When talking about laundry, two terms come up quite often – fabric softener and fabric conditioner. Sometimes, there is confusion about both terms because they are used interchangeably by some people, while others think they are two different terms.
Is fabric conditioner the same as fabric conditioner? Fabric conditioner and fabric softener are two terms that mean the same thing. The reason for the difference in names is because the phrase fabric conditioner is British English, while fabric softener is the American variant.
There are a lot of items that are addressed by different names because of the variations that come with British and American English. Fabric Conditioner and Fabric Softener are two similar words, with the former being British, and the latest being American. This distinction is mentioned in the Collins English Dictionary’s definition of fabric conditioner.
Can You Wash Clothes with Just Fabric Conditioner?
A fabric conditioner or softener does not contain cleaning agents or enzymes to dissolve dirt and stains. Fabric conditioners are different from detergents and should not be used alone for washing clothes. I recommend the fabric softener Downy since it is safe to use with all washing machines. Click here to see the current pricing on Amazon.
It would be said to be unhygienic if only a fabric conditioner was used throughout the process of cloth washing. Unlike actual soap, a fabric conditioner is not made for cleaning and is unable to remove germs and sweat from clothes.
Here is a video that compares laundry detergent and fabric softener:
Ideally, washing with detergent should take place before the fabric conditioner is applied to pieces of clothing. For the best results, a conditioner should be used during the rinse cycle when using a washing machine.
You can relate the use of fabric softener to hair shampoo. Just like soap for hair, the detergent does the proper removal of dirt and grime, and conditioner or shampoo is applied after the extensive cleaning has been done. This means that the use of only fabric conditioners would prevent the clothes from getting cleaned properly, regardless of how good they smell or feel.
Fabric conditioners contain ingredients such as conditioning agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, and fragrances but these are not the ingredients required for washing clothes. Though fabric conditioner has a lot of functions and benefits, it cannot act the same as laundry detergent.
As a laundry product consumer, you should bear in mind that laundry detergent is always necessary for getting clothes cleaned up. On the other hand, fabric conditioners mainly serve to enhance the overall state of clothes after washing them properly.
What Is Fabric Conditioner Used For?
Fabric conditioners are products that are put into your laundry to help keep your clothes smooth, aromatic, and fluffy.
There are a lot of products that have been manufactured and are currently being used to make laundry easier and more effective. While the general function of fabric softener is adding fragrance and softness to your clothes, here is a detailed breakdown of its functions and benefits.
- Helps your clothes last longer
When applied to clothes, a fabric conditioner helps smoothen the thread of the fabric. Due to the smoothness of clothes, there is less friction during the washing procedure, leading to a reduction in wear and tear. This benefit is relevant in the case of some delicate fabric types such as wool, and the fabric conditioner helps to keep them soft and protect them from getting damaged quickly.
- Helps to maintain color and shape of clothes
Fabric softener maintains and relaxes the fiber of the clothes it is applied to, making them smooth and soft, and coating them with a light film that helps to retain the shape and color. This helps to maintain the quality of clothes.
Fabric conditioners help reduce abrasion (rubbing of fiber on one and other) on fabric surfaces. This also helps to protect the color of clothes and make the clothes get less bobbly (covered in small balls of fabric).
- It makes ironing of the clothes easier: Using fabric softener makes ironing easier since it lowers the fabric surface resistance, helping the iron slide easily across the clothes. Applying fabric softener reduces creases on your clothes or garments, reducing the time you spend on ironing the clothes. Eventually, this reduces the chance of getting wrinkles, and your clothes will look and feel nicer when you wear them.
- Fast-drying of clothes
When detergents are used alone for washing clothes, they do not dry as fast as they would when a fabric conditioner is being used in the laundry process. Using a fabric conditioner helps quicken water evaporation and absorbs moisture on clothes which makes them dry faster.
- Your clothes smell good
Fabric softeners help reduce the excessive smell of the detergents from clothes by giving better scents to your clothes. Also, if a piece of clothing has a distinct smell due to steady use, fabric softeners, which are perfumed, can help the cloth smell better.
- Used for sensitive skin
Detergents used for laundry can make clothes stiff and this could cause skin irritation or rashes in people with sensitive skin. The use of fabric conditioners prevents this stiffness in clothes, making them great for people with sensitive skin.
Is Fabric Softener Necessary?
Even though the functions of fabric softeners are helpful, using them is not necessary.
As with most products, fabric softener has its disadvantages that can easily be weighed alongside the benefits. Here are some reasons why using fabric softener is not a necessity.
- Irritating chemicals
Fabric softeners are made up of chemicals that are both positive and negative. Though these chemical compounds can add to the life and look of your clothes, they also have dangerous side effects. For example, the preservatives and dyes that are found in fabric conditioners can irritate your skin, depending on how sensitive you are.
Also, fragrances in fabric softeners often use phthalates to release scents into the air. Research suggests that they are linked to skin irritation, breathing issues, and cancer among all other things. The chemicals could also release air within your home that can trigger asthma.
- Builds up over time
A fabric softener is known for depositing a coating on the fabric that it is used on. Constantly using fabric conditioners causes this coating to build up over time and potentially prevents water from penetrating your clothes while they are being washed.
Since this build-up could lock in dirt and odors, your clothes might no longer get as clean as they used to. These build-ups might affect not just the state of your clothes but also your washing machines and dryers because they leave residues in the machines which are not good for their performance, reducing their effectiveness.
- Not compatible with all types of fabric
Fabric softener can damage certain materials which include wool fabric, workout clothes, and swimwear. Fabric softeners and towels and towels are not a good combination, they tend to wear down their effectiveness in being water-resistant and reduce their level of absorbency.
Given the cons listed here, it is not necessary to use the fabric softener after washing for the rinse cycle. I recommend that you use the laundry detergent called Gain. Click here to see the pricing on Amazon.
I tallied results from various cleaning forums online to find out the percentage of people that did or did not use fabric softener. Here are the results:
|Percentage of People that Use Fabric Softener||Percentage of People that Do Not Use Fabric Softener|
Does Fabric Conditioner Ruin Clothes?
Fabric conditioners are not meant for all types of clothes, because the waxy coating that they cause can ruin some clothes.
Athletic fabrics are designed to wick (remove) moisture from the skin to the outside of the fabric where it can evaporate. This attribute is why athletic fabrics are called moisture-wicking clothes. When these clothes are covered in the waxy coating from fabric conditioners, their ability to move moisture gets diminished.
Fabric softeners weaken clothes made from spandex, nylon, polyester, or blended synthetic fiber. These cloth types include swimwear, skinny jeans, and lingerie. These designs are made to absorb very little water so they can dry quickly. Once again, the lingering residue from fabric conditioners attracts moisture and prevents drying, and this could lead to a musty odor.
Also, the chemicals used in fabric conditioners make it harder for water and detergent to permeate the fabric, so, odors and stains will be harder to get rid of. While clothes might feel extra soft and nice at first, the build-up that takes place makes the clothes less absorbent over time.
This phenomenon explains why towels tend to lose their ability to absorb water if they have been used with fabric conditioners for a long while.
Fabric softeners can cause stains on your clothes; they occasionally leave blueish or greyish spots on garments. Overall, the waxy build-up can cause yellowing on white clothes.
How Can I Make My Clothes Smell Good Without Fabric Softener?
In place of fabric softeners, you can make your clothes smell better using citrus oils and rose water.
There are various procedures and products with the purpose of improving how your clothes smell. Here are some of these notable alternatives.
- Lavender or Rose Water
Instead of using a fabric conditioner, put some rose or lavender water in a spray bottle then give your laundry a quick spritz before throwing it into the water. Use this with unscented detergent. Your clothes should remain scented after drying and keep smelling nice for a long while.
- Citrus Oils
Make a mixture containing one cup of baking soda, half cup of borax, one cup of white vinegar, and one milliliter of orange or lemon citrus oil. Add this mixture to your bottle of laundry detergent then use it normally. This process will help your clothes smell fresh and clean.
- Reusable Lavender Dryer Bags
These bags are meant to be tossed into your laundry, with the result being nice-smelling clothes. The scent will permeate through your clothes, leaving them fresh and sweet-smelling.
- Scented Paper Towels
You can create a scented paper towel by adding a few drops of essential oil or spraying perfume on a sheet of paper and throwing it into the washing machine. You can use little or large amounts depending on how strongly you would like your laundry to smell.
Why Is Fabric Softener Bad?
There are some disadvantages associated with the use of fabric softener because some of the ingredients can cause lung problems and severe irritation.
Some of these drawbacks are listed below:
- Irritation: One of the most common irritants in fabric conditioners is the fragrant components, as they are known to have the potential to cause skin irritation or itchiness. The chemicals in fabric softeners could also cause irritation when they are inhaled.
- Benzyl alcohol is a common ingredient that acts as an upper respiratory tract irritant. You should avoid letting the fabric softener get in direct contact with your eye or skin since this can lead to itching or burning sensations. Also, the residue that is left on clothes by constantly using fabric conditioners can irritate the skin.
- Respiratory problems: A fabric softener contains chemicals that are known to cause lung problems when they are inhaled. As mentioned above, fabric softeners can trigger irritation in the respiratory tract. This internal irritation can lead to nausea or vomiting.
- Additionally, fabric conditioners can aggravate disorders of the kidney and liver. They contain compounds such as A-Terpineol and pentane that cause lung problems. Another potential threat is that these chemicals could also cause asthma in young children.
- Carcinogens: According to health and wellness websites, some of the most harmful ingredients in fabric conditioners include benzyl acetate, a compound that has been linked to causing cancer. It is difficult to pinpoint the actual substances that cause cancer but chemicals such as chloroform and limonene which are known as carcinogens are also found in fabric softeners.
- Nervous System Damage: Compounds that can cause skin irritation or lead to cancer can have a toxic effect if they are accidentally ingested altogether. The previously mentioned chloroform and A-Terpineol can cause damage to the nervous system as well as chemicals like ethanol, camphor, and linalool.
- Most cleaning products contain phthalates, which are chemicals normally used to make plastics softer and malleable. Unfortunately, they are often present in most laundry products including conditioners. These chemicals have negative effects on hormones, and they are particularly damaging to women’s health, as they can cause birth defects and fertility problems.