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What fabric softener does - and when not to use it

Written by: Claudia February 16, 2021

Don’t you just love that clean laundry smell? It’s a lovely feeling when you’ve got clothes drying on the radiator and the house fills with that fresh scent. Of course, it’s even better if you’ve used a delightfully fragranced fabric softener alongside your regular laundry detergent or powder. But what exactly does fabric softener do - and is there anything you need to be aware of before you use it? Caara investigates…

Here’s what fabric softener does...

It’s not just a way to get your laundry smelling good. The idea of fabric softener is, as the name suggests, to keep your clothes nice and soft and your towels fluffy, so they feel good against your skin and don’t come out as wrinkled. It does this by covering your clothes in a thin film of detergent, reducing the friction between the fibres in your clothes, which in turn also helps reduce static. So far, so good.

...and why you need to be careful

It’s arguable that most laundry detergents these days don’t leave your clothes feeling rough, meaning that you don’t actually need fabric softener as well. Some kinds of clothing carry specific instructions not to use fabric softener - the film of detergent it leaves behind can interfere with wicking technologies in activewear clothing, for example. As this film builds up each time you wash, it also makes it harder over time for the detergent to work, so eventually your clothes won’t be as clean.

But there’s a bigger fly in the ointment to be aware of. You might not have thought it, but lurking on the ingredients list of many fabric softeners is a substance made from animal fats: tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride, which is scientific speak for ‘ammonia mixed up with animal fat’ (often sheep, cows or even horses). Not only that, but many are also tested on animals, so all in all, they’re a huge no-no.

Ethical fabric softeners for the win

Clearly, it’s worth being careful about what fabric softeners you buy, particularly if you’re living a vegan lifestyle or making an effort to ensure you only use cruelty-free products. But the good news is that there are ethical fabric softeners out there, and you’ll find plenty to choose from here at Caara.

One of our favourites is Ecoegg, a clever laundry egg that you use instead of laundry detergent and fabric softener. This vegan-friendly product gets your clothes clean and fresh, while being gentle on your skin, all through the power of natural mineral pellets instead of nasty chemicals. No animal fat in sight, either. They’re also fantastic value for money, as they last at least ten years. Just think of all the money you’ll save on detergent and fabric softeners in that time, and what else you could spend it on.

Another brand to check out if you’re in the market for an ethical fabric softener is Clothes Doctor. Their gorgeous-smelling laundry detergents and fabric conditioners come in several amazing scents that stay around for ages after you’ve washed your clothes - our favourite being their Basil and Mandarin Fabric Conditioner. Not only are they animal-friendly and cruelty-free, but they don’t contain any palm oil either. Sounds good to us!

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