Difference Between Liquid Fabric Softener & Softener Sheets


Fabric softener is a go-to for homemakers and those who do loads and loads of laundry every week. Everyone seeks soft clothes that are not stuck together, and depending on the type of washer and dryer the launderer has, there are a few choices available. Unfortunately, both liquid softener and softener sheets have a few negative effects to consider before choosing which type is preferable.

What is Liquid Fabric Softener?

  • Liquid fabric softener was developed in the 1960s for use in washing machines. The more frequently clothes are washed, the rougher clothes feel against skin, the more static electricity exists and the more tangled together clothes become. This type of fabric softener is made from lubricating chemicals that get left on fabrics in the washing machine. The chemicals used are dialkyl quarternary softening agents, which consist of amino acids and fatty chains made into an oil. The liquid fabric softener ingredients are made active in the rinse cycle, providing fluffiness and usually a nice aroma as well.

How is Liquid Fabric Softener Used?

  • Depending on the type of washing machine used (i.e., top loading or front loading), fabric softener is added at beginning of wash load or prior to the rinse cycle. Some washing machines have a fabric-softener dispenser, in which case the softener is added quite easily. A fabric softener ball is also a way to dispense softener. Softener is poured into the ball, and the ball is thrown into the washing machine with the detergent and clothes. If there is no softener ball or dispenser, it is best to add softener at the final rinse and to not place it directly on clothing.

Effects of Liquid Softener

  • Since liquid fabric softeners are oil-based, they may stain clothing with a waxy substance. The fragrance of liquid fabric softener is overwhelming for many people and can make allergies worse for people who have them. Finally, liquid softener can reduce the absorbency of towels, reduces the flame-resistance of children's sleepwear and clothing, and reduces the wicking factor of athletic clothing.

What Are Softener Sheets?

  • Softener sheets are placed in a dryer with clothes to reduce static electricity and make fabrics more fluffy and soft to the touch. Softener sheets, also called dryer sheets, have stearic acid (and other chemicals) on them, which melts in the dryer and covers the clothes with the acid. The coated clothes are able to come into contact with other clothes in the dryer without causing static cling or friction. Dryer sheets may have fragrance contained on them to help clothes smell fresher for longer periods of time.

Effects of Softener Sheets

  • People with skin allergies may have a problem with the stearic acid and other chemical coating left on clothes from softener sheets. As with liquid fabric softener, they can cause towels to be less absorbent, fabric to lose some of its important qualities, and fragrance can make allergy sufferers have flare-ups.

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