It Happened to Me: I bought Snuggle and used it to wash my clothes, thinking it was detergent. If you're reading this thinking, "yeah, so?" you also might not have realized that Snuggle is only fabric softener. This got me thinking: Does it actually matter that I didn't use detergent on my clothes when I still ended up smelling like a cuddly, cozy, newborn? Actually, yes. Yes, it does.
Here's everything you've never wondered about detergents vs. fabric softeners - but definitely need to know:
Laundry detergent is a lot like shampoo.
Like your hair, your clothes pick up sweat and dirt throughout the day. Like shampoo, laundry detergent removes all of that dirt and grime to seriously clean. This means only using fabric softener prevents you from getting a heavy-duty clean, regardless of how good your clothes smell afterward. There's a reason spraying perfume doesn't count as a shower.
And fabric softener is like conditioner.
You know how conditioning your hair leaves it feeling soft and bouncy? Well, fabric softener does just that to your clothes. The purpose of fabric softener is to, well, soften and freshen fabric. While your detergent is working overtime to get rid of dirt and sweat, softener is making sure it feels fresh.
Fabric Conditioner is Downy's version of fabric softener.
If you've ever picked up a bottle of Downy, you might have noticed that it's called Fabric Conditioner, not fabric softener. It's pretty much the exact same thing with different branding. According to their website, Downy's Fabric Conditioner keeps clothes soft and fresh but also keeps colors from fading and reduces fuzz. Downy's parent company is Procter & Gamble, which also owns Tide. Both come together in some Tide-plus-Downy mashups to give you a nice, two-in-one deal.
Dryer sheets and fabric softener aren't the same thing.
While both add scent and softness, they're not exactly the same. "Think of fabric conditioner as the conditioner you apply to your hair after you shampoo, and dryer sheets as the finishing hairspray you apply when you're done styling," said P&G fabric care scientist Mary Johnson in an interview with Digital Trends. FWIW, I use fabric softener to keep my clothes feeling soft and smelling nice, and I use dryer sheets to keep static cling under control.
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