Fabric softeners not only make clothing smell cleaner and feel softer, but they also work to help protect the clothing’s fibers as well. These products work by depositing a chemical on the clothing’s fibers that help to relax them and prevent them from stretching out. This prevents static-cling, helps the clothes feel softer and prevents the fibers from breaking during the washing and/or drying process.
At one point in time, there wasn’t a whole lot of fabric softening products available, but that has changed dramatically over the last few years. Now there are dozens of different brands available, and they all seem to claim to be the best. To get to the bottom of the matter, we’ve researched the products currently available, and we believe that we have found the ten best fabric softeners available.
The 10 Best Fabric Softeners
#10 Presto! Free & Clear Fabric Softener
Just because a fabric softener is designed to make clothes smell better, eliminate static cling and soften clothing doesn’t mean that it needs to contain a bunch of harsh chemicals. And no one knows this better than Presto. This quality product is made without using any dyes or perfumes, so it’s easier on a person’s skin than conventional fabric softening products. Even though it doesn’t contain chemicals in it, doesn’t mean that it’s not capable of preventing static cling or wrinkling, however. It does do a great job at preventing static cling and wrinkling, and it helps to make clothes soft as well.
#9 Vaska Exceptional Fabric Softener
This high-quality fabric softener from Vaska is made without artificial colors or harsh chemicals, so it’s not only gentler on clothing but its also gentler for a person’s skin. This formula is designed to eliminate static cling and to help prevent wrinkles. It does this without using harmful chemicals because it uses advanced botanicals to perform these tasks instead. This product is also never tested on animals, so it’s cruelty-free and is completely biodegradable so it’s better for the environment. And it has a pleasent scent that’s never overpowering. Overall, it’s a healthier and more environmentally sustainable product than other fabric softeners.
#8 Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Fabric Softener
Using a combination of ingredients all sourced from natural sources, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day is a fabric softener that’s safer to use yet is still capable of softening clothing. This formula is made using various plants, cotton extract, and essential oils to create a fabric softener that anyone can feel good about using. This product is made without phthalates, parabens, or animal-derived ingredients, so it’s vegan as well. It’s also a formula that’s safe to use in both conventional and HE washing machines. All of this makes it a great product for anyone looking to reduce their impact on the environment.
#7 Gain Botanicals Orange Blossom Liquid Softener
When fabric softeners were first introduced to the public, they often contained a witch’s brew of different chemicals. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case as this fabric softener from Gain Botanicals proves. This product is not made with harsh chemical agents but instead is made with ingredients that are 70% sourced from botanical products. That means this product doesn’t contain any parabens, optical brighteners or parabens whatsoever. It also means that this product is safer for washing machines, safer for clothing, and is gentler on people’s skin than softeners made using harsh chemicals. It’s a modern intepretation of a product that’s been used for decades now.
#6 Snuggle Blue Sparkle Liquid Softener
One of the first things that make Snuggle Blue Sparkle fabric softener a great product is that it comes in an 80-ounce bottle that can soften up to 200-loads of laundry. That’s a tremendous deal that anyone on a budget might want to consider. Another thing that makes this a great product is that it’s safe for both standard and HE washing machines, so people can use it with confidence no matter what machine they’re using. And finally, this product delivers softening and static control that few other softeners can compete with, and that makes it a serious product for just about anyone.
#5 Downy Infusions Lavender Serenity Fabric Conditioner
Downy Infusions Lavender Serenity is a fabric softener that does a great job at eliminating wrinkles and static cling, and it does it while having a unique and uplifting scent. This formula uses three different fragrances to make a product that truly uplifts the senses. These three scents are lavender, vanilla and valencia orange, three fragrances that come together quite nicely. This product not only prevents wrinkles and smells good, however. It also helps prevent the fabric from fading or stretching and really helps to eliminate those annoying fuzz balls that tend to develop on clothing during the washing process.
#4 Snuggle Plus Super Fresh Softener
Although this fabric softener isn’t concentrated like other products on this list, it still delivers a pretty good amount of fabric softening for the money. Its easy-to-use container holds 95-fluid ounces, which is more than enough to do approximately 90-loads of laundry. This product is easy-to-use, can be used for standard or HE washing machines, and has a pleasant scent. It’s also embued with technology that allows it to fight static cling, help smooth out wrinkles and provides additional odor-fighting properties that enable this product to help laundry detergent make the user’s clothes smell better. All of which makes it a good addition to any laundry room.
#3 Downy Ultra-Cool Fabric Conditioner
Downy Liquid Fabric Conditioner is a product that not only leaves clothing softer but also helps to protect the clothing from being damaged by the washing machine. It’s capable of doing this because it softens the clothes fibers, which help prevent them from being stretched out or torn during the washing process. With just one capful of product, the user can also rest assured that their clothes will be less wrinkled than if they used competing fabric softeners. And finally, this product can be used for both HE and standard machines with a lot of success. It’s a great product that comes in a 52-ounce bottle.
#2 Downy Ultra April Fresh Fabric Conditioner
We’re not sure if this fabric softener smells exactly like April, but we do know that it has a nice pleasant scent that’s very relaxing and makes it suitable for putting in the wash while bed sheets and covers are being washed. This product comes in an economical 48-ounce pack that’s easy to store and even easier to use. These pouches take up less shelf space than conventional fabric softeners, so they’re great for small laundry rooms or homes with limited space. All it takes is very little of this product to get good results, and once it’s used, it provides static-cling resistance and clothes softening that’s hard to beat.
#1 Bounce Fabric Softer Dryer Sheets
Why mess with messy liquid fabric softeners when two or three of these dryer sheets will do the job? These dryer sheets not only help to soften clothing fibers but also helps control static clean and protect fibers from stretching out. These dryer sheets also help to repel hair and lint, which is a great attribute for any fabric softener to have, particularly one that’s used in households that contain pets. This product can be used in both standard and HE dryers and is completely color-safe so it won’t discolor clothing. With these sheets, all of the fabric softening can be taken care of in the dryer and not the washer anymore.
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A Guide To Fabric Softeners
Even though fabric softener has been around for decades now, for many people it’s a product that seems to have magical properties. Some people simply can’t understand how a fabric conditioner can soften fabric fibers, eliminate static-cling, and help to smooth out wrinkles at the same time. And people seem especially confounded by fabric sheets because this product looks just like regular fabric sheets to them. Fabric sheets that don’t look like they contain any added ingredients. It all just seems like it works by magic to the naked eye.
To get rid of some of the mystery surrounding fabric softeners, we decided to write this guide to help ease people’s confusion about this product. In this guide, our readers will learn the history of fabric softener, as well as the magic behind its ingredients. So having said all of that, let’s jump right in with the history of this remarkable product.
The History Of Fabric Softeners
Modern fabric softeners can trace their lineage back to the turn of the 20th century. This is when the textile industry used softeners to keep cotton pliable enough to be placed on the loom and for ensuring that the cotton fibers kept their integrity after the dying process. These basic cotton softeners were often made using a combination of tallow and some kind of vegetable oil that’s been mixed with soap. As the textile industry continued to perfect their cotton conditioning process, however, they developed better formulations that softened the fabric better than those primitive methods.
By the time the late 1950s and 1960s had rolled around, major marketers began to adopt these formulas for use in the home. And as a result, the fabric softening industry was born. One of the initial pioneers of this industry was Procter Gamble, a company that still makes quality fabric softeners to this day. Now that we know how this product was created, it’s time to find out just exactly how it works to make our clothes soft and wrinkle-free.
How Does Fabric Softener Work?
Modern fabric softeners rely on two active ingredients to handle static-cling, to eliminate wrinkles, and to make clothes softer. These two basic ingredients include conditioning agents and emulsifiers. Each of these ingredients handles one part of the fabric conditioning job, and they work together to produce the effect that we’re all used to seeing from fabric softeners. To get a better understanding of how these ingredients work together, we first have to examine each one of them independently, so let’s get started right away.
In the good ‘ole days of cotton conditioning, beef tallow and olive oil acted as the conditioning agents for the whole process. That’s because these fats and oils deposited on the fibers of the clothing and sort of lubricated them. This lubrication prevented them from becoming frayed or bunching up. And because they were well lubricated, it also meant that it was harder for industrial washing machines to stretch out the cotton’s fibers. Although this ingredient worked well for its application at the time, modern fabric softeners no longer use beef tallow. Instead, they use Polydimethylsiloxane, otherwise known as PDMS. PDMS is a silicone-based ingredient that does the same thing as beef tallow but does it better and without the fatty mess that beef tallow often produces. This silicone product also softens the fibers and makes the garment feel better to the touch.
It can be hard to describe what an emulsifier does without using a whole lot of technical jargon, but we’re giving it a shot using a simple analogy. Most salad dressings are made using a combination of oil and vinegar that tends to separate under normal conditions. That means that when you put the two together, the oil tends to separate from the vinegar and because it’s lighter, float to the top. To prevent this process from happening, salad dressing makers will use an emulsifier that prevents that from happening. When the emulsifier is used, it holds everything together, so it doesn’t separate. Emulsifiers are used for the same reason in fabric softeners. As with salad dressings, they help to keep everything together.
Yes, there’s also a variety of other ingredients that can be found in fabric softeners including dyes, fragrances, and preservatives. However, the main components that do the work are the conditioning agents and the emulsifiers. The rest is just used to maintain a more consistent looking and smelling product.
What About Fabric Softener Sheets?
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about dryer sheets. This is a product that looks like it doesn’t contain anything on it, but in reality, it does. The sheets are coated with a special fabric softener that’s vaporized when the dryer heats up. The vaporized solution then finds its way onto the fibers of the clothing. As a result, clothes are conditioned and wrinkle-free.