General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Why does my liquid fabric softener curdle, and what can I do to make it usable again?

Asked by ibstubro (10714 points ) December 3rd, 2013

For some reason I’ve had 3 bottles of name-brand liquid fabric softener curdle in pretty quick succession. It’s never been an issue in the past, and I’d never heard of such a thing until it happened.

It’s so thick it won’t come out of the Downy Ball in the washer. Adding water and shaking helps, but it takes a ton of water and lot of shaking, and these are full bottles.

Solutions?

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22 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Call the manufacturer. They will likely give you a coupon so you can buy another product free. It will be useful for them to know there is a problem. You can buy liquid softner instead and throw out the balls. Or, possibly they will have a suggestion to help you with what you have now.

There is probably an 800 number on the package.

chyna's avatar

Is your washer in a damp basement?

ibstubro's avatar

I hesitate to do that for a couple of legitimate reasons, @JLeslie.

#1.) Many manufactures pool their “whiners” lists and cap refunds. I’d hate to complain and then get a “Sucks, don’t it” letter for something expensive.

#2.) I’m a bargain shopper. I might have bought the crap at Big Lots because it was old. I also get a lot of free crap, because we don’t sell chemicals at my auction house, so I take what I can use before we pitch the rest. The first time it happened, I guessed the softener came from a storage locker that had froze and thawed.

I’m using/talking about liquid softener that I put in a Downey Ball dispenser, as there’s no dispenser built into my machine.

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, @chyna. but it’s full, sometimes previously unopened, bottles of liquid fabric softener that are curdling.

SnoopyGirl's avatar

I always add some water to it because it is so thick. I also shake it up before I pour some out.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I do it al the time. Well, it might work out to 0–2 times a year. I called about my margarine tasting terrible, and they told me they had so many complaints they already had changed it back and would be on the shelves in about a month. They sent me two coupons for free margarine. The classic example is coca cola changing to new coke.

I called when two bags in a row split on me for a frozen vegetable I buy. It had never happened previously.

I can’t remember everything I have called about.

Good companies when they receive a complaint are thankful. It is feedback, not really a complaint.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would take it back to the place of purchase. They may be storing it wrong.

JLeslie's avatar

If you call the manufacturer they will want to know where you bought it. Partly for the reason @YARNLADY stated. If they get complaints from one store or one chain, they can narrow down if it is a storage and handeling problem after it leaves the manufacturer or the product itself. Even if it is your fault for how you store it, it is still important information. Packaging engineers and chemical engineers care about all of that.

Smitha's avatar

I have never used the Downy ball, so don’t know much about it. I came across a response from the Consumer care online which said ” You may want to check to see that the Downy Ball hasn’t become clogged with residue where it opens. If that has happened, clean the ball by using 3–4 drops of liquid laundry detergent, like Tide, and fill to the top with warm tap water. Close the dispenser, making sure the stopper fits tightly, and shake gently. Allow it to sit for several hours, then rinse with clear tap water, and repeat if necessary. If you have further questions, please give us a call at 1–800-688–7638.”

Now don’t know if this works!

ibstubro's avatar

Thanks, @SnoopyGirl. I’m trying to work through it that way.

I know @JLeslie. I call too if I’m sure it’s a product defect. In this case I suspect age is the culprit. I worked for General Mills for 20 years and I know all about consumer complaints. You should see how blatantly extortionist and/or stupid they can be.

@YARNLADY and @JLeslie I don’t know where (or even if) I purchased it. The only thing I could give them is the product code printed on the bottle at the plant.

It’s not the ball, @Smitha. I have a number of them, but thanks for searching for my answer!

XOIIO's avatar

curdling? wtf?

ibstubro's avatar

EXACTLY @XOIIO. I turn the bottle up and it blobs out instead of pours. Nothing else (color, smell) seems affected.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@ibstubro Can you explain the point of those softener balls? I always just put the softener right into the washer machine and have never had a problem.

XOIIO's avatar

vomits wtf

Smitha's avatar

@ibstubro You are right, age is the issue. The fabric softeners usually have a “good by date”, afterwards they can start to go off. Try contacting the customer service number listed on bottle, maybe they will replace it for you.

Buttonstc's avatar

I suspect you answered your own question with the details you later provided.

From what you’re describing, it sounds as if it had been exposed to freezing temperatures.

cazzie's avatar

These chemical concoctions have more useless crap in them than you can shake a stick at. Pearling agents, colourants and numerous emulsifiers to keep all the stuff mixed. There may be something in it called propylene glycol which is meant to help stabilise the viscosity at temperature variations but it does have its limits. Also, if it has vegetable glycerine in it, which most do, I believe, it doesn’t like to mix with anything but more of itself and then absorb water, and that separates itself out from the rest of the mix. If there isn’t any mould or nasty smell coming from it, it should be fine. If you can be bothered, heating it and stirring it might help, but I like the ‘just water it down’ when you use it better. I can’t use the stuff. Too many chemicals.

cazzie's avatar

Laundry products are not like food, but in some way they my be. It really depends on what is in them. I am sure that the lumpy-ness is absolutely not ‘curdling’ in the sense where you add a pH that is odd and it separates the solution. My guess is that the temperature variation it was exposed to caused portions of it to freeze and crystalise and separate out of the homogeneous solution. Give it a really good shake and keep using it. If the lumps REALLY bother you, warm it up and stir it. People! you are using these products on items of clothing that touch parts of your body (and bodies of loved ones) that are near and dear. KNOW the chemicals you are using in your homes.

NutmegsMomm's avatar

@ibstubro I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s happened to me the last three bottles and I’ve been wondering if it could be related to keeping the bottle on top of the dryer. Where do you keep your fabric softener? I don’t have anymore shelf room in my laundry room – or should I say closet? But I think I will have to MAKE room for the next bottle, because it’s a real pain when you NEED it for certain items and your disability prevents you from simply hopping into clothes and running to the store. I get maybe 8 uses – less than ⅓ a small bottle – and then suddenly, it changes into a THICK, water-resistant glob that reminds me of semi-liquid wax. It doesn’t pour, it blobs and by then it’s impossible to water down. It’s happened to me with both Downy and Snuggle, so I’m thinking they’ve changed something in the formulas or it’s the intermittent heat from the dryer.

ibstubro's avatar

DO, @NutmegsMomm, try to water it down. Shake vigorously. Wait until the next load, and repeat.

I’ve managed to use most of mine up, but it’s step-by-step.

ibstubro's avatar

If you use the Downy ‘ball’, that helps use the gloppy stuff up, too. Put a glob in, add about twice as much water, close and shake.

Oh, and by the way, mine is stored on a shelf in the heated basement on an inside wall. I too have had the same problem with different varieties of different brands. Right now I’m working my way through a bottle of premium Downy. Add a lot of warm/hot water to the bottle, cap tightly and shake. Best done right after you’ve used some, or the ring the cap fits into will be full. I add some water almost every time I use it, then use the ball as i described.

I hate that you’re having the problem, but I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

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