Why is that, when it comes to laundry, it sometimes seems like we just can't win? Especially with a favorite piece: If it's dirty, it needs to be washed; but if washed, it might never look or feel the same again. Well after talking to a couple of P&G's Fiber Scientists, I found out that using fabric softener is the one trick we all need to keep our clothes looking better and lasting longer. Now I know what you might be thinking, because it's what I thought too: Fabric softener is a gimmick to spend more money on laundry, but it doesn't actually do anything.
But as much as I hate being wrong, I won't do a load of laundry without fabric softener anymore. Because thanks to P&G's Global Fabric Care Research and Development Leader, Margarita Bahrikeeton, I now understand that fabric softener is not a useless step. As she explained, it's essentially hair conditioner for your clothes. Is your mind blown? Because mine was. I mean, after all of the stress put on how improperly washing hair can damage it but properly conditioning hair helps maintain its health, it makes total sense that the same terms apply to clothes. Just look at the difference a little fabric conditioner makes:
The right-most red dress and left blue dress on mannequins are treated with fabric conditioner; bottom-right blue dress is treated with fabric conditioner.
Just like color-treated hair, clothes (especially those with more vibrant colors) need special treatment to prevent fading. As you can probably tell from the picture above, the garments that were laundered with fabric conditioner have maintained their vibrancy better than those that were not. But color-intensity is not the only aspect of clothing that fabric conditioner protects.
In the same way that hair conditioner protects hair from becoming frizzy and unruly, fabric conditioner also protects fibers from becoming misaligned and fuzzy during washing. Above, the dresses in the bottom of the picture were treated with pill-removers after nine wash-cycles. The jars sitting on top of the dresses contain all of the pills that were collected. And clearly, using fabric conditioner significantly reduced the amount the fuzzing. So if you have garments that are particularly prone to pilling, adding a little fabric conditioner to your laundry will keep the fibers in your clothes smooth and intact.
But my favorite way that fabric conditioner protects clothes? Maintaining shape.
Sweater on the right is treated with fabric conditioner.
Between my yoga pants and my hoodies, I'm a sucker for stretchy fabrics. If the color fades, honestly, I can deal. But if my once-snug and form-fitting pieces start to flare out and no longer fit properly, it's game over. So it was the above demo that really sold me on changing my washing ways. What the Fiber Scientists did here, was wash each sweater once (one with fabric conditioner, one without), and then pull at the hem to see how well the fibers could bounce back into shape. First, let's take a minute to appreciate that Target sweaters (which, let's be honest, we're all addicted to) were used for this demonstration. Second, these results are after just one wash. Can you imagine how shapeless that sweater would be after 10 washes? I'm over here face-palming about all of my sweaters that have wonky, wavy hems because I didn't take care of them properly. For shame, indeed.
But those days are over for me, and I hope they are for you too. We know to take care of the things we love. And if clothes are on that list for you, make sure to use a fabric conditioner to keep them looking their best for longer.
Images: Unsplash/Pixabay; P&G