Fabric softener is a conditioner, made of oils, waxes and fragrances, designed to coat fibers with a thin layer of chemicals, making fabric softer to the touch and preventing static cling. In use since the 1930’s, the demand for fabric softener increased dramatically in the 1950’s with the introduction of synthetic fibers and detergents, as well as the modern washing and drying machines. The result of these advances was clean but scratchy fabrics that were less than appealing to wear, or in the case of sheets, sleep between.
Although popular for home use, Fabric softeners may not be a good choice in the hospitality industry. The build-up of chemicals left behind by repeated use of fabric softener can damage the fabric, causing yellowing and reducing the absorbency of towels. Most good quality all-cotton towels do not need to be treated with fabric softener and with repeated washings and dryings, will become softer naturally.
The chemical build-up of fabric softener also clogs the pores of Egyptian cotton sheets, preventing them from breathing, thus decreasing the luster and gloss that customers come to expect when staying at a quality hotel or bed and breakfast. Like towels, sheets will become softer with repeated laundering without the assistance of the clogging, water-repelling residue found in fabric softeners.
One way to expedite the softening process of towels and sheets, without resorting chemical agents, which is often highly scented and thus toxic to many sensitive customers, is to “beat” your laundering despair away – literally. Plastic dryer balls, available to purchase through distributors that provide bed and breakfast supplies, wholesale hotel supplies and hospitality supplies (or in most large chain stores), are a perfect alternative. These balls pummel the fabric while in the drying process, increasing fluffiness and reducing static cling as it tumbles.
Another excellent method to soften clothes without commercial fabric softener is using 1/8-1/4 cup vinegar in the last rinse…it softens and leaves linens fresh without any scent or fragrance as it removes any detergent left in the laundry.