Information on fragrance of fabric softener in 2020
Fabric softener is used to keep clothes softer and to reduce static cling. Since the late 2000s, highly scented fabric softener made overseas became popular. Then, Japanese manufacturers started to produce a variety of aromatic fabric softener. Nowadays, there are a wide range of scented fabric softener on the market and consumers can choose the strength and type of fragrance as they like.
In 2013, NCAC shared information on fragrance of fabric softener because of an increase in the number of inquiries and complaints thereof registered with PIO-NET. Even after that, a certain amount of inquiries and complaints (approximately 130 to 250) have been received every year (e.g. "Fragrance of fabric softener is too strong and gives me headache").
- Information on fragrance of fabric softener (released on September 19, 2013 in Japanese)
Test results in 2013 showed that laundry washed with highly scented fabric softener and hung in a room released many volatile components including scented and unscented components.
This time, NCAC analyzed recent inquiries about fragrance of fabric softener and examined the total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) and the odor intensity released from laundry washed with fabric softener currently on the market. NCAC also checked labels on the products. Based on the findings, NCAC would like to share tips for choosing suitable products and precautions for use as well as to make a request to related organizations.
Summary of inquiries and complaints
- Inquiries and complaints about fragrance of fabric softener amounted to 928 since FY2014. The 928 cases included 594 harmful cases.1 Even after issuing a caution on fragrance of fabric softener in 2013, about 130 to 250 inquiries and complaints have been received every year.
- A monthly breakdown shows that more inquiries were received between June and September than in other period. In 71% of the entire cases, the consumer who bought fabric softener was different from the person who inquired about it.
- An age and gender breakdown of harmful cases shows that women in her 30s to 60s accounted for 78% of the total sufferers. It was found that 81% of the harmful cases occurred at home.
- 1 Data registered from April 2014 through January 31, 2020.
Product test results
- Regarding unscented fabric softener and less scented fabric softener, the amount of TVOC released from laundry when using an indicated dose was about the same with the amount when using a double dose. Regarding highly scented fabric softener, a far more amount of TVOC was released from laundry when using a double dose compared to the amount when using an indicated dose.
- Regarding less scented fabric softener and highly scented fabric softener, a licensed smell examiner2 did not perceive an obvious difference in odor intensity when using an indicated dose and when using a double dose. Regarding unscented fabric softener, the odor was slightly weaker when using an indicated dose compared to when not using the fabric softener.
- 2 The licensed smell examiner is a national qualification in Japan to determine the strength of smell.
Labeling and representation
- Fragrance intensity based on a self-made evaluation method was labeled on packages of four out of six tested brands.
- Any of the tested brands showed ingredients on packages in accordance with the voluntary industrial standard. There was no description about details of fragrance ingredients.
- Any of the tested brands showed "precautions about fragrance" on packages.
Advice for consumers
- Even if you like a certain fragrance, some others do not feel the same. Some of them become ill from the smell.
- When using a double dose of highly scented fabric softener, a far more amount of TVOC was released from laundry compared to the amount when using an indicated dose. However, a licensed smell examiner did not perceive an obvious difference in odor intensity. Refer to the standard amount of use indicated on the package. Do not use an excessive amount of fabric softener.
- Choose a suitable product for you with reference to the fragrance intensity labeled on the package.
Request to manufacturers and businesses
- Set industrial guidelines for labeling fragrance intensity so that consumers can make a suitable choice.
- Consider labeling names of intentionally used fragrance ingredients constituting 0.01% or more of the total amount.
- Keep encouraging consumers in a clarifying way to follow the proper dose.
Request to the government
- Further raise consumer awareness on the proper way of using fabric softener.