Difference Between Fabric Conditioner and Detergent

Here you know about, Difference Between Fabric Conditioner and Detergent. Some are common in Fabric Conditioner and Laundry detergent. Also know about, the reason for the difference between a fabric conditioner and detergent.

Difference Between Fabric Conditioner and Detergent

Fabric softener and detergent play two different roles in the laundry room. Detergent cleans clothes. It removes stains and odors from clothing using a mixture of chemicals and enzymes. A fabric softener, or conditioner, softens and protects the fibers in the clothing. It cannot clean clothes because it does not contain cleaning agents.

Fabric softener and detergent are a winning combination when it comes to laundry. They work together to keep your clothes clean and smell fresh.

Difference between the two:

Detergent and fabric softener are both products used in the laundry room. They each perform a different function or role. A fabric softener conditions clothing, bedding and washable drapes. In comparison, a detergent cleans and removes odors and stains from washable clothing items.

Although they are both used in the washing process, they cannot be interchanged. Softeners cannot be used to clean clothes. Unless fabric softener has been added to a detergent, it cannot be used to condition clothing or other fabric items.

A washing detergent is only an essential part of the laundry process. The fabric softener is good but not necessary. You can’t wash any clothes without detergent to remove dirt, grime, and odors. But, you don’t always need a softener. Some washing instructions prescribe softeners for certain ingredients. Know about Is detergent the same as fabric softener?

Difference Between Fabric Conditioner and Detergent
Difference Between Fabric Conditioner and Detergent

What is fabric softener?

A fabric softener is used to remove roughness from the fabric. It can be added to the wash cycle to soften clothes and leave them fresh and clean.

Sometimes when clothes are washed, a build-up of friction due to the washing process damages the fibers in the material. As the cloth rubs together, it becomes rough and tight. Adding a softener softens the fibers and becomes more comfortable to the skin.

Also known as fabric conditioner, softener protects fibers by reducing friction. Instead of rubbing against each other, the conditioner’s silky softness lets them glide side by side. The less harsh contact, the less damage occurs during the wash cycle. Thus, the clothes last longer.
Not only does the softener prevent wash damage, but it also prevents fading. Due to the soft and malleable fibers in the fabric, the colors are preserved for a long time. This softness allows the fibers to maintain their absorption level and retain color.

Another benefit of using fabric softener is the addition of fragrance. Although you can buy fragrance-free softeners, many infuse your laundry with the delicate scents of sea breeze, pine meadows, or wooded canyons. This scent can last for several days, even after the clothes have been returned to the cupboard. Do your laundry and leave your home smelling fresh, relaxing and clean. Know about the best laundry detergent and fabric softener combination.

Conditioning agent

A conditioning agent is a combination of oil and lubricant that coats the surface of the item to be conditioned. In this case, cloth. The material has an inherent positive charge that is attractive to the negative elements within the fabric fibers.

The positive conditioning agent binds to the negative fibers and neutralizes them. This minimizes the possibility of electrocution due to friction. When it comes to materials, this electrical activity is known as static. There will be less static cling to your clothes by becoming less static during the wash cycle.


An emulsifier is a substance that encourages one liquid to be contained within another. For example, oil can be suspended in water to make a salad dressing.

Fabric softeners can contain three different types of emulsifiers. Microemulsions, macro emulsions and emulsion polymers. Each one has a different effect on the conditioning agent.

Micro and Macro Emulsifier Conditioning Agents make the particles smaller or larger. Small particles get absorbed directly into the clothes. Large particles are dispersed in the water, which subsequently soaks the clothing. An emulsion polymer forms a mesh of particles that coat the surface of the clothing.

Whatever emulsifier is in your fabric softener, all three types have the same result. They bind the conditioning agent to the fabric.


Like most products containing preservatives, this is a one-target substance only. This preserves the life of the product.

Fabric softeners can sit on a store shelf for a few days or weeks, depending on demand. Not all softeners are used immediately, even when purchased. A bottle of fabric conditioner can last for several washes.

Preservatives are added to ensure that the quality of the product remains stable. This ensures that all softeners perform equally well. Regardless of how long they’ve been on the shelf.


There is nothing more comfortable than a wash that looks and smells clean. Fabric conditioners contain fragrance to eliminate foul odors from the wash cycle. You can also get fragrance-free options. How to use fabric softener in the washing machine without dispenser?

Pros and cons of fabric softener
fabric fibers become soft
clothes last longer
static cling reduction
Fragrance in softener keeps laundry smelling fresh for days

Softeners can damage some fabrics
the aroma can be strong
Adds extra expense to the laundry bill
May increase the level of soap scum in your washing machine

What is Laundry Detergent?

Laundry detergent is a cleaning agent for cleaning clothes and other washable household fabrics. Available in liquid or powder formats, the product removes dirt, stains and odors from items made of the material.

Historically, washing powder used to be a mixture of animal fat and lye, otherwise known as soap, and caustic soda. The 1950s saw the advent of synthetic detergents as we know them today. It was the 1970s that revolutionized detergents with the introduction of specific enzymes for certain stains and odors. Washing powder and liquids have never looked back.

A mixture of chemicals and enzymes, laundry detergent can also protect colors and make white clothes brighter. Both color and white clothes can suffer from repeated washing. Blondes, in particular, can be dull. Detergents also contain fluorescent whiteners and brighteners to help prevent or minimize such damage.


Found in most laundry detergents, alkalis are soluble salts that react with acids to neutralize them. Because of this, they remove dirt and stains without rubbing. Common bases found in washing detergents include caustic soda and potassium hydroxide.

Other alkalis that are known for their cleaning properties are baking soda and borax. It is the alkaline content of detergents that causes laundry to feel rough after washing. Can you put detergent in the fabric softener dispenser?

Sulfates or Surfactants

A sulfate is a salt that forms during a reaction between sulfuric acid and another chemical. It is a cleaning agent found in shampoos and detergents. A surfactant, or surface-active agent, lowers the surface tension of a liquid, allowing it to disperse. Sulfate is a kind of surfactant.

They work by attracting dirt and water to opposite ends of the surfactant. As the washing machine shakes the clothing, the surfactant captures the dirt molecule and draws it into the water. The water-friendly end of the sulfate keeps it there, so it gets washed away.

Catalytic Enzymes

Enzymes are naturally occurring waste-disposal units. Commonly found in our stomachs as part of the digestive system, they break down food particles. Equally effective in detergents, similar enzymes do the battle in our washing machines to remove dirt and accelerate decomposition.

There are different types of enzymes that break down different substances. You have proteases to dispose of proteins, lipase to get rid of fat and amylase to break away starch. All enzymes group together to make sure you get a clean wash.

pH Modifiers, Preservatives, and Water Conditioners

Like softeners, detergents require preservatives. Enzymes are biological organisms and have a shelf life. Adding preservatives makes them last longer.

Water conditioners and pH modifiers help counteract the effects of adding alkali to the wash. They help to soften the water. By restoring the pH balance, clothing is protected from damage caused by hard water.

Will fabric softener clean clothes?

A fabric softener will not clean clothes. Softeners are designed to soften and condition fabrics. It does not contain the enzymes or chemicals needed to remove dirt and stains from the material. Using only the softener will soften your wash, but it will remain dull and still dirty.

It is like shampoo and conditioner for hair. The shampoo cleanses your hair and the conditioner makes it manageable and soft to touch. Using conditioner on its own leaves the hair flat and lifeless. Read about, laundry quotes.

When to use fabric softener?

Fabric softener should be added to the rinse part of your wash cycle. This is because the enzymes in washing detergent will remove the conditioner if it is added too soon. By the time the rinse cycle begins, most of the detergent has been removed.

Some washing machines have pull-out or lift-up trays with compartments for washing detergent and fabric conditioner. Each compartment is marked to indicate which liquid or powder should go into each. The compartment for the fabric softener holds a liquid until the wash cycle reaches the last rinse.

Fabric softener is best used on cotton, wool and linen fabrics. Natural fibers are most likely to become rough after a dip in the washing machine. Know about, laundry symbols.

When should you not use Fabric Softener?

Some fabrics should not be exposed to any type of fabric softener. Whether it’s a stand-alone brand or a detergent-softener combination, avoid both if you’re washing any of the following ingredients.

Microfiber Material
Microfiber cloths are designed to capture dust, dirt and moisture. To do this it has lots of tiny little spots that stick to the particles and seal them in the fabric. Adding a softener to the microfiber can clog up tiny holes that prevent the fabric from doing its job.

Wool or other fluffy fabric
You might find that wool and other fluffy fabrics would prefer to bathe in fabric softener after a grueling wash cycle. The truth is, the softener attaches to the fibers and can pull them down. This can mean that your soft, comfortable fleece or puffed sweatshirt becomes hard and rough. To make sure your wool stays fluffy, stay away from all fabric conditioners.

Moisture-wicking (sportswear)
Similar to microfiber fabrics, moisture-wicking fabrics have tiny little gaps between the fibers that allow moisture to evaporate. A fabric softener fills the gum gap and will prevent moisture from leaking out. Not good for clothes or you will stay close to your skin as moisture. Is soap alkaline.

Kids clothes
Children’s clothing should be kept away from fabric softeners or conditioners for two reasons. First, babies’ skin can be sensitive, which can be irritated by the chemicals in softeners. Second, baby clothing is treated to make it flame resistant. Fabric conditioners will remove the flame retardant coating, making the fabric less secure.

The famous Paheli, which gets wet as soon as it dries, presents a towel in the form of a T. They need to be super absorbent to make sure our skin gets as dry as possible. Softeners coat the surface of the towel fabric, making it less able to absorb moisture. It may be nice and soft, but you will stay wet.

Using Fabric Softener Directly on Fabric
Regardless of the type of fabric, you are washing, do not apply softener directly to any material. This will damage the fibers and cause stains. Fabric softener should always be diluted before it comes into contact with the fabric. Get information about, Is soap biodegradable?

Can You Mix Laundry Detergent With Fabric Softener?

Laundry detergent and softener can be purchased as two-in-one products. Either in liquid form or in pod form, detergent with softener will be released automatically at the correct point in the cycle. They are kept separated by a soluble membrane. A separate fabric softener cannot be added to detergent at home. The detergent will prevent it from working.

Separate detergents and fabric softeners need to be kept separate. The washing machine has a dispenser drawer with separate compartments for each product. When the wash cycle has reached the correct portion, the dispenser will release the two products separately. Know about, Non-alkaline detergent.

Can Fabric Softener be Used as a Detergent?

Fabric softeners do not contain cleaning agents or enzymes to dissolve dirt and stains. It cannot be used in place of detergent. Fabric softener, or conditioner, can only be used to soften fibers in clothing and add a fresh-smelling fragrance.

The combination of enzymes and chemicals in detergents attacks various stains and odors by breaking them down, so they dissolve in the wash water. Fabric softeners are unable to do this. Get information about, Can you use soap to shave?

What to Use Instead of Fabric Softener?

There are several ways you can soften fabrics without using a fabric softener. Adding baking soda to the wash can soften the fabric fibers. You can also soften them in the dryer by using wool drying balls. Adding a little vinegar to the final rinse can help dissolve the residue build-up thus making the fabric softer.

Putting a clean, dry towel in the dryer with a load of laundry can reduce static and help circulate air between the clothes. A piece of aluminum foil can do the same thing like a tennis ball. Know about, mild soap.

Laundry Detergent Alternatives
There are many options for laundry detergent. They are all effective and worth a try. Soap flakes were one of the original laundry products before the invention of detergents. Borax and baking soda are two more common household items that specialize in cleaning clothes and clothing.

Some products to stay away from your laundry are washing out liquid, hair shampoo, and hair conditioner. None are designed for fabric and can cause damage through staining, color removal or greasy spots.

What Happens if You Use Fabric Softener When It Says No?

A fabric softener can damage some materials. It can strip clothing of a particular finish and prevent others from performing as they should. To remove the fabric softener, re-wash the clothing with detergent. The detergent will remove the softener. Make sure the water level completely covers the item.

You may find that you need to wash the clothes a few times before all the conditioner is gone. Unfortunately, apparel properties may never be as effective again. The best way to avoid accidentally adding softener is to never use it for any garment. Use alternative methods to leave clothes smelling soft and fresh. Know about, Is soap basic or acidic?

What Is the Difference Between Fabric Softener and Fabric Conditioner?

There is no difference between softener and conditioner. The two words have the same meaning and are interchangeable. Some manufacturers use one term and others use another. It’s down to branding.

Another reason for the different words may be where the products are made. Fabric softener is known as a fabric conditioner in the United Kingdom. Whereas in the United States they are called softeners. Know about, What is an alkaline detergent?

Is Fabric Conditioner and Detergent the Same Thing?

No. It’s not. Fabric conditioner and detergent are not the same things. Think of them as the laundry equivalent of shampoo and conditioner in your shower. Detergent cleans the fabric, which involves removing the old fabric softener, while fabric softener, lacking a better duration, lubricates the fibers, so the fabric becomes more flexible and creates a less static charge.

If you only used fabric softener over several washes, you would be essentially adding grease layer by layer to the fabric, and eventually, it would have a waxy texture that would attract dirt. Get information about, In-Unit laundry.

Is It Bad to Use Fabric Softener Istead of Detergent?

A fabric softener will not damage clothing if it is added to the wash at the wrong time. Let the washing run to the end and remove the clothing. Wash the items again on a new wash cycle using detergent. The detergent will remove the softener without damaging the fabric.

You can re-add the fabric conditioner to the final rinse cycle. Although you may have wasted a bit of the softener, your clothes will be fine. Know about, non-detergent soap.

Final Words

Thanks for reading the article, Difference Between Fabric Conditioner and Detergent. Know about, the Best time to do laundry.


Rocky is the Chief Seo Expert and the Founder of the website ‘LaundryDetergentIdeas.com’. He has a very deep interest in all laundry topics whatsoever. Well, he is the power of our team and he lives in Columbia Missouri. Who loves to be a self-dependent person and be honest with their work. As an author, I am trying my best to improve this platform day by day. His passion, dedication and quick decision-making ability make him stand apart from others.


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