My New Fabric Softener = Ultra Downy Free & Sensitive

sshrivastavaJuly 18, 2010

I have to tell you guys how much I LOVE this product! I was never happy with the mainstream scented fabric softeners, including Downy's scented varieties. First, I couldn't stand the artificially sweet scents. Second, something in those scented formulations make my clothes feel waxy - I suspect it's whatever ingredient they use to make the smell last such a long time.

Then I stopped using FS (fabric softener) for a while, which was fine but ultimately unsatisfying. My clothes came out of the dryer feeling more natural, yet something was missing. I tried Seventh Generation, which worked well and did not leave my clothes with an objectionable scent. But it still didn't quite soften to my liking.

Enter Downy. The Free & Sensitive version does not leave my clothes feeling waxy and contains no objectionable scent. I add some citrus and lavender essential oils to the FS dispenser along with the Downy and I have the most heavenly soft, fresh smelling clothes ever! I thought I had reasonably soft towels before, but after using this product now I realize what it was that I had been missing. The feeling that my towels were soft and fluffy like puffy white clouds. That's how they feel now, and no absorbency issues.

I'm sure Ultra Downy Free & Sensitive does not get very good marks for being green or environmentally friendly. I do so many other things in my everyday life to be environmentally and socially responsible that I may allow myself this one indulgence! This product is worth it just for what it does to my towels. I feel like I have brand new towels!

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Aside from saving the planet.... My SILs dermatologist told her to avoid "unscented" and "free" liquid fabric softeners and softener sheets, just as much as scented. They use even more chemicals and processing to remove the scent of the chemicals used in them to keep them from smelling "odd". The heavy perfumes are there to cover the chemical smell and delude the general public that if clothes don't smell like some "mystical scent", they are totally uncool!!! My clothes smell like "Kansas Air", unfortunately, it can't be bottled. It's not always just the scent that bothers people. There are all kinds of chemicals associated with softeners that people can be sensitive to.

It also takes a lot more resources to make liquids; and more energy to transport liquids because they weigh more than say, dryer sheets. Or in the case of detergent, powder weighs less to transport than liquids.

I use Charlie's Soap (purchased a 5-gallon bucket in November 2007), which keeps clothes nice and soft, including towels, because there is never any soap build-up.

We had an overnight guest recently who asked where I got our towels because they were so soft. Soft even after being washed for nearly 3-years in Charlie's Soap (the only detergent I've ever used on these towels), NO fabric softener, and being dried on a line. Yes, quality cotton will give you years of good service....

Have you tried adding dryer balls to your load of towels in the dryer, instead of softener? When I was using the dryer (4-years ago), before we got the landscape done and the clothes line in place outside, and the drying room complete with 6 lines in the basement; I found the dryer balls added loft to towels dried in the dryer (also without fabric softener). The dryer balls also cut drying time by about 25%.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 7:54PM
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My towels and clothing come out just fine without fabric softener, but with a good fabric softener they feel so much better. Honestly, if you haven't used a good fabric softener for a while you've forgotten what you're missing - I certainly did. We condition our hair to give it moisture and for it to feel and behave better, so why shouldn't we condition our clothes for the same reason? Washing is a pretty harsh process. You want to put some moisture back into the clothing fibers.

Anyway, Downy Free & Sensitive plus your favorite essential oil is a great combo. You can have best-of-class softening plus your own, customized scent.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 10:09PM
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I donÂt believe fabric softeners "moisturize" your fabrics  they coat them.

"Fabric softeners work by coating the surface of the cloth fibers with a thin layer of chemicals; these chemicals have lubricant properties and are electrically conductive, thus making the fibers feel smoother and preventing buildup of static electricity. Other functions are improvements of iron glide during ironing, increased resistance to stains, and reduction of wrinkling and pilling.

Cationic softeners bind by electrostatic attraction to the negatively charged groups on the surface of the fibers and neutralize their charge; the long aliphatic chains are then oriented towards the outside of the fiber, imparting lubricity. Vinegar works on some materials in a similar way, as the hydrogen ions bind to the anionic groups on the fibers.

The disadvantage of coating fibers by hydrophobic layer is in decreasing the water absorption properties of the fabric, which may be undesirable in towels and diapers. Therefore the cationic softeners are often combined with other chemicals with lower affinity to the fibers. The use of fabric softener is contraindicated in some articles, such as microfibre textiles.

Most good quality all-cotton towels do not need to be treated with fabric softener and with repeated washings and dryings, they become softer naturally. Over time, towels that have been softened with fabric softener are less absorbent." (see link for more info)

I donÂt use FS all the time (def not on sheets or towels). When I do, I use ShakleeÂs fabric softener and I love it. It just smells clean  I used to use Downey Free before I switched to more non petroleum based products and fewer chemicals. I was originally grossed out by the fact that most FS were made of tallow (animal fat). Not sure if they have changed. I know the more natural brands use soy and vegetable based oils.

Here is a link that might be useful: fabric softener

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:02PM
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I use the Natura dryer sheets. They are more for stopping static cling than softening the fabrics. I am wondering the science behind these cloths. Why and how do these cloths work?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:31PM
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I've often wondered what the people behind the production of detergents and fabric softeners actually use to do their own laundry.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:54PM
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I don't use conditioner on my hair, either. Yet one more unnecessary chemical "soup" to keep off my person.

I find it interesting how people consider soy a kinder, gentler, choice to add to fabric softener only because it seems so "natural", but without any actual merit. Soy is one of the most highly-processed items on the planet. More processing equals more energy used and a larger carbon footprint. It still is about coating fabric with chemicals and fats.

To prevent static without a softener:

-Don't over dry your clothing.

-Avoid drying synthetic fabrics, or remove them early from the dryer while still slightly damp to avoid static.

-Add a damp wash cloth to the dryer, or give your dryer load a spritz with plain water, and give the dryer a couple more tumbles to discharge the static.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 5:31AM
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WOW, my G-d are just too hardcore for me!

I recycle everything, we have solar panels at our home they will power 3 air conditioning units, a pool motor, 2 refirgerators and one major appliance. I do not use plastic bags, all 3 of ur cars are either California ULEV II or ULEV III (strictest in the USA).

I am VERY green, but c'mon avoiding hair conditioner or all fabric softeners is just crazy talk. Sorry, but your clothes and hair must look hella nappy & dry, compared to us who use a little softener and conditoner! :)

Myself and a few friends have tried Charlies Soap. Used it, and followed the directions exactly as the package says. Charlies Soap, IMO, is rubbish. No stain or odor removing power, whites look dingy, clothes smell blah and everything was scratchy and dry!!!

Yes, in a perfect world there would be NO chemicals! But, using a little fabric softener or hair conditioner is FINE, and the chemcials have been studied and documented for years and years. In the USA, Sweden, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, England, Norway, Finland, etc, etc....One can buy Fabric Softener (Downy). These countries have STRICT guidelines...and Fabric Softener and Hair Conditioner are safe, legal and widely used!!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 10:42AM
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I just want to clarify, and let you know I am not "attacking" you. I just feel when someone is so extreme in any given situation, it is freaky/weird. We all need to do our part for the Earth, and reduce our carbon footprint. I just strongly feel a little fabric softener or hair conditioner is not the answer, especially since the indgredients have been approved by hundrdeds of nations, and used for many, many years!! :)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 1:43PM
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Not to fuel a large debate on the safety of certain products  but everyone is entitled to make their own choices.

My main deciding factor in changing some of the choices I make are my kids. When my kids clothes smell heavily of fragrance it bothers me. I wonder whatÂs in these products (detergents and FS) that touch their skin and that they breath in. It is a known fact that children cannot handle the same chemical burden as adults. Their bodies are small and they metabolize them much faster.

I also question whether these ingredients have been tested and approved. IÂve read this before and recently watched CNNÂs report on "Toxic America" with Dr. Gupta. He explains that a 34 year old law in the US (Toxic Substances Control Act) presumed all chemicals are "innocent until proven guilty".

They are just changing that now in Europe. They are testing thousands of chemicals and removing anything that is potentially dangerous. There are chemicals now banned in Europe that are still being used in the US.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has little to NO control over chemicals being introduced into the market. As one person put it, "we have a huge hole to dig ourselves out of".

There have been several chemicals once assumed to be safe that were later found to be very UNSAFE and removed from the market. Just look at tobacco  they swore up and down it was safe (even when there was evidence it caused cancer). The tobacco companies fought that hard as will the chemical companies. Can you say PROFIT?

Here is a link that might be useful: US.EU regulation - CNN,

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 5:57PM
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PS. Larsi, I had a to laugh that it was you commenting on someone being so extreme  coming from the person whoÂs been through 3 (?) sets of washers/dryers in a short period of time. You gave me an afternoon chuckle :)

I suppose weÂre all on a laundry forum as we are ALL a little extreme when it comes to laundry.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 7:03PM
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I can't believe I come here every day to discuss laundry detergents and fabric softeners... Count me among the freaky/weird! Be that as it may, using as little as 1/4 to 1/2 the recommended dose of fabric softener feels just as good but uses far less product. I have very sensitive skin and Downy Free & Sensitive does not irritate me in the slightest.

Larsi, I'm moving in with you.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 12:09AM
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you can move in with me gladly! Between our 2 Miele washers and 2 G-d, the fun we would have. We could seriously whip our laundry OCD's butt!!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 1:22AM
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Persil Megaperls + Downy Free & Sensitive w/ lavender essential oil = Laundry Bliss!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 5:18PM
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I did another load of towels with Downy Free & Sensitive. NO LOSS OF ABSORBENCY! I think this must be an urban legend or a result of people using too much FS and low spin speeds. With a half dose of FS combined with a 1,400+ RPM spin results in beautiful, fluffy towels and fabrics without any absorbency issues whatsoever.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 1:04PM
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How can it be an urban legend when manufacturers suggest not to use it? I highly doubt your towels will stop absorbing water after a few washes with FS - that's crazy. I'm sure it is something that happens over time.

At the end of the day ... to each their own ... my Egyptian cotton and Supima cotton towels are soft without it so I'm good - you're good with it :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 5:32PM
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grainlady, I only put conditioner on the ends of my hair; I have an oily scalp but fine hair which needs some conditioner.

A friend of mine washes her hair with baking soda and uses vinegar in the rinse. She loves the results. I haven't got brave enough yet to try it.

I love using vinegar in the final rinse when I wash towels; they come out so fluffy and soft. I wish I had begun doing that years ago. (I also wish I had known the wonders of baking soda in the wash, lol.)

Yes -- to each his (or her) own. :)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 1:35AM
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I've had allergies my entire life, and I've been to many dermatologists. They've ALL told me to use unscented detergents and fabric softeners, as well as unscented beauty products. So, I'm not buying the mumbo jumbo about "my friends dermatologist said..." and then of course, move onto hyping up Charlies Soap.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Charlies Soap left my clothes gritty. My husband complained that his socks were stiff, and our towels definitely weren't soft. Yes, I used the proper measurements, I did everything I was supposed to do, but I digress...Charlies Soap will blame it on the stars, it's never their product.

Don't buy it. It's not worth it. Every time I come on this forum, it's the same people, or should I say person talking up their product. Hmmmmm.....

By the way, I love Ultra Downy Free. There are no chemicals that bother my skin at all. I can't use the fragranced products.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 2:35AM
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sshrivastava wrote: I did another load of towels with Downy Free & Sensitive. NO LOSS OF ABSORBENCY!

sshrivastava, nowadays this can be defined as an urban legend, because the idea of FS affecting absorbency is leftover from the early formulations (30+ years ago) of fabric softener. I have read several lab tests over the years (including Consumer Reports fairly recently) that did measured testing and found that FS indeed had no affect on towel absorbency.

If you like it, use it.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 4:42PM
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dudleyfuddpucker, thanks for the support. People talk about absorbency issues, but I have not experienced any of that in my normal everyday use of fabric softener.

kimcoco, Downy Free & Sensitive leaves NO BUILDUP WHATSOEVER in the FS dispenser. In fact, the dispenser rinses much better than it did with Seventh Generation's FS product. That one left gummy build-up in my dispenser. The Downy leaves absolutely no trace - plastic is clean and smooth, no gunk.

I think larsi or another Miele owner said that a Miele tech advised to stay away from "natural" plant-based fabric softeners because they "gunk up" machines more than Downy or other more popular mainstream products. I didn't believe that at all until I saw it for myself. It's true!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:31PM
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Yeah, it was me. Our Miele Senior Tech, said that they see the most problems with people who use "green", plant based soaps and softeners. He said they gum up much easier, and are actually harder to rinse!

He said of course Persil and Miele Care Collection have been tested the most in Miele machines, but most he detergents are fine. Actually, up until somewhat recently, Miele was listed on the back of Tide he, as a recommended and tested product!

I use Persil Colour Gel and Ariel Gel mit ActiLift about 90% of the time. I recently picked up a HUGE bottle of Tide he liquid with a touch of Downy with ActiLift (it was on sale for $9.99...and is HUGE).

I've done 3 loads with this he Tide liquid with Downy...and I am actually shocked how clean my clothes are. Smells great too. A soft version of Downy. I still use a little liquid Downy FS in the dispenser, but not too much since this detergent has Downy in it. Stains are gone, odors removed, soft clothes and smells really clean and soft!!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 5:48PM
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