Is Fabric Softener Really Bad For Washing Machine?

Everything has some good and bad effects. The same is the case with fabric softeners. It helps to give your clothes a pleasant smell along with softening of the material, but on the same note, the chemicals present in the softener can damage your clothes and machine.

Effect of Fabric Softener On Washing Machines

Many people think that without a fabric softener, their laundry is incomplete. However, conventional fabric softeners have been associated with some serious environmental hazards.

It is a good idea to use a fabric softener that does not include animal fat if you have a front-loading washing machine. A fabric softener might stimulate the growth of mold in your machine.

How do fabric softeners work?

As the name indicates the basic purpose of a fabric softener is to soften the clothes and add a pleasant fragrance to them.

Normally, fabric softeners are available in two forms: a liquid for use in the washer and a coated sheet for use in the dryer. They are made to prevent static, reduce wrinkles, provide a fragrance, and make fabrics feel softer. They do this by applying a thin, lubricating layer to the fabric.

The softener adds a positive charge to neutralize the negative static charge, and the coating minimizes static by making the clothing slick to reduce friction. It also aids in the separation of fibers, making towels fluffier. They are also usually perfumed, and they are made to keep the clothes aromatic.

What are the detrimental effects of a fabric softener?

The petroleum-based fabric softener specifically the ones containing animal fat can clog your washing machine (especially if it’s a front-loader) and pipes.

Following are some of the detrimental effects caused by fabric softeners:

Fabric softener may cause long-term damage to your garments and towels

Fabric softener effectively coats your laundry with a thin, waxy layer that must be water-resistant in order to survive the washing process.

The waterproof layer softens your clothes but reduces their capacity to absorb water and laundry detergent correctly. This means your clothes will take longer to dry and will be more prone to retain odors. It can also reduce the absorbency of your towels over time.

Cotton, hemp, and bamboo are natural textiles that absorb light perspiration on their own. When fabric softener is added, however, that absorption can be lost. Fabric softener can create a residue that dulls the item’s finish and invites odor-causing germs when used on synthetic garments comprising elastane and nylon.

Fabric softeners are not eco-friendly

Fabric softeners contain chemicals that are not easily biodegradable and can harm aquatic life when flushed down the drain. Not to mention that certain compounds in fabric softeners are potential human carcinogens, developmental toxicants, and allergens that might contribute to eczema.

How to make environmentally friendly fabric softener at home?

Being aware of the toxicity associated with conventional market-based fabric softeners, one must search for ways to make organic fabric softeners. The process is simple and easy though.

You can make a fabric softener by using the following ingredients:

  • White vinegar
  • Any sort of essential oil
  • A jar or bottle

Fill your bottle/jar halfway with vinegar and 30 drops of essential oil. Vinegar is an effective natural fabric softener because it cuts through soapy residue and does not interfere with the absorbency of your laundry, extending the life and improving the smell of your garments and towels.

Also, it will not leave deposits in your washing machine or pipes, either. In fact, vinegar cuts through grease, so every time you run a load of laundry, you will be cleaning your machine.

What are some alternatives to fabric softeners?

You can make use of some simple items easily present at home to soften your clothes. Some of them are given below:

Baking soda

Fabric softener can be replaced with baking soda, which is a simple one-ingredient natural alternative. Simply add half a cup to the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

This is one of the most cost-effective fabric softener alternative available, and it is also a wonderful choice for folks with sensitive skin.

Not to mention that mostly baking soda comes in compostable cardboard packaging, so it is also good for the environment.


Because of its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, vinegar is one of the most popular natural alternatives to fabric softeners.

Just before the final rinse cycle, add 12 cups of white vinegar to the washing machine. If your machine has one, you can put it in the built-in fabric softener dispenser or a fabric softener dispenser ball.

Your clothes will be as soft as if you used a conventional fabric softener. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell lingering; you can always add aromatic oils for added freshness.

Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are claimed to aid in the softening and fluffing of your garments. Plus, they do it without the use of any chemicals.

Dryer balls are made of wool or plastic and work by keeping the clothing in your dryer wider apart. They may also have spikes of some kinds, which contribute to a fluffier appearance and feel.

The ones made of wool, on the other hand, aid in the absorption of moisture that might destroy clothing. You can add scent to your laundry by spraying a drop or two of essential oil on them. The dryer balls are simple to use and function similarly to fabric sheets. Toss them in the dryer and set them aside.

Related questions

Is it essential to use fabric softener?

A fabric softener is useful for a variety of reasons. It’s a good way to preserve materials and keep them wrinkle-free and silky. It also reduces friction between fibers, which reduces static cling and protects your garments from wear and tear, allowing them to last longer than if you don’t use them.

What’s the big deal about fabric softener?

Fabric softeners contain the most dangerous preservatives, such as methylisothiazolinone, a strong skin allergy, and glutaral, which has been linked to asthma and skin allergies. Marine life is likewise poisoned by glutaral (or glutaraldehyde). 


Till now, it is assumed that the harmful chemicals present in the fabric softeners are hazardous for the machine as well as the environment. One must make use of the potential alternatives to softeners. In the end, even if we want to add fragrance and soft texture to our clothes, we need to consider the health factors first.

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