Putting fabric softener in washing machine

When and When Not to Use Fabric Softener

Fabric softener can be a blessing or a curse, depending on when you use it. Check out these top tips to become a fabric softener connoisseur and master that laundry!


1. If in Doubt, Leave It Out

Fabric softener can ruin certain materials, so if you have any doubts about using fabric softener on something, it’s best to err on the safe side and avoid using it altogether.


2. Use Fabric Softener for Bedding

We all know there is nothing better than snuggling down in freshly changed bed sheets, and fabric softener makes this all the more luxurious by keeping the fibres soft and reducing static.

If you only use fabric softener on one thing, let that be your bedding!

Top tip – using a lavender-scented fabric softener on your bedding can improve your quality of sleep, as lavender has been proven to ease insomnia and induce a more sound sleep!


3. Don’t Use Fabric Softener on Expensive Items

Don’t lose the luxury of a cashmere sweater or a soft woollen jumper. Expensive and high quality fabrics like these can be damaged by softeners which can cause bobbling and pilling, and can make them feel stiffer.

An easy rule of thumb is to not use fabric softener on an expensive item of clothing.

Top tip – separate these expensive items and wash them on a lower temperature to retain their quality.


4. Use Fabric Softener on Synthetic Fibres

For most of us, not all items in our wardrobe will be made of luxury fabrics (sigh). The majority of clothing items will more than likely be made of a blend of synthetic fibres such as polyester and acrylic (check the labels to make sure).

Fabric softeners are fine to use on these items and won’t damage them. In fact, as softener makes fibres more elastic it can help to keep your garments looking fresher for longer, so they always look as good as new!

While fabric softeners get to work to soften fibres (clue’s in the name), this process can tamper with the quality of smart fabrics, including anything water resistant.

Avoid using softener on towels, sweat-absorbing athletic wear, swimwear and anything made with microfiber if you want them to remain porous. Because a towel that won’t keep you dry is not ideal!


5. Don’t Use Softener on Baby Clothing or Anything Flame-Resistant

baby clothes and detergent

Fabric softener can also reduce the effectiveness of flame-resistant clothing as it covers the fabric with a waxy coating.

This can actually make them more flammable, so stay away from softener when washing items such as baby clothing, children’s pyjamas, dressing-up costumes, and anything else with a flame-resistant label.


6. Make Sure You’re Using It Correctly

To get the most from your fabric softener it’s important that you use it correctly. Fabric softener can leave a stain if it’s applied directly to the fabric.

Instead, make sure to use the compartment in your washing machine so that it’s introduced into the wash with the water.

Top tip – It’s also key to make sure your washing machine isn’t too full so that there is enough room for plenty of water to circulate and disperse detergent and fabric softener evenly.

It is true that fabric softener can leave a residue in your washing machine. This isn’t a problem as long as it doesn’t build up, so aim to clean your washing machine regularly using a brush or soap & water. This will also improve the longevity of your machine.


7. Take Care If You Have Sensitive Skin

Although fabric softener is gentle on fabric, it can be hard on skin. If you notice a skin reaction such as irritation or a rash, it could be your fabric softener.

If a reaction occurs, stop using your softener immediately and see if you notice an improvement.

If you have sensitive skin, it is worth checking the label before you buy your softener to see if it is suitable. Some fabric softeners such as Fairy Original Fabric Conditioner are formulated to be kinder to sensitive skin.



So, what are the top take-aways here? Let’s break it down:

Do use fabric softener when washing:

  • Clothing made of synthetic fibres like acrylic and polyester
  • Bedding

Don’t use fabric softener when washing:

  • Expensive fabrics like wool and cashmere
  • Towels
  • Microfibre
  • Athletic clothing, including swimwear
  • Baby and children’s clothing, sleepwear and dressing up clothing
  • If you experience a skin reaction

And make sure when you use fabric softener to:

2 thoughts on “When and When Not to Use Fabric Softener”

  1. I have a coat made of polyamide, it is machine washable but not sure if I can use fabric conditioner as there is no indication on labels. Can you help please.

    1. Fabric softener can be used to reduce static on clothes made from polyamide. To be on the safe side it’s best to only use a small amount of fabric softener.

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