Fabric softeners, also called fabric conditioners, are used to both soften fabric and prevent static cling during drying. Fabric softener comes in different varieties, but all achieve the same outcome. The primary difference between types of fabric softener is whether they are liquid or solid and when they are added during the washing process.
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Liquid fabric softener is added to a load of laundry when it is in the washing machine. Depending upon the type of washing machine you are using, the fabric softener is added to a dispenser when you start the machine, or poured into the water during the rinse cycle. Regardless of when you add liquid fabric softener, try not to get it directly on your clothes; it can cause staining if it is not adequately diluted. Liquid fabric softener comes in scented formulas and brands that are eco-friendly. Some formulas reduce wrinkles.
Dryer sheets also soften fabric and prevent static cling, but they are added to a load of laundry when it is put into the dryer. The sheets are made of a thin, gauze-like material coated with chemicals that disperse onto the fabric in the dryer when the dryer sheet becomes heated. Like liquid fabric softener, dryer sheets are often scented to make your laundry more fragrant.
Distilled white vinegar is an eco-friendly and inexpensive alternative to liquid fabric softener. It can be added to your washing machine's fabric softener dispenser or during the rinse cycle. Vinegar can help neutralize odors and whiten clothing. Use 1/2 to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar per load of laundry.
Rubber dryer balls are another cost-effective and eco-friendly method of softening fabric and preventing static cling. The balls are reusable. They have a spiked or textured surface. Add them to the dryer with your laundry. They work by lifting and separating your laundry so air in the dryer flows more efficiently.