You must be familiar with the life-cycle of your favourite tee-shirt. At first, it’s the most preferred one so you wear it frequently, but as the lustre fades, you demote it to house-wear and push it at the back of your wardrobe. People spend so much time pampering their skin to make it soft, so why not pamper some of the love for the pride you wear. Washing plays a key role in keeping good lifespan for your new clothes.

When clothes are hand washed or machine washed, a great amount of mechanical stress is applied on the fabric. We all know that the fibres of a cloth or a fabric like wool, cotton, silk are very delicate. This mechanical strength applied by your hands or machine tends to fray and squash the fibres that are on the surface. Improper washing can cause stretches to the fabric, broken seams and faded colours. When a frayed fabric is exposed to the air, it loses all its softness resulting in a cloth that looks dull and feels harsh.

To tackle this problem, world’s leading consumer goods companies came together to develop a technology that keeps the lustre in your clothes while improving its lifespan. All that smart chemistry has to be carefully packaged into the new-age fabric conditioner.

A Fabric Softener/Conditioner

If you add a fabric softener to your usual washes you will find a magical difference in your clothes. When you stroke a fabric that has been given a final rinse with a fabric conditioner, you will feel as if you are touching a fluffy rabbit’s coat. A fabric softener has the capacity to coat the exterior layer of the fabric with an electrically charged chemical compound. This charge makes the fibres of the fabric ‘rise up’ from the surface which imparts the fabric a much fluffier feel.

A fabric softener is very favourable for a fabric. It not only softens the fabric but imparts antistatic properties to it too. Antistatic properties do not allow electrostatic charges to develop and this is the reason why fabric does not cling to your body. A charged cloth attracts dust particles, creates crackling sounds and most annoying of all, it keeps sticking to your body. A fabric conditioner can free you of all these predicaments.

Fabric softeners are of two kinds:-

  • Anionic fabric Softeners, and
  • Cationic Fabric Softeners

Anionic Softeners

Anionic softeners are not as widely used as cationic softeners. If used, majority of the times they are mixed with the conventional cationic softeners. When a cationic softener is used along with anionic surfactant in a detergent, we get a solid precipitate.  When this mixture was formed the first time, it was disclosed that cationic softeners and anionic surfactants are incompatible. An anionic softener is very much compatible with anionic surfactants.

Examples of Anionic Softeners:

  • Fatty alcohols
  • Monoesters
  • Diesters of phosphoric acid

Cationic Softeners

Cationic softeners are mostly used because they adhere very well to the natural fibres like cotton and wool. Cationic surfactants that are of the quaternary ammonia type are the chief active ingredients and these softeners should be added to the rinse cycle to give your clothes their original feel and life.

Examples of Cationic Softeners

  • Humburg Esterquat (HEQ)
  • Diethyl Ester Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride (DEEDMAC)
  • Triethanolamine Quat (TEAQ)

Side effects of Softeners

  • Absorbency of a fabric is reduced by the used of fabric softeners. Towels and microfiber clothes are adversely affected by this.
  • Softeners are non-biodegradable in nature.
  • Can cause Irritant Dermatitis which is a skin disease.

Fabric wash and care products are used to prevent clothes from damages due to regular washing and use. For the past many years fabric conditioners have been a prime product in the laundry industry. The global fabric softener and conditioners market was valued at $17,545 million in 2018 and is projected to reach $23,529 million by 2025, as stated in a recent report by Allied Market Research. Many of us have been using these conditioners on daily basis but are unaware of their benefits and how they need to be used so as to get the best results out of them. When you use a conditioner on your clothes specially made for fabrics, you get so much more than just a wash.