Detergent Vs Fabric Softener: Are They Same?

From fading colors to that oh-so-important feeling of fluffy softness, fabric softener and detergent both make for a magical laundry experience! 

But you might be asking yourself: can I use one in place of the other, or do they each serve a unique purpose?

We’re here to let you in on the secret – they may both play an essential role in laundering your garments, but every fabric softener and detergent comes with its own unique set of capabilities. 

So the next time you’re standing there in front of those two product bottles, wondering which one to choose – decide wisely because these delicate laundry fairies aren’t interchangeable!

Is Detergent The Same As Fabric Softener

Is Detergent The Same As Fabric Softener

Simply put, laundry detergent is formulated to clean fabrics by removing dirt, stains, oil, sweat, and other debris. Fabric softener is designed to reinforce, protect, and soften your clothes, keeping them in good condition throughout multiple washing items.

Both fabric softeners and detergent are used in the laundry room. They each carry out a distinct task or responsibility. 

Detergent vs Fabric Softener:

Clothing, mattresses, and washable curtains are all treated with fabric softener. In contrast, a detergent cleans and removes stains and smells from washable fabric products.

They cannot be substituted even though they are used in the washing process. Clothes cannot be cleaned using a softener.

A detergent cannot be used to soften garments or other textiles unless a fabric softener has been added to it.

The only ingredient required for the laundry procedure is washing detergent. Although not necessary, fabric softeners are nice to have. Any garment that has to be washed needs detergent to dissolve the filth, odors, and dirt. 

However, a softener is only sometimes necessary. Softeners are not recommended for some materials, according to specific washing guidelines.

What Is Fabric Softener?

Is Detergent The Same As Fabric Softener

To remove the coarseness from a cloth, apply a fabric softener. When a wash is in the rinse cycle, it may be added to soften the clothing and give them a clean, fresh scent.

The friction buildup that results from washing clothes can occasionally harm the fabric’s fibers. The cloth gets stiff and harsh when it scrapes against one another. The fibers become softer and more pleasant on the skin after being smoothed out using a softener.

Conditioning mixture:

What softens the cloth is the conditioning component. Typically, lubricants and oils are combined to coat and soak into the cloth’s fibers. The conditioning mix reduces static or friction, making your clothing pleasant, airy, and simple to wear or fold.

Emulsifying mixture:

In addition to micro- and macro-emulsifiers, fabric conditioners also include polymers. Emulsifiers facilitate the mixing and dissolving the conditioning blend’s oils and lubricants in water.

Fabric softener polymers create a mesh of particles covering the garment’s surface. In the meantime, the conditioning ingredient is split into tiny and big molecules by the micro and macro emulsifier. 

The water takes up the big molecules before being taken up by the clothing. The cloth immediately absorbs the tiny molecules.

The conditioning agent coats and penetrates the fabric with the assistance of all three components—polymer, micro-, and macro-emulsifiers—for efficient softening action.

Preservatives and fragrance:

Without a doubt, the majority of fabric softeners smell pleasant. Manufacturers have created cozily soothing scents that are good at covering up any remaining odors and leaving your garments smelling great for days.

Because the solution contains preservatives, fabric softness can persist for weeks. Most conditioners are durable and don’t require extra maintenance or storage.

What Is Laundry Detergent?

Laundry detergent is a cleaning chemical for washing garments and other washable home materials. The solution, which is available in liquid or powder form, removes dirt, stains, and smells from things manufactured of the material.

Laundry detergent, a blend of chemicals and enzymes, may help preserve colors and brighten white garments. The repetitive washing of colored and white materials might be damaging. 

Particularly whites might grow bored. Fluorescent whiteners and brighteners are also used in detergents to prevent or at least lessening this sort of harm.

On the market, there are several detergent brands. The detergents react differently since every brand has a particular recipe. 

Some are better suited for delicate fabrics, while others are potent detergents for the worst stains.


Alkalies are soluble salts that react with acids to neutralize them; they are typically found in laundry detergents. As a result, they eliminate dirt and stains without rubbing. Caustic soda and potassium hydroxide are two common alkalies used in laundry detergents.

Borax and baking soda are other alkalies with a reputation for being cleaning agents. After washing, garments feel scratchy because of the detergent’s alkaline composition.

Preservatives, water conditioners, and pH modifiers

Detergent also needs preservatives, just like softeners do. Since they are living things, enzymes have a shelf life. Preservatives extend the duration of their effectiveness.

Alkali addition to the wash has negative effects mitigated by water conditioners and pH adjusters. They aid in water softening. Rugged water protection for garments is achieved by correcting the pH equilibrium.

Surfactants or Sulfates

A sulfate is a salt created when sulfuric acid reacts with another chemical. It is a cleaning agent that may be found in detergents and shampoos. 

A surfactant, also known as a surface-active substance, lowers a liquid’s surface tension and aids in its spreading. A form of surfactant are sulfates.

They pull water and debris to the opposing ends of the surfactant. The surfactant snatches the dirt molecule and pulls it into the water while the washing machine agitates the fabric. It is kept there by the sulfate’s water-friendly end, where it is washed away.


Although they are sometimes offered together and packaged identically, fabric softener and laundry detergent have different purposes.

The purpose of detergent is to properly clean clothing by eliminating dirt, oils, buildup, and stains. In contrast, the purpose of fabric softener is to strengthen and protect the fabric while it is being washed.

Fabric softener, sadly, will only work if you run out of detergent and are looking for a substitute product to use in its stead.

Fabric softener will only harm your clothing or your washing machine if you accidentally use it instead of laundry detergent, but it won’t get your textiles as clean. If this occurs, just start with a fresh batch of washing using the proper detergent.

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