How To Use Fabric Softener

How To Use Fabric Softener for Wrinkle-Free Results

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Clothes just feel better when you use fabric softener. The best fabric softener will infuse your clothes with protection, softness, and, even better, a fresh scent. For some, a fabric softer is also a detergent, especially for brands with two-in-one formulas, but it is purely a fabric conditioner for others.

Of course, knowing how and when to use a fabric softener isn't always easy for everyone, especially for those who are starting. If you're not sure about how to use fabric softener or wonder when you should use it, here is what you need to know.

What is A Fabric Softener?

A fabric softener, also known as a fabric conditioner, is a product with lubricating ingredients used to coat the fibers of any fabric, leaving your clothes smelling fresh and feeling soft.

Although a fabric conditioner comes in different forms, all of them have positively charged ions that coat the fibers of your fabric. These positive ions will attach themselves to the negative ions at the end of the fabric, making them rise and feel softer to touch.

What Does a Fabric Softener Do?

There are many uses of a fabric softener. Apart from making your clothes smell good, it also protects your clothes from damage. It ensures your fabric remains in good condition even after several uses.

No matter the type of fabric softener you're using, using it in the washing machine will help prevent stretching and piling in your clothes. Furthermore, some fabric conditioners will also ensure that the color of your items does not fade.

A fabric softener has ingredients that will help lubricate the individual fibers in your clothing. The lubricants will coat the fibers, soften them, and as a result, less static cling is experienced as they rub against each other in the dryer or washer.

When Do You Use a Fabric Softener?

Many people use fabric conditioners mainly because of the fresh scent it provides, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. Different fabric conditioners come with different scents, so adding fabric softener to your clothes will make them feel complete.

Some other people will add fabric softener to their laundry because they want that super soft feel. There is more to fabric conditioners than just the scent. In fact, if you don't want any fragrance or you have sensitive skin, you can use unscented types.

So you can use fabric softener on your everyday laundry, from your beddings to any cotton clothes. This is because it makes the sheets, pillowcases, and T-shirts feel cozier. In addition, they can help reduce the risk of irritation for anyone with sensitive skin.

How To Use Fabric Softener While Washing Clothes

Using a fabric conditioner is a straightforward process, and in most cases, you just need to add it to your washing machine.

Here are the steps when using a fabric conditioner in washing machines;

  1. Carefully check and read the care label of all the items in your laundry and ensure they are machine washable.
  2. Measure the correct amount of fabric softener into a detergent dosing cup based on the load you have. Follow the instructions on the packaging to find the recommended amount of softener you should use.
  3. Add the fabric softener into the washing machine fabric softener dispenser. This automatic dispenser is a small compartment having a star or flower icon, indicating where you should add fabric softener. However, the location may vary, so always check on the washing machine's manual. Do not add it directly to the drum because it needs to be diluted.
  4. The washing machine will release the fabric softener in the final rinse cycle. However, if you're using an older washing machine, you may need to add the fabric conditioner manually before the rinse cycle.

Wondering how to use fabric softener when handwashing your clothes?

Fortunately, you can also use a fabric softener during a hand wash. Add the recommended amount of fabric conditioner to a clean-rinsing bucket with water. Then, swirl it to mix and rinse your clothes in the solution for best results.

Remember to clean your hands after using a fabric conditioner to minimize the risk of irritation. Although rare, some people with sensitive skin might have a reaction when an undiluted fabric conditioner stays on the skin for long.

Where Do You Add Fabric Softener In The Washing Machine?

For washing machines that have an automatic fabric softener dispenser, you can just put the fabric conditioner into the dispenser. However, the location of the dispenser and how you put it varies depending on the type of washing machine you're using.

a). Front Loader

Front-loading washers will come with a detergent drawer where you can add detergent or softeners. You just need to pull the drawer to add fabric softener to the machine.

This drawer may have a label to indicate the amount of fabric conditioner you should add. Ensure you don't fill the drawer past the maximum fill line as it will only spill or be released too early, causing stains on your clothes.

Once you have added enough softener for the next load, close the drawer. The fabric should automatically be dispensed during the rinse cycle.

b). Top Loader

For top-loading machines, the dispenser is found at the top of the agitator and in the middle of the drum. So you just need to pour the right amount of fabric softener into the dispenser then you can add water to dilute the softener.

Just as with a front loader, be careful not to overfill the dispenser. Once the wash cycle has started, the fabric softener will be dispensed automatically during the rinse cycle.

Remember to clean the fabric softener dispenser regularly. If you don't do this, the residue may clog up the dispenser and damage it. The residue buildup may also lead to the growth of mold in both top and front loading washing machines.

How Do You Add Fabric Softener Without A Dispenser?

Sometimes, your washing machine may not include a fabric softener dispenser. As a result, you need to pour the fabric conditioner into the machine during the rinse cycle. However, it is important not to use fabric softener directly on top of the clothes. You should instead pour it in a water pocket at the top of the load to ensure it is diluted before it gets dispersed.

Adding the fabric conditioner during the wash cycle will only make it get washed away before it can penetrate the clothes. Also, adding it after the rinse cycle will not properly get it washed out.

Liquid vs. Powder vs. Dryer Sheets

Fabric conditioners come in different forms, with the most common ones being liquid, powder, dryer sheets, and dryer balls.

1. Liquid Fabric Softener

A liquid softener does a great job in freshening up your clothes, but it is the most expensive of the three options. Liquid fabric softeners will penetrate into your fabrics during the wash cycle. However, one drawback of using liquid softeners is that they build up in your washing machine and even leave stains on clothes if not used properly.

2. Powder Softeners

Just like the liquid fabric conditioners, the powdered softeners will also be added to the wash cycle. They are less convenient but are also quite affordable when compared to all others.

3. Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are simply small sheets coated with a fresh scent and stearic acid as well as other chemicals. When the dryer heat, the stearic acid melts and goes into your clothes, reducing static and leaving your clothes smelling fresh.

In comparison to the liquid ones, dryer sheets are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. You only need to pop one or two in the dryer, and you're good to go.

4. Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are simple wool balls that you can add to your dryer to help soften and freshen your clothes. These balls can also help speed up the drying process as they are able to absorb the moisture on clothes.

These balls are generally more effective than the sheets since they are round and move around better. However, both of them are great options if you're looking for an alternative to a liquid fabric softener.

When Should You Not Use Fabric Softener?

Some fabrics should never be used with fabric conditioners because of their unique characteristics. If you're not sure if the fabric softener can or can't be used with the specific fabric, you should check the label.

Here are several things you should never use a fabric softener with;

a). Microfiber

Microfiber is a soft fabric, but people still want to use fabric softener on it to ensure it remains soft. However, this fabric is designed to absorb moisture and coating the fibers using fabric softener prevents them from becoming absorbent.

Additionally, microfiber materials do an amazing job in trapping due because of the amount of electricity in the fibers. So, when a fabric softener coats the fibers, it minimizes the amount of static electricity, and as a result, dust won't stick to the fibers.

b). Athletic Wear

Most often than not, athletic wear or workout clothes are made from fabrics that feature moisture-wicking abilities. A piece of moisture-wicking fabric will help you cool down by moving sweat from your body. Fabric conditioners will add a lubricating coat to the fibers, and as a result, it hinders the ability of your fabric to move moisture.

c). Towels

Although using a fabric softener on your towels is generally okay, and it makes your towels soft, using it on repeated washes may make the towel become less absorbent. So, it is recommended not to use a fabric softener every time you're washing the towels.

d). Water Repellent and Flame Resistant Fabric

As much as a fabric softener can affect a fabric's ability to absorb water or sweat, it may also affect the fabric's ability to repel water. The effectiveness of a water repellent fabric can easily be decreased since the main purpose of a fabric softener is to coat the fibers.

For fabrics designed to be flame resistant clothing, using fabric softeners on them will make them less flame resistant. Fabric conditioners are made of chemicals that could be flammable. However, just like in water repellent fabrics, the fabric softener will coat the fibers, making the flame-resistant properties to be ineffective.

Tips to Consider When Using Fabric Softeners

  • Never allow an undiluted fabric softener to come into direct contact with your clothes as it may spot or stain them.
  • Always follow the directions on the specific fabric softener bottle.
  • Never use more than the stated amount as it could damage your clothes and even make them dirtier!
  • Avoid using fabric softeners on some types of materials, for example, sportswear, as they may interfere with the use of it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Fabric Softeners

1. Can you soak clothes in fabric softener overnight?

It is not recommended to leave your clothes or other items soaked in fabric softener for a long period of time. As much as fabric softener adds a fresh scent, it could potentially stain your clothes. The maximum amount of time you can soak clothes in fabric softeners is five minutes.

2. Can you add fabric softener at the beginning of the wash?

You can only add fabric softener at the beginning of the wash cycle if you have an automatic dispenser. If you add it directly during the washing cycle, it could stain your clothes, especially if the washing machine doesn't have enough water to dilute them. For best results, add it during the rinse cycle.

3. When does fabric softener automatically get dispensed?

When you use fabric softener with a washing machine, whether it is the front load or top load, it will be automatically dispensed during the rinse cycle. However, what makes the difference is the settings and the number of rinse cycles your washing machine has.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.