How does fabric softener work?


MANUFACTURERS market liquid or dry crystal fabric softeners for washing machines. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets coat our clothes with a subtle layer of slimy chemicals – in fact, that’s why they feel a little softer.

The most common softening chemicals are called “quats”, which are in many cleaning products, including most antibacterial wipes. Alarmingly, The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, a leading international authority on asthma, calls these chemicals “asthmagens,” substances that can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people.

Also, because freshly washed clothes are already clean, some might argue that the use of quats with their antibacterial properties may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Finally, the scent of the fabric softener is yet another chemical to face. Therefore, while softener makes our clothes “soft” and smells nice, it might be worth doing a little research to check into these alleged harmful effects.

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The Petri Dish is malaysia’s first dedicated science newspaper. Through The Petri Dish we aim to engage the public on the latest developments on biotechnology.