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Better smelling, cleaner laundry or your money back.

What Is Fabric Softener and How Does It Work?

The Sauce Boss
Aug 8, 2023
Laundry Tips

Fabric softener conditions the fibers of clothes, makes them soft to the touch, reduces wrinkles, and maintains the integrity of your clothes.

Ever do a load of laundry, only to find your favorite shirt scratchy and stiff as a board? Turns out there’s a scientific reason for that tragic phenomenon.

Washing machines put a ton of stress on fabrics, especially natural fibers like wool and cotton. The wash cycle squashes and frays the fibers of your clothes, which hardens as they dry. The result is a harsh, rough feel.

Luckily, there’s a hack to avoid this issue: fabric softener (AKA fabric conditioner). This laundry staple adds a protective layer over garments to reduce friction, enhance softness, and preserve the quality of your garments.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what fabric softener is, the science of how it works, and how to use it so your clothes feel as soft as a cloud.

What Is Fabric Softener?

Fabric softener is a conditioner that you add to your laundry during the rinse cycle to give garments a plush, soft-to-the-touch feel. Fabric softener also fights wrinkles, reduces static cling, and leaves clothes with a luxurious scent (if you’re using Laundry Sauce).

Most fabric softener comes in the form of a liquid that you put in your washing machine, but it can also come in the form of a powder or a dryer sheet.

Fabric softener is like laundry detergent’s sidekick. Think of it like the relationship between shampoo and conditioner for your hair: shampoo washes away dirt and grime, while conditioner leaves your hair with a soft, healthy finish. Similarly, laundry detergent cleans your clothes, while fabric softener leaves them with a velvety-smooth feel.

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How Does Fabric Softener Work?

When your clothes rub against each other in the washing machine drum, the fibers in the fabric get all tangled up, which makes your clothes feel rough. Fabric softeners combat that effect by coating the surface of fabrics with “cationic surfactants.”

These special compounds are positively charged, so when they come into contact with negatively-charged fibers, they help the fibers “stand up” from the surface. This keeps the fabric soft, fluffy, and free from the dreaded static cling.

Fabric softener also prevents clothes from wrinkling, so you don’t have to spend as much time ironing out those folds and creases.

Most importantly, fabric softener safeguards against wear and tear from frequent washing. By preventing pilling and stretching, you can extend the life of your favorite clothes.

Is Fabric Softener Really Necessary?

Fabric softener is optional—you can still get fresh, clean clothes without it. That said, if you want your clothes to be automatically softer, reduce wrinkles and static, and extend the life of your garments,, adding fabric softener to your laundry routine is a no-brainer. Keep in mind, if you skip out on fabric softener your clothes could potentially wear out faster because they don’t have as much protection from friction during the wash cycle.

How to Use Fabric Softener

Fabric softener should always be added during the rinse cycle—otherwise, the washer can clean away the fabric softener. Let’s break down how to use liquid softener depending on what type of washing machine you use.

Pro tip: Don’t overload your washing machine and always read the care label on your garments before running a cycle with fabric softener.

Front-Loading Machine

If you have a high-efficiency (HE) front load washer, measure out the correct amount of fabric softener using the fill lines in the measuring cap. Then, simply pour it into the automatic fabric softener dispenser tray when you add your laundry detergent.

Top-Loading Machine

Most regular top-loading machines have an automatic dispenser—this is a cup-like device in the center column of the machine. Just measure the correct amount of fabric softener using the fill lines in the measuring cap and pour it into the dispenser at the same time you add detergent.

If you don’t have an automatic dispenser, you can manually add the fabric softener when your washer begins the rinse cycle. Just make sure to pour it into the water pockets to avoid stains.

Can You Use Fabric Softener On All Clothes?

Fabric softener works wonders for natural fiber items like cotton bed sheets and clothes, so you might be tempted to use it in every load. However, there are certain types of fabrics that don’t play well with fabric softener.

Water-Repellent Fabrics

Outdoor gear like raincoats and jackets with water-repellent coatings may lose their water-resistant properties when they come into contact with fabric softener.

Athletic Wear

The lubricants in fabric softener can reduce the elasticity and absorbency of spandex, lycra, and other moisture-wicking materials used in workout clothes. 

Microfiber Towels

Microfiber towels are designed to be super absorbent, but fabric softener can create a coating on the microfiber surface, reducing its ability to clean and dry effectively.

Meet the Best Smelling Fabric Softener Ever

If you’re on a mission to level up your laundry game, look no further than Laundry Sauce’s Performance Fabric Softener.

Sure—our formula is designed to make your clothes velvety-soft, fight wrinkles, and extend the life of your favorite items. But we took things a step further and elevated our formula with five luxurious scents:

Developed by the world’s top perfumers with responsibly-sourced ingredients, our liquid fabric softener elevates any laundry day into a seductive sensory escape. 

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