Climbing into bed after laundry day, with fresh smelling, clean linen has to be one of life's small glories. The soft texture and beautiful smell of freshly washed towels and linen after a long day ...... instantly calming.
The original fabric softeners
Despite the modern look and smell of fabric softeners, the concept has been around for almost a hundred years. It was initially introduced as a simple method to combat the scratchy stiffness from fabric dyes. Over the decades the technology for dyes has improved and dyed fabrics have got softer. Fabric softeners, however, have got more complex.
Today we use fabric softeners to compensate for our laundry washing habits. Just like our homemade washing powder recipe and DIY dishwasher tablets, it doesn't take much digging to realise the age-old, simple, natural method, not only still works today, but is, in most cases, better.
Creating A Natural Home Using Natural Fabric Softener
If your objective is just to soften your fabrics or create a natural home environment for your family, reverting to a natural option for fabric softener couldn't be simpler. All you need is one of natures miracle ingredients: vinegar!
Vinegar is no stranger to the household cleaning stage. It is one of natures' best and most forgotten, secrets. It is superb at deodourising, degreasing and removing residue build up. This is exactly why it works so well as a fabric softener, and for decades one of its key functions was exactly that. We tend to think the more complex the solution the better, but often the simplest solution is still the best.
How to use vinegar as a Natural Fabric Softener.
Add white spirit vinegar to your rinse cycle, as you normally would fabric softener. How much you add will depend on the size of your load, the type and efficiency of your washing machine together with the type and amount of laundry detergent you use. You will have to play around a bit to see what works for you. On average 1/4 cup per load into the fabric softener dispenser seems to produce baby-soft clothes and linen.
The mechanics of chemical softeners
Vinegar works entirely differently to chemical fabric softeners. Chemical fabric softeners consist of lubricants and fragrances. They soften your clothes by creating a coating of lubricant onto the fabric fibers. The fragrances then hold within this lubricant layer. This method of softening is why you shouldn’t add a chemical softener to a wash load – it would be like adding a coat of varnish over a dirty piece of wood and sealing in the dirt and prevent the dirt from being cleaned off. It is also the reason high-performance sports clothing will stipulate “Do Not Use Softeners”, because the chemical softeners impact the quick drying and absorption ability of the fabrics. With continued use of chemical fabric softeners, residue builds up on your clothes and can cause yellowing of the colours. It also results in your clothes absorbing smells easier and taking longer to dry.
How vinegar works as a softener
Vinegar, on the other hand, does the opposite. Vinegar breaks down the detergent residue left on clothes, which is what causes the fabric to feel hard and stiff once dry. In the process it also removes any odours and rebalances the PH of the fabrics, acting as a conditioning agent while leaving your fabrics completely odourless. There is nothing better for smelly gym clothes and activewear than vinegar! If you try it for no other reason, its ability to remove odours and soften sweaty sportswear will have you sold. Having issues with musty smelling towels? Try following up their wash with a vinegar rinse. It works wonders!
How to make sweet-smelling Natural Fabric Softener.
Just because you want to move to a simpler, more natural fabric softener doesn’t mean you have to forego the beautiful smell of clean laundry. You can add fragrance to your Natural Fabric Softener in 2 ways:
- Add a few drops of essential oil to your fabric softener dispenser when you add the vinegar
- Add clippings of fresh, colourless, strong smelling herbs to your bottle of vinegar and allow them to soak. Lavender, mint, sage or basil all work really well. You can either put these straight into the bottle, leave to soak for a week and then strain out your vinegar or place the herbs into a small mesh bag and leave the bag submerged in the vinegar. Once the bottle of vinegar is empty, take out the bag, empty it into the garden and repeat the process. The vinegar will preserve the herbs while absorbing the fragrance into the liquid.
Tips to create a natural home and make the most out of your Natural Fabric Softener:
- Even if you just add straight vinegar to your rinse cycle your clothes will be soft and odourless once dry. If your clothes smell like vinegar when they come out of the machine, try reducing the amount of vinegar you are using. Even though the smell will dissipate as soon as the fabric is dry, it is an indication of using more vinegar than you need.
- Vinegar is hypoallergenic and is often better for those with skin that is sensitive to detergents and chemicals.
- Because chemical softeners lubricate the fabrics, they usually perform better in softening very worn fabrics. Consider this when trying to soften very well worn towels, for example.
- Because vinegar removes residue, using it as a fabric softener simultaneously keeps your washing machine clean.
- The uses of vinegar are numerous and extra strength vinegar is incredibly versatile in your home and cooking.
Our Personal Experience
Vinegar is simpler, cheaper, devoid of unnecessary chemicals, readily available and has a plethora of uses in our home and cooking. Our clothes feel softer, smell less musty and our machine is without residue build up. Give it a go.
What has your experience with fabric softeners been?
If you are interested in making the move to a natural home then you will love this eco-friendly cleaner recipe, our homemade dishwasher tablets and natural washing powder. We explain the impact of coming into contact with chemicals and some of the reasons for moving to natural products.
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