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Why Fabric Conditioner is Terrible for Clothes

Wendy of Moral Fibres looks into the laundry product we all use so regularly and recommends a more planet-friendly alternative for you to try. Here she is…

“Is fabric conditioner a vital part of the laundry process for you?”

It used to be for me, but 8 years ago I stopped using it when I noticed my clothes weren’t coming out of the machine smelling particularly fresh or clean.

A little bit of internet sleuthing led me to have a lightbulb moment: conventional fabric conditioner usage can actually shorten the lifespan of your clothes and towels, and lock bad odours into your clothes.

Why? Well, let’s look at the science behind conventional fabric conditioner… Fabric conditioner essentially applies a thin, waxy electrically charged coating to your laundry, which has to be water resistant in order to survive the washing process.

Diy Fabric Conditioner Recipe

This coating makes your clothes feel softer and easier to iron, but it’s this water-resistant coating that decreases the ability of your clothes to absorb water and laundry detergent.  This means that, over time, your clothes won’t respond as well to washing and will be more likely to have bad odours locked in to them.

With regards to towels this chemical coating can, over time, make your towels less absorbent. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the towel, right?

The water-resistant quality of fabric conditioner can also reduce the performance of sportswear, particularly the kind of high-performance sportswear that wicks-away moisture.

Fabric conditioner is also not a good idea for cotton or bamboo clothing, which with normal washing will normally absorb light perspiration. As soon as fabric conditioner is introduced, that handy absorption is lost.

It’s not just your sportswear and towels that you will want to keep away from fabric conditioner. When used on clothing containing elastane and nylon (like leggings, skinny jeans, bras, knickers and tights), fabric conditioner can leave a residue that can dull the finish of your clothes and attract bacteria that cause excessive odour.

Is there an alternative?

If you’re looking to ditch the fabric conditioner then I’ve got a recipe for you that is eco-friendly, non-toxic and just as effective as conventional fabric conditioner at softening your clothes, without the aforementioned ill effects. And you don’t need to use it with every single wash either. Try using it here and there and see how you get on.

Diy Fabric Conditioner Recipe

DIY Fabric Conditioner Recipe

You’ll need

Glass bottle/jar
White vinegar
Essential Oil of your choice

Method

To make your DIY fabric conditioner simply fill your bottle/jar with vinegar, and add around 30 drops of essential oil to your vinegar. That’s all there is to it.

How to use it

Make sure you mix it well before each and every use. And with regards to dosage, just fill up to the line on the fabric conditioner drawer of your machine before you start washing.

This will give you softened clothes and a delicate and clean aroma to your laundry, without a hint of vinegar!

My favourite oils to use in my DIY fabric conditioner are lemon or sweet orange, for a zingy citrus aroma, but feel free to substitute depending on your preference, or with what you have to hand. Alternatively, you can skip the oil, and just use vinegar for a scent-free conditioner.

White vinegar makes for a good natural fabric conditioner because it cuts through soap residue, and it’s the excess soap in your laundry that makes your clothes and towels feel rough. Crucially it won’t interfere with the absorbency of your laundry, making your clothes and towels last longer and smell better. Don’t be tempted to use malt vinegar, balsamic vinegar or any other vinegar variant: it has to be white!

Diy Fabric Conditioner Recipe

I hope you found this helpful. Really, we don’t need fabric conditioner at all – wearing your clean clothes alone will soften things up.

Let me know if you try this DIY recipe and if you like it.

Diy Fabric Conditioner Recipe by Wendy

6 Responses to “Why Fabric Conditioner is Terrible for Clothes”

  1. Susan says:

    I have tried this method and found it fantastic for white linen and towels but for clothing, in my experience it faded the colours on some fabrics.

  2. Joan Nield says:

    This makes sense – will have to go on a hunt for white vinegar and try this!

  3. Debbie says:

    This looks a great idea, but I’m confused about the recipe. A glass jar/bottle of what size?. Does it matter if I add 30 drops of essential oil to a litre of white vinegar or to half of that?

    • Jo says:

      Hi Debbie! We’d recommend using a 30 drops of essential oil for every 500ml of white vinegar. Hope this helps :) Jo at braintreeclothing.com

  4. Annie says:

    Sonett do a wonderful product called laundry rinse – highly recommended and with none of the awful chemicals contained in fabric conditioners.

  5. Sus says:

    I never soften towels, as they don’t absorb moisture enough. But a great idea for other items….gonna try this now!!!
    Thank you…

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