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In today’s modern world and busy lifestyles there are a vast range of convenience products to make life easier and Febreze is just one such item. It claims to safely remove odours from various fabrics, upholstery and surroundings. I first came across this product almost 2 years and during that time have been able to thoroughly test, establish its efficiency, value for money factor for the consumer and hopefully form an opinion on the product based on my personal use.
At the time of launch back in 1998, I like many other consumers was intrigued by its claims that it can remove lingering odours from cooking, smoke, pets, or musty smells from clothes, sofas, carpet and so on. I was curious whether this new product would actually work? In a short answer, yes it works! I was curious about what it contains, how it acts and had many other questions.
As one can imagine since the last 2 years there are other products on the market that claim to do a similar job. One thing I will point out in advance that you should bear in mind; this is NO SUBSTITUTE or replacement for cleaning or fresh air. Before I explain my test and verdict on Febreze AND another leading contender, I will provide some information about Febreze for you to be able to make a better informed buying decision. Now, don’t all rush off to the supermarket and venture into aisles of air freshners/purifiers just yet…
Febreze is made by Proctor & Gamble [PG], who are the company behind well known leading brand names you may see in your homes such as Bold, Bounce, Clearasil, Head & Shoulders, Vidal Sassoon -VS Sassoon, Pantene Pro-V, Oil of Olay, Pampers, Tampax, Vicks Inhaler and so on. As can be seen from the diverse portfolio of PG they appear to have much success in this field. Consequently when new product Febreze was launched back in 1998 it had high expectations and was a pioneer of this sort of new technology in its field of fabric freshening. It was first launched in the US where many households rely heavily on the use of products such as air freshners, wet wipes, DIY-dry cleaning that can be done in your washing machine or any convenience/easy fix products etc.
The makers Procter and Gamble suggest Febreze (which comes in the form of a spray) can be used on car seats, sofas, curtains, clothes, sports shoes (canvas), pet bedding as an examples. A very interesting set of stories emerged in the press from owners of pets in the US claiming Febreze killed their pets as it was reported to contain very low level of zinc chloride, lower than 1%.
Zinc has many beneficial properties and is essential element in part of our nutrition. It’s used in many health care products such as antiseptic creams. Its use has never been associated with toxicity or death. Many of these claims were unsubstantiated and were never proved. P & G who makes Febreze no longer use zinc chloride in the new improved formulation. The new improved formulation was in circulation long before these rumours started. One question remains to be asked ‘if’ these claims by pet owners are true, how did they use Febreze? Did they spray Febreze directly onto pets to stop the smell?! Was the pet old or with prevailing illnesses anyway? One of the Veterinary Emergency Centre’s in the US dealing with these reports claims it “has never seen nor heard of any legitimate cases of animal toxicity or illness relating to Febreze”.
All household products require stringent testing according to strict regulations by FDA in US and Europe, Febreze was thoroughly tested for nearly 5 years by scientists, safety experts and doctors. The conclusion was that Febreze is safe to use around pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), also concluded that Febreze was safe to be used in households with dogs and cats. It turned out that many of these reports were rumours that may have ulterior motive regarding P& G previous animal testing policies on products where humans will be in touch. However, for those of you that follow such matters P&G announced back in 1999 that they would no longer carry out any animal tests on current products. Just something to bear in mind if a company says it didn’t test a product, other contract houses can do the tests for them to ensure absolute safety, in the rare occurrence that a human died or had adverse toxicity, as the company hadn’t tested the product. This will bring me on to ask so exactly what ingredients are in Febreze, how to use it and how does it work?
WHAT’S IN IT ?
This appears to be a closely guarded secret! Looking at the bottle in front of me it doesn’t list any active ingredients or a patented formula name. The product label just says “contains amongst other ingredients, preservative”, P & G appear to be deliberately vague about the contents of this magic concoction! The only information P&G mention in their literature is that it contains some sort of proprietary active system in a water solution that is designed to clean away odours in fabrics.
Upon further investigation I have found the active ingredient of Febreze to be a cyclodextrin, that’s often used in cleaning supplies and helps reduce unpleasant smells. Cyclodextrin is a sugar like compound that traps the odour molecules. The odour molecules would still be present in the fabric but you wouldn’t be able to smell them, they would be masked. Once the molecules are trapped your noses will not be able to smell any further. Please do understand that these odour causing molecules are still present within the fabrics, it’s just that they are masked, Febreze is not intended as a replacement to cleaning.
P&G infact appear to have a few series of cyclodextrins that they have patented for use in this area of home fabric freshening and cleaning especially with home dry cleaning kits, which do not use toxic agents such as Perchloroethylne, which is used in conventional dry cleaning. So more is yet to come…..
THE CONSUMER TEST
With a little information about this product its time to test it:
I compared Febreze with Asda’s 'Logic' Fabric Freshner, both are available in 500ml size in the form of a spray. There is only one strength available in the Asda make, which I assume is ‘regular’. The Febreze was ‘Extra Strength’. Upon first appearances the size and style of the 500ml bottle are the same with both makes, with a trigger spray. Febreze is presented in a white plastic with a blue trigger cap, whilst Asda’s is a clear see through plastic.
Test No.1 ~ Smoke
My first test was to see whether it would get rid of the smoky smell that lingers in your clothes..the sort you are left with after a great night out. So there I was checking out all the best Clubs in the area, had a great time, only to come home to find my jacket with the stale left over smoke smell (I don’t smoke myself). My normal routine if I didn’t have Febreze would be to leave the jacket out hanging all night and that would get rid of the smell. This time armed with Febreze in my left hand and Asda Logic in the right.. following the instructions carefully on the product, I gently sprayed Febreze on the left arm of the jacket from a range of approx. 30cm the cloth was slightly damp now. I could smell the fragrance Febreze also contains, it is ok, but too much makes it over-powering (a bit like Neutradol –if any of you use that) On the other sleeve I sprayed Asda’s spray, I noticed a much gentler more delicate fragrance in the Asda product.
I left the jacket hanging in the room (indoors!) and next morning to my utter surprise both sleeves smelt fresh and lovely, and there was no smell of smoke lingering. It was almost as if it had been washed and left to dry in the spring meadows…. My personal opinion on this jacket was that I preferred the Asda Logic freshner it had a more delicate fragrance.
*Important Note* – please do test a small area of fabric first in case it stains the material. i.e. it is not recommended to be used on silk, leather or suede.
Test No.2 ~Cooking Smells
I do a lot of cooking and love exotic foods. In UK, having a cold climate, the very nature and construction of houses often means enclosed and small living areas that are not very open – this means smells can sometimes be trapped or confined in enclosed spaces. So quite often no matter how many precautions I take to close doors, turn the extractor on, open windows, the smell of cooking diffuses through to other areas of the house and of course remain in the kitchen. I sprayed Febreze on curtains and upholstery in the dining area and there was no sign of coking smells. On this occasion Febreze was probably more effective as it’s more stronger designed for use on heavy-duty fabrics such as curtains, carpets etc.
I have also tested this in wardrobes, which sometimes can build up a musty smell, if clothes haven’t been aired for a while. Both products did a fabulous job of refreshing. I don’t have any pets so cannot comment of how it gets rid of pet smells trapped indoors. On the bottle it states it can be used in sports shoes – I did not test this, as quit often the odour coming from hot sweaty trainers is after bacteria is harbouring in the sole, and my advice would be to leave them out to air and replace the sole rather than spraying copious amounts of Febreze on them as it may not work.
COST & VALUE FOR MONEY
Febreze comes in a variety of sizes and strengths Regular strength (500ml), Extra Strength (500ml) Extra Strength (1 litre). There is also a small handy size (100ml) –which I would recommend as it is ideal for travelling when you may not have to me to wash, clean jackets. Febreze Extra Strength (500mL) costs £2.59, whereas the 1 litre size presents better value for money at £3.97. From time to time there are offers available in supermarkets, last time I saw Asda were selling this at £1.99, so keep a look out. On the otherhand 500mL of Asda Logic freshner costs £1.58, which was on offer also at Asda, but I cannot see this product costing anymore than £1.99. In my opinion this presents superb value for money. It is only available in one size and strength at the time of writing this.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
I can understand that the major players in this field of Fabric technology wish to keep their heavily guarded formula’s secret but a little product label information and perhaps a mention of the major active ingredient would be useful to the consumer. As 2 strengths of Febreze are available now, perhaps 2 or 3 different fragrances should be introduced as I personally don’t like the fragrance in Febreze that much, but it’s better than the odours. As supermarkets are also offering their own version of Febreze perhaps a slight reduction in price would be appropriate too. I am not sure which company is manufacturing the supermarket versions of Febreze, is it Proctor & Gamble?
To conclude Febreze was the first successful product in this new field of fabric cleaning, and it does work. However, with everything there is the price factor and personal appeal, and in my opinion I will be awarding this product a 3 star rating. Remember this is a superb convenience product that if used according to instructions works well, it is not a replacement to cleaning itself. I personally would use the Febreze Extra Strength on heavyweight fabrics such as carpets or curtains and the Asda Fabric Freshner on clothes and always keep a handy size Febreze for travelling. I have seen other opinions on Ciao awarding this 5 stars but in light of my full investigations and use of other similar products available to the consumer at a lower price that still work I will settle for 3 star rating at present.
Proctor & Gamble PO Box 1EL, Newcastle upon Tyne NE99 1EL