Can You Wash Clothes Without Fabric Softeners?

Fabric softeners are one of the many inventions brought into the laundry world. They seek to solve the problem of stiff and hardened clothes caused by the squashing and fraying of fibers during washing. And let’s be honest, softeners really kill it when it comes to softening clothes and eliminating this problem. 

Nowadays, fabric softeners have uses that even explode past the primary purpose. They can remove anti-static, reduce creases and wrinkles and can also add a layer of fragrance to your garments. 

But the thing is, do you actually need fabric softeners in laundry? Considering that Tumblr dryers are now pretty good at eliminating stiffness in clothes? Will eliminating them affect your clothes in any way? 

Depending on what you’re using it for, fabric softeners may or may not be a necessity. In the UK and the US for example, consumers primarily use softeners to eliminate static buildup on synthetic materials (which makes clothes cling to bodies and give that itchy feeling), and also to add a bundle of freshness and scent to clothes. 

In other places where mechanical dryers are not common however, fabric softeners help prevent clothes from hardening when they are air dried. And that’s their simple basic purpose! 

So comparing the two situations we have at hand, we can easily see that fabric softeners aren’t really a necessity for consumers that rely on them for fragrance. 

On the other hand, clothes that get stiff and hardened from washing can be very difficult to iron, and that can end up affecting how you make a statement in your everyday lifestyle, and in that case, fabric softeners become a really beneficial addition to your laundry, as they’ll help soften your clothes and make them easier to iron. 

Below we’ll go through the many benefits that fabric softeners bring to the table when you use them in laundry. By going through the exhaustive list and striking out things that aren’t really convincing to you, you’ll be in a better position to tell whether or not you need fabric softener in your laundry. 

What does fabric softener do?

There are quite a few things that fabric softeners do when added to your laundry. Let’s go through each one of them carefully for better understanding.

Soften clothes

Fabric softeners help to soften clothes. How clothes get stiffened in the first place is due to the squashing and rubbing of fibers in the washer that causes them to disorient. 

So when these fibers, having undergone intensive wash action that has made them disoriented, are left out to dry in the open air, they become very stiffened. This is very pronounced in clothes like jeans and those that have a bit of structure to them.

This can be a very annoying situation to deal with because the clothes would be difficult to iron. To deal with this problem, you can simply add a cap full of liquid fabric softener to the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine and it will take care of it. 

How it does it is by conditioning the fibers and making them orient and stand again, thereby imparting a fluffy and soft texture to feel.

Reduce wrinkles in garments

Fabric softeners are good softening agents, and because of their softening action, they are able to produce clothes that are wrinkle free straight out of the washer or drying machine.

Gives anti static properties to clothes

Tumbling your clothes in the dryer makes them rub against each other to build up something called an electrostatic charge. This is what causes clinging which can be irritating to many of us. 

Static charge build up can also make clothes attract dust and dirt which is a big negative for clothing care, especially for white fabrics. 

Adding anti-static agents like fabric softeners would actually help deal with this problem.

Adds Fragrance

It’s difficult to find a fabric softener that doesn’t add a layer of fragrance to your clothes. Typically, fabric softeners are infused with a really good scent which leaves your clothes smelling very nice at the end of the day.

Save energy

Fabric softeners contributes to the overall energy saving of your home, even though it’s by little. Here’s how they do it. Fabric softener reduces the time it takes for clothes to dry, because the soften clothes spin efficiently. 

Do you really need it?

Depending on who is asking the question, you may or may not need fabric softener. Here’s when you probably don’t need a fabric softener for your laundry! 

  1. You don’t like the fragrance it adds to clothes, or don’t typically use fragrance on your clothes.
  2. You are allergic to certain ingredients in the fabric softener. Fabric softener allergy is a common problem amongst people. 
  3. You do not have a blooming collection of synthetic fibers so there’s really no need to get a softener to soften clothes.
  4. You have a tumble dryer that eliminates wrinkles and softens clothes for you.

How to add fabric softener to your clothes

Finally chosen to use fabric softener on your laundry? That’s great news. Here are the tips and tricks to follow to ensure you’re doing it well. 

Add fabric softener into the washer during rinse cycle

If your washing machine doesn’t come with a fabric softener dispenser, then you can add it manually to the wash water. Make sure you target water pockets to avoid adding fabric softeners directly to clothes which can cause discoloration.

Add using a dispenser ball

Dispenser balls are an easy way to dispense fabric softeners in laundry. Their creation still emphasizes the need to avoid putting fabric softener directly on clothes.

Dispenser balls are very easy to use, simply add the recommended amount into the ball and then toss it in with the laundry to dispense during washing. 

Disposables are designed to release their contents at the right time and in the right amounts in the washer. So your fabrics are getting the proper amount of softener they need. 

Add to the dispenser

On newer machines, you’ll have dispensers provided for fabric softeners. You can use that to dispense the product automatically in the rinse cycle. 

When adding fabric softeners to the dispenser box, make sure you avoid filling it past the max line which can cause early dispensing, and thus staining of your clothes.

Don’t leave softeners in the dispenser for more than 2 days

If you have left over softener in the dispenser due to one reason or the other, avoid keeping it in there for more than 2 days, it will harden and become difficult to flush out. 

Don’t add fabric softeners directly on clothes

Whenever you’re adding fabric softeners to clothes, ensure you don’t put it directly on them as that can cause staining, and sometimes even damage. 

Don’t use on towels, it affects absorbance

Fabric softeners, despite their alluring properties, are not actually recommended to be used on every type of cloth. Towels for example, will have their absorbency reduced with continuous usage of softeners. So also, microfiber clothes, sportswear, flame resistant clothes and water repellent fabrics, are all affected by softeners in one way or the other!

Another thing about using fabric softeners consistently is that it can cause fabrics to become more flammable which can put your health at risk.

What are the natural alternatives?


Vinegar is a good natural alternative to fabric softener, though not as effective as it is. Vinegar would help soften clothes, brighten them, remove odor and also keep darks looking dark for a long time. 

When adding vinegar, add it during the rinse cycle just like you would add fabric softeners. Or, you can use the fabric softener dispenser. 

Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets are basically softeners in another form. They help soften clothes, remove wrinkles, eliminate static build up, and even add scent to clothes. So they basically do what fabric softeners do only that they are made in a different form, which is sheets.

Dryer balls

Dryer balls are another impressive alternative to fabric softeners. Their movements in the dryer imparts softeners to clothes and also eliminates creases, wrinkles and static build up.

When you don’t have dryer balls, you can always use tennis balls.

Tumble drying

Tumble drying solves one of the biggest problems that fabric softeners have been solving ever since their invention, which is to prevent stiff clothes from happening in the laundry. 

Tumble drying solves this problem in the same way that dryer balls do it. The tumbling motion that happens in there releases wrinkles and creases and makes clothes become softer. One trick you can incorporate as well is to remove clothes before they completely dry and then shake them well. 

This will remove wrinkles and prevent them from stiffening. Importantly, it will eliminate static build up and therefore prevent clothes from sticking to your body.

Final Thoughts

Fabric softeners are a good addition to your laundry, however not really a necessity. The primary necessities in a laundry include laundry detergent, water as well as sanitizers.

If you don’t feel the need to use fabric softeners, then go ahead and leave them out of your laundry. However, if you include them as part of your laundry, know that you will have the benefits of softening, anti-static: if you’re having synthetic clothes, wrinkle free, crease free, and also fragrance.