Finance Consumer ‘Worse than water’: Choice tests show it’s time to ditch fabric softener

‘Worse than water’: Choice tests show it’s time to ditch fabric softener

Product tester Ashley Iredale recommends ditching fabric softeners. Photo: Choice
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Shoppers are being urged to stop using fabric softeners, with consumer advocates Choice slamming the laundry aids as expensive, unnecessary, and bad for the planet.

Choice recently tested 31 fabric softeners, with two of the products revealed to be less effective than water.

The budget Aldi Sensitive Fabric Softener ($2.79 for 2 litres) came in second last with a score of just 47 per cent in Choice’s product tests – worse than plain water, which scored 48 per cent.

A second Aldi fabric softener also performed badly, with Anco Soft Lavender Fabric Softener Concentrate scoring just 59 per cent.

In last place was Cuddly Concentrate Soft & Sensitive Fabric Conditioner, which scored 46 per cent despite being one of the most expensive products tested.

The damning test results were not the first for Cuddly, which in 2017 received a Shonky award for “performing worse than water while costing 3000 times more”.

Fabric softener v water

Plain water

  • Price: Free
  • Choice expert rating: 48 per cent
  • Softness score: 22 per cent
  • Absorption score: 88 per cent

Aldi Anco Soft Sensitive Fresh Jasmine Fabric Softener

  • Price: $2.79/2L
  • Cost per 100ml: $0.14
  • Choice expert rating: 47 per cent
  • Softness score: 29 per cent
  • Absorption score: 75 per cent

Cuddly Concentrate Soft & Sensitive Fabric Conditioner

  • Price: $8.99
  • Cost per 100ml: $0.90
  • Choice expert rating: 52 per cent
  • Softness score: 37 per cent
  • Absorption score: 37 per cent

Huggie Easy Iron Fabric Conditioner Lavender

  • Price: $7.99
  • Cost per 100ml: $0.80
  • Choice expert rating: 82 per cent
  • Softness score: 90 per cent
  • Absorption score: 69 per cent

The truth about fabric softeners

In addition to being an unnecessary expense, fabric softeners have a number of downsides for us and the environment.

Most fabric softeners contain variety of silicone and petrochemical ingredients that coat your clothes and can end up in our waterways, poisoning marine life.

“Fabric softeners are really only good if you like smelling like your Nanna’s house,” Choice expert Ashley Iredale said.

“[They] aren’t great for your washing machine either and are big contributors to a gunky build-up known as ‘scrud’, which can also be redeposited onto your clothes.”

They have also been proven to reduce the moisture absorbency of your washing, which poses a particular problem for towels.

A previous Choice investigation found chemicals in fabric softeners tended to make fabric less capable of absorbing water, “so you’re essentially waterproofing your towels”.

Another concern is that fabric softeners reduce the effectiveness of flame-retardant treatments on clothing, with all the products tested by Choice carrying warnings on the bottles.

“If you’re looking to save on household expenses, this is one cleaning product you just don’t need,” Choice household expert Rebecca Ciaramidaro said.

A cheaper, better and chemical-free way to get soft and fluffy towels is to put them in the dryer for a few minutes, Choice said.

For consumers that feel they must use a fabric softener, Choice recommended Huggie’s Easy Iron Fabric Conditioner, which came out on top with a score of 82 per cent.

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