Easy Tips to Know When to Use Fabric Softener
Laundry day can become so routine that we don’t stop to consider how we wash items or which products we’re using. Between work, running the kids to after-school activities and walking the dog, it’s easy to wash clothes and towels without putting much thought into which steps and products are necessary—and what can be skipped.
Fabric softener is a great example. So often we use this with every load. But should we? Is it even necessary? Let’s find out!
What Exactly is Fabric Softener?
Fabric softener contains lubricating ingredients that are added during the wash cycle to protect against fading, pilling, shedding and wear. On one hand, it helps soften fabric, remove static, maintain form, prevent wrinkles and provide pleasing scents. However, it’s not compatible with all fabric and skin types.
Fabric Softener Do’s
After a workout, there’s nothing like wrapping up in a soft, cozy towel after a shower. Or knowing your favorite cotton sweater is wrinkle free and smells fresh for your night out. Softener is the reason, but only with the right fabrics.
- Everyday clothing made from cotton or other natural fibers. Enjoy the softness and fresh scents of fabric softener for these items. Check your clothing’s washing instruction labels for any restrictions.
- Cotton towels. Fabric softener can help make your cotton towels feel fluffy and fresh—the trick is to use it occasionally. Too much can make towels lose their absorbency over time.
Fabric Softener Don’ts
- Towels made of microfiber or terry cloth. The oil in fabric softener latches onto towel fibers and makes them slippery, which makes absorbing water harder—and can defeat the purpose of a towel.
- Athletic sportswear. When you’re in a yoga class or on a bike ride, the moisture-wicking fabrics in workout clothing help move sweat to the outer layer so it dries faster and keeps you more comfortable. Fabric softeners may lessen this fabric’s “wicking” ability.
- Synthetic and water-resistant materials. Fabric softener can wear down the effectiveness of water-resistant materials and synthetic fabrics such as polyester. A garment made with elastane, like spandex, can lose its ability to stretch and reshape itself.
- Flame resistant children’s sleepwear. Did you know that manufacturers are required to make children’s sleepwear flame resistant? Softeners will lessen this resistance, so never use it on children’s sleepwear.
- Clothing for babies and those with sensitive skin. Babies and others with sensitive skin can become irritated by the ingredients found in fabric softener. It’s best to skip it altogether.
- Be aware of potential residue buildup. Fabric softener can in the machine, which can create an environment for mildew growth. This can be a deal breaker for those concerned about damage to their machines.
A Few Alternatives
If you’re not able to use fabric softener but still want soft, static-free laundry, discover alternative options such as aluminum foil, tennis balls, wool dryer balls, baking soda and vinegar, and even hair conditioner.
Fabric Softener: Yes or No?
To answer the question, “Is fabric softener necessary?” it’s optional depending on fabric type, skin sensitivities and personal preference. On your next laundry decide if you’ll use fabric softener, choose an alternative or skip it altogether. The choice is up to you.