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Fabric Conditioner vs Detergent

When it comes to laundry, understanding the difference between fabric conditioner vs detergent is crucial for optimal fabric care. Each serves a particular purpose in the washing process.

In this article, we'll delve into the distinct roles each plays in your laundry routine, their benefits, and when it's best to use them. We'll also touch on important considerations for both products and share tips on how to care for your fabrics effectively.  

Whether you're a laundry novice or a seasoned pro, this guide will help you fulfill your laundry needs.

What this article covers:

Is Fabric Softener the Same as Detergent?

No, fabric softeners and detergents are not the same; they serve different purposes in the laundry process, which also holds true when it comes to detergent vs soap and the difference between detergent and disinfectant.

While detergent is the cleaning agent that removes dirt, stains, and odors from clothes, fabric softener is used to condition the fibers, making them feel softer and reducing static cling.

Let’s explore these differences a bit further, shall we?

Fabric Softener

Fabric softener, also known as fabric conditioner, is a laundry additive designed to soften and condition fibers in fabrics. Fabric softeners come in various forms, including liquids, powders, and sheets, and are used in the rinse cycle of the washing process.

When added to laundry, it coats and lubricates the fibers, making them feel softer and reducing static cling. 

fabric softener vs detergent

If you’re looking for a skin-friendly alternative, consider our high-quality wool dryer balls, which provide the same benefits as fabric softener without the downsides!

How Does Fabric Softener Work?

Our research indicates that fabric softener works by depositing a layer of electrically charged chemical compounds onto the fabric. This process results in the fibers of the fabric fluffing up, making the material feel softer to the touch.

Additionally, fabric softeners neutralize the electric charge on clothes, reducing static cling and preventing clothes from sticking together.

When To Skip The Fabric Softener

For optimal fabric care, fabric softeners should be skipped in certain laundry scenarios: they are not suitable for use with moisture-wicking activewear, microfiber, and towels. 

Moisture-wicking fabrics, designed to draw moisture away from the body, can lose their effectiveness when coated with fabric softener. Similarly, microfiber's ability to attract and hold dirt and dust is diminished when softened. 

Towels can acquire an unwanted coating, reducing their ability to dry. 

Fabric softener should also be avoided when washing baby clothes, as it can reduce the flame retardancy of these garments and potentially irritate sensitive skin. This is where our wool dryer balls shine. They can be used to soften clothing, no matter the type.

Important Considerations

As previously mentioned, it's essential to consider the type of fabric and the desired outcome. Remember, fabric softeners are not suitable for all types of fabrics, particularly those designed for specific functions like moisture-wicking or flame resistance.

It's also important to be mindful of the quantity used, as overuse can lead to residue buildup in both the fabric and the washing machine, which may subsequently affect the machine's performance and the fabric's texture and absorbency.

is fabric conditioner same as detergent

While fabric softeners can make clothes feel softer and reduce static cling, they also contain chemicals that can be harmful to both health and the environment, necessitating careful consideration for those with sensitive skin or ecological concerns. 

Our dryer balls are a sustainable alternative, helping soften your laundry without the worry associated with chemical softeners.

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent is a cleaning agent specifically formulated for washing clothes. Available in various forms such as sheets, powders, liquids, and pods, detergents are designed to remove dirt, stains, and odors from fabric. 

They are a key component in the laundry process, ensuring that clothes come out clean and fresh.

How Does Detergent Work?

Laundry detergent cleans clothes through a combination of various chemical actions. They are comprised of surfactants, enzymes, and chelators, each playing a specific role in the cleaning process. These ingredients work together to locate, surround, dissolve, and break down dirt, oils, and odors, making them easier to wash away.

Surfactants in the detergent reduce the surface tension of water, allowing it to more effectively penetrate fabric fibers and loosen dirt. Enzymes are complex proteins that catalyze reactions to break up stains, particularly those from organic sources like food or bodily fluids. 

Chelators in detergents bind to metal ions in water, preventing them from interfering with the cleaning process. This multi-faceted approach ensures that clothes are thoroughly cleaned, with stains and odors effectively removed.

Choose Natural Detergents

Choosing natural detergents for laundry is a decision that benefits both personal health and the environment. Natural detergents are typically made from plant-based ingredients, making them biodegradable and eco-friendly. 

They are free from harsh chemicals found in conventional detergents, reducing the risk of skin irritations and allergies.

is fabric conditioner detergent

Natural detergents are gentle yet effective on clothes, efficiently removing tough stains while being kind to the fabric. They are often hypoallergenic, making them suitable for sensitive skin, including babies. 

Moreover, these detergents are safer for septic systems and do not contribute to water pollution. Their biodegradable nature ensures that they break down easily and return to the earth without causing harm.

Activated Eco's laundry detergent sheets exemplify the benefits of natural detergents. Made with coconut, our sheets are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional detergents. They are safe for septic tank systems and only weigh 265g per 100-wash pack, significantly reducing transport pollution.

How To Care For Your Fabrics

Caring for your fabrics properly is important for ensuring their longevity and maintaining their quality.

In the following sections, we'll explore practical tips. These methods not only contribute to the care of your fabrics but also align with eco-friendly practices, helping to reduce energy consumption and wear on your clothes.

Wash Less

Washing clothes less frequently is not only beneficial for the fabrics but also for the environment. Reducing the number of washes helps to extend the life of garments and conserves water and energy. This practice is a simple yet effective step towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Washing less often leads to less wear and tear on clothes, preserving their colour and texture. It also results in significant savings in water and electricity usage, reducing household utility bills. 

If you’re using chemical detergents (which we do not recommend), fewer wash cycles means less exposure to chemicals from laundry products, which is better for both the fabric and the environment. 

can i use fabric conditioner as detergent

By adopting this approach, individuals can contribute to reducing water pollution and the overall environmental impact of laundry practices.

Don't Use Hot Water

While hot water can be effective for certain types of cleaning, it often leads to negative consequences for fabrics. Based on our observations, hot water tends to shrink, fade, and set certain stains like blood and sweat into fabrics. Additionally, it can be more damaging to clothing fibers, leading to quicker wear and tear.

Furthermore, washing in hot water can lead to more microfiber shedding from clothes, which contributes to environmental pollution. 

Using hot water in laundry also has environmental impacts. It requires more energy to heat the water, which contributes to higher energy consumption. Switching to cold or warm water can effectively clean clothes while being gentler on fabrics and more energy-efficient.

Air Dry When Possible

Air drying clothes is a highly beneficial practice, both for the garments and the environment. It involves hanging clothes to dry naturally, either outdoors or indoors, instead of using a mechanical dryer. 

Our findings show that this method is gentler on fabrics, reduces damage, and helps to conserve energy, making it a sustainable approach to drying laundry.

Air drying extends the life of clothing by avoiding the heat and agitation of a dryer, which can cause shrinking, fading, and weakening of fibers. It also saves energy and reduces utility bills, as dryers are among the most energy-intensive appliances in a household. 

Air drying can also reduce the need for ironing, as clothes can dry without wrinkles if hung properly.

To enhance your air-drying experience, consider using our stainless steel clothes pegs. These durable, rust-resistant pegs are designed to last a lifetime, eliminating the need for frequent replacements. Their strong grip ensures that your clothes stay securely in place, even in windy conditions.


Understanding the distinct roles and benefits of fabric conditioners and detergents is essential for effective laundry care. While fabric softeners, like our skin-friendly wool dryer balls, add softness and reduce static, detergents remove dirt and stains. 

It's important to recognize when to use each product and when to opt for alternatives, especially considering the type of fabric and environmental impact. Remember, not all fabrics benefit from fabric softeners. 

Similarly, choosing natural detergents like ours can significantly reduce environmental harm while still ensuring your clothes are impeccably clean. At Activated Eco, we're committed to providing high-quality, eco-friendly solutions for your laundry needs. 

Ready to upgrade your laundry experience? Browse our online store today! 

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