Should You Use Fabric Softener With Detergent?

Doing laundry can be a tedious task. With so many products on the market, it can be confusing to know what you actually need. If you’ve ever wondered whether to use fabric softener in addition to detergent when washing clothes, you’re not alone.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Using fabric softener with detergent is usually fine and can help make clothes feel softer and smell nicer. But it’s not a must – detergent alone will get your clothes clean.

What is Fabric Softener?

Fabric softener is a laundry product that is commonly used alongside laundry detergent. It is designed to provide additional benefits to your laundry routine, beyond just cleaning your clothes. Fabric softeners come in various forms, including liquid, sheets, or crystals, and are typically added to the final rinse cycle of the washing machine or used in the dryer.

Helps soften fabric fibers

One of the primary benefits of using fabric softener is that it helps to soften fabric fibers. When clothes are washed, the fibers can become rough and stiff, especially if you are washing items made of natural fibers like cotton.

Fabric softener works by depositing a thin layer of chemicals onto the fabric, which helps to lubricate the fibers and make them feel softer to the touch. This can be particularly beneficial for people with sensitive skin who find rough fabrics uncomfortable.

Leaves clothes smelling fresh

Another advantage of using fabric softener is that it leaves your clothes smelling fresh. Fabric softeners are available in a wide range of scents, from floral to fruity, and these scents can linger on your clothes even after they have been dried.

This can add an extra level of freshness to your laundry and make your clothes more enjoyable to wear. It is important to note that some people may be sensitive to strong scents, so it is advisable to choose a fabric softener with a mild fragrance.

Contains conditioning agents like quats and silicones

Fabric softeners contain conditioning agents like quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as quats, and silicones. These ingredients help to reduce static cling, prevent wrinkles, and make ironing easier.

Quats are cationic surfactants that adhere to the fabric fibers, creating a protective layer that reduces friction and prevents the build-up of static electricity. Silicones, on the other hand, provide a smooth coating on the fabric, making it easier for the iron to glide over the surface.

It’s important to note that not all fabrics require the use of fabric softener. Some fabrics, such as microfiber or athletic wear, are designed to be moisture-wicking and may lose their effectiveness if coated with fabric softener.

Always check the care label on your clothing to determine if fabric softener is recommended.

For more information on fabric softeners and their benefits, you can visit websites like The Spruce or Cleaning Institute.

What Does Detergent Do?

When it comes to doing laundry, using the right products is essential to achieving clean and fresh-smelling clothes. One of the most commonly used laundry products is detergent. But what exactly does detergent do? Let’s explore its functions and how it helps in the cleaning process.

Removes dirt, grease and stains

Detergent is designed to effectively remove dirt, grease, and stains from your clothes. It contains powerful cleaning agents that break down and lift away these unwanted substances, leaving your garments looking clean and fresh.

Whether it’s a grass stain on your child’s soccer uniform or a stubborn grease mark on your favorite shirt, detergent can help tackle even the toughest stains.

Contains surfactants that help dissolve and suspend soils

Detergent contains surfactants, which are compounds that lower the surface tension between liquids and solids. This helps to dissolve and suspend soils, allowing them to be easily rinsed away during the washing process.

Surfactants play a vital role in ensuring that your clothes come out clean and free of any residue.

Typically has enzymes to break down proteins and starches

Many detergents also contain enzymes that aid in breaking down proteins and starches. These enzymes target specific types of stains, such as those caused by food or bodily fluids. By breaking down these substances at a molecular level, enzymes help to remove them more effectively, resulting in cleaner and fresher-smelling clothes.

Is it Okay to Use Fabric Softener with Detergent?

Many people wonder if it’s okay to use fabric softener with detergent when doing their laundry. The answer is, it depends. While fabric softener can provide benefits such as softer clothes and a pleasant scent, there are some factors to consider.

Generally safe when used as directed

Fabric softeners are generally safe to use when used as directed. They are designed to be used in conjunction with detergent and can enhance the softness and fragrance of your clothes. However, it’s important to follow the instructions on the fabric softener bottle to ensure proper usage.

Softener deposited after detergent rinses

When fabric softener is used with detergent, it is typically added during the rinse cycle. This allows the softener to be deposited onto the fibers of the clothing after the detergent has done its job of cleaning. The softener helps to reduce static cling and make your clothes feel smoother.

Can help clothes feel softer and smell nicer

Using fabric softener with detergent can help your clothes feel softer and smell nicer. The softening agents in fabric softener work by coating the fibers of the fabric, making them feel smoother to the touch.

Additionally, fabric softeners often come in a variety of scents, which can leave your laundry smelling fresh and clean.

Some soiling may remain if too much softener coats fibers

While fabric softener can provide benefits, it’s important not to overdo it. If too much softener is used or if it is not properly rinsed out, it can leave a residue on the fabric. This residue can attract dirt and make your clothes appear dull or dirty.

It’s important to follow the instructions on the fabric softener bottle and use the recommended amount to avoid this issue.

So, should you use fabric softener with detergent? The choice is ultimately up to you. If you enjoy the benefits of softer clothes and a pleasant scent, using fabric softener can be a great addition to your laundry routine.

Just make sure to use it as directed and be mindful of using the proper amount to avoid any potential issues.

When Should Fabric Softener Be Avoided?

Fabric softener is a popular laundry product that many people use to add a soft and pleasant scent to their clothes. However, there are certain situations where using fabric softener is not recommended. Let’s take a closer look at some of these situations:

On gym clothes and activewear – can affect wicking ability

If you’re someone who loves hitting the gym or engaging in intense physical activities, it’s best to avoid using fabric softener on your gym clothes and activewear. Fabric softener can leave a residue on the fabric, which can hinder the wicking ability of these garments.

Wicking is the ability of the fabric to draw moisture away from the body, allowing it to evaporate quickly. By using fabric softener, you may compromise the performance of your workout clothes and prevent them from effectively wicking away sweat and moisture.

On towels – can reduce absorbency

Towels are meant to be absorbent, allowing you to dry off quickly and efficiently. However, if you regularly use fabric softener on your towels, you may notice a decrease in their absorbency over time.

Fabric softener can leave a coating on the fibers of the towel, making it more difficult for the fabric to absorb water. To keep your towels fluffy and absorbent, it’s best to skip the fabric softener and opt for a detergent that is specifically designed for towels.

On baby clothes – some pediatricians recommend avoiding

When it comes to caring for your little one’s delicate skin, it’s important to be extra cautious. Some pediatricians recommend avoiding the use of fabric softener on baby clothes. The chemicals in fabric softener can be harsh and irritating to a baby’s sensitive skin.

Instead, opt for a gentle detergent that is free of dyes and fragrances to keep your baby’s clothes soft and comfortable.

On delicates and silks – can cause damage over time

If you have delicate fabrics, such as silk or lace, it’s best to avoid using fabric softener. These fabrics require special care, and fabric softener can actually cause damage over time. The chemicals in fabric softener can weaken the fibers of delicate fabrics, leading to fraying or tearing.

To keep your delicates in pristine condition, it’s best to hand wash them with a mild detergent or use a gentle cycle in the washing machine.

Remember, while fabric softener can be a great addition to your laundry routine, there are certain situations where it’s best to avoid using it. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your clothes and fabrics stay in the best possible condition.

Tips for Using Fabric Softener

Fabric softener is a popular laundry product that can help make your clothes feel softer and more comfortable to wear. If you’re considering using fabric softener with your detergent, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Follow directions on packaging

When using fabric softener, it’s important to follow the directions on the packaging. Different brands and types of fabric softeners may have specific instructions for use, so be sure to read and follow them carefully.

This will ensure that you’re using the product correctly and getting the best results.

Use sparingly – start with 1/4 to 1/2 of recommended amount

It’s generally recommended to use fabric softener sparingly. Starting with 1/4 to 1/2 of the recommended amount is a good rule of thumb. Using too much fabric softener can leave a residue on your clothes and reduce their absorbency.

By using less, you can still enjoy the benefits of softer clothes without any negative effects.

Skip the softener if clothes are extra dirty

If your clothes are particularly dirty or heavily soiled, it may be best to skip using fabric softener altogether. Fabric softener can sometimes interfere with the cleaning power of your detergent, so it’s better to focus on getting your clothes clean first.

Once they’re clean, you can then use fabric softener to add a touch of softness and freshness.

Consider vinegar as a natural fabric softener

If you prefer to use natural alternatives, consider using vinegar as a fabric softener. Vinegar has been used for centuries as a natural cleaning and softening agent. Simply add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine to help soften your clothes.

It’s a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.

Remember, the decision to use fabric softener with your detergent ultimately depends on your personal preference. Some people love the added softness and fragrance it provides, while others prefer to skip it.

Consider experimenting with different methods to find what works best for you and your laundry routine.


In summary, adding a dash of fabric softener to your laundry along with detergent is generally fine for most loads of laundry. The softener helps leave clothes feeling smoother and smelling fresher. But detergent alone will get your clothes clean – so fabric softener is more of an optional extra than a necessity.

Be mindful of overusing softener and avoid certain fabrics like towels and activewear. Follow the product directions and adjust the amount as needed for optimal results.

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