardancy of clothing, reducing moisture absorbency and they leave clothes coated in chemicals. Popping clothes in the dryer for a few minutes or just giving them a good shake out is a cheaper alternative to using fabric softeners
We’ve never used it, maybe it is useful in areas with hard water full of Ca, Mg etc, but here we just have rainwater, which is very soft- no need to increase the softness!
A good shake of the clothing, towels etc before hanging on the line (a rope above head height around the veranda is where we do 99% of our clothes drying) and the feel is fine so long as a good enough shake is given. We hang inside if it is wet/foggy (just a few days per year) and we need the clothes in a hurry. We have no need for an energy guzzling clothes dryer, or the energy to run one in cloudy weather.
I’m going to admit… I USE FABRIC SOFTENER!!!
Only on my work uniforms though, for the simple reason that it makes them MUCH easier to iron (because ironing is number one on my hate list). I find if I hang them straight after the cycle has finished, I can skip the iron altogether a lot of the time. We’re talking poly cotton corporate wear - with ridiculous pleats, folds and plackets that look nice but are truly a pain to iron
Comfort 4 in 1 Rosy Blush also smells AMAZING.