Fabric Softener

Andrea Colao has four kids, so laundry duty's quite the task at her house. She likes to use dryer sheets.

"I think it gives a nicer feel to the fabric and nicer smell."

Consumer Reports' Pat Slaven just tested dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners to see which soften and reduce static the best.

In all, 22 products were tested. Reusable dryer balls and dryer cloths were also evaluated.

Testers built this humidity-controlled room to evaluate static cling, which can be a problem this time of year. And sensory panelists assessed the softness of towels.

The two reusable products, method softener infused dryer cloths and dryer max dryer balls, didn't do well. They made fabrics stiff and scratchy. But all of the other fabric softeners rated very good to excellent.

And while it used to be that people used liquids to soften clothes and dryer sheets to reduce static, you don't need two products anymore.

Pat Slaven, Consumer Reports, says "Our tests found liquid softeners generally do a pretty good job at both."

Consumer Reports also performed this test to see if softeners reduced absorbency, something that's been a problem in the past.

Testers dipped pieces of towels in this blue liquid, then measured how far the liquid traveled. The good news, only two softeners noticeably reduced absorbency.

For liquid softeners, testers recommend Ultra Gain joyful expressions, which rated excellent. If you prefer dryer sheets, two that rated very good are Bounce and Gain.

Consumer Reports says there's an important consideration with fabric softeners, they can build up on fabric over time and reduce the effectiveness of flame-resistant clothing, like children's sleepwear.

Most fabric softeners carry a warning on the label, so parents be sure to heed that warning.

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