Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Fabric softeners or Fabric conditioners are liquid product that used while laundering to make cloths soft and eliminate static cling. Fabric softeners or conditioners are introduce in early 20th  century in cotton industry since dye which use to colour the fibers make them feel harsh. Therefore cotton softeners were introduce to improve the quality of the cotton. With the rapid development in Industrial Chemistry more effective fabric softeners make their way in to commercial market. 

When fabric softener is introduce in to the washing cycle, Fabric softener tends to deliver a variety of attributes to the cloth. Such as superior softness, Improve iron glide, Reduce the winker formation during wash cycle, Improve winker removal after washing, Better colour retention and enhance the stain protection.
With the increasing use of Fabric softeners/conditioners Scientist tends to manufacture environmental friendly, aesthetically pleasing, cost effective and safe fabric conditioners. In early 20th century Fabric softener mainly Cotton softener manufactures use water emulsion of soap and Olive oil, Corn oil or Tallow oil. Major disadvantage of these early softener was they are not capable with the detergents therefore they should add after the detergents are removed from the rinse cycle. Not with the detergent. To overcome this problem, Scientists introduce dryer sheets in 1970s. Which can be added in the dryer instead of the washer rinse cycle. But the efficiency of dryer sheet is less than that of liquid fabric softeners. So Scientist involve more in manufacturing and developing liquid fabric softeners. They developed new liquid Fabric softeners based on quaternary Ammonium salts. In here Scientists use Ammonium salts with one or two long alkyl chains, a typical compound being dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate. Other cationic compounds can be derived from imidazolium substituted amine salts, or quaternary alkoxy Ammonium salts. One of the most common compounds of the early formulations was dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride  (DHTDMAC).

  And there are anionic fabric softeners are manufactured by industrialists such as  salts of monoesters and diesters of phosphoric acid and the fatty alcohols. These are often used together with the conventional cationic softeners. Even though these are effective softeners they also have disadvantageous. To overcome this Scientists invented a new type of Fabric softener which is Silicon based fluid called  polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) which has an ability to lubricate fibers to give improve softness and ease ironing. These Silicon derivatives not like  quaternary ammonium salts they substantive to fabric and can dramatically improve its feel.

Almost all the Fabric softeners are hydrophobic due to the conditioning ingredients used. Therefore emulsifiers should use in order to avoid the separation of Fabric softener in to two layers. Fabric softener manufactures use 3 types of emulsifiers in the process of fabric softeners. They are

·        Micro-emulsions
Creates oil particles that are so small that light will pass around them. And silicone particles are so tiny that they will actually penetrate into the fibers
          ·        Macro-emulsions
The emulsifier molecules surround the hydrophobic oil or silicone droplets and allow them to be dispersed in water. And only deposit on the fiber's surface

    ·        Emulsion polymers
Create dispersions that look similar to a macro-emulsion. This system does not use true emulsifiers to suspend and dissolve the oil phase. Instead, emulsion polymers create a stabilized web of molecules that suspend the tiny silicone droplets like fish caught in a net.
Other than these emulsifiers fragrance and colours are added to make softeners more pleasing to consume. And Other compounds are included to provide additional functions; acids or bases for maintaining the optimal pH for adsorption to the fabric, electrolytes, carriers

Manufacturing Fabric softeners involves several steps. For that we use mixing tanks that constructed from high grade stainless steel to prevent attack from the corrosive agents in the formula. The tank is typically equipped with a jacketed shell that allows steam and cold water to be circulated, so the temperature of the batch can be easily controlled. In addition the tank is fitted with a propeller type mixer that is driven by a large electric motor. This kind of mixing blade provides the high shear that is needed to properly disperse the ingredients.

And we can have our own Fabric softeners which are home made. In order to have homemade fabric softener we use hair conditioner and vinegar.

·      In a seal able container combine 2 cups hair conditioner, 3 cups vinegar, and 6 cups water.
    ·        Mix all ingredients together.

    ·        Store in air tight container.
Of cause Fabric softeners make cloths feel better. But use of Fabric softeners cause problems to people with sensitive skin. These problems due to the ingredients that used in the manufacturing process. most of the time these allergies due to the fragrance used in Fabric softeners. And another problem that comes with Fabric softeners is they cannot easily  remove from the cloths. For that washing it with vinegar can help. Other than that Borax also can use. And also Fabric softeners contain some amount of toxins such as

·        Benzyl acetate
·        Benzyl alcohol
·        Chloroform
·        Ethanol
·        Ethyl Acetate