woman holding a stack of white towels
Research report
12 July 2019

3 reasons why fabric softeners are a waste of money

Why we don’t recommend fabric softeners.

Fabric softeners might seem like the easy way to get soft, fluffy towels – but they’re not without their downsides. Here’s why we think you should avoid them, plus how you can get soft laundry without forking out for a bottle of fabric softener.

  1. Fabric softeners can react with laundry detergent in the water, resulting in a waxy residue called “scrud”. This can build up in unseen parts of your washing machine and may damage it or contaminate laundry – so it’s important to use the correct dose and to dilute the softener before adding it to the dispenser.

  2. Fabric softeners might make your towels less absorbent. To create a feeling of softness, chemicals make the fabric strands fluff up. The downside, according to our past tests, is that “softer” textiles absorb less water. A soft towel isn’t much good if you can’t dry yourself.

  3. Then there’s the fire risk. Cuddly PJs are comforting on cold winter nights, but flame-resistant fabrics, such as those in children’s pyjamas, may become more flammable when coated in softener (re-washing the fabric without softener may restore flame resistance).

How to get softer laundry

If you want softer laundry:

  • select a programme that doesn’t skimp on water (some “quick” and “eco” programmes use so little water that fabrics come out stiff and scratchy)
  • add an extra rinse
  • lower the spin speed
  • use a clothes dryer on cool to fluff towels up before hanging them on the line.

Tip: Our database of 32 washing machines will help you choose one that’s good at rinsing while still being water-efficient.

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