Does Fabric Softener Damage a Washing Machine

Does Fabric Softener Damage a Washing Machine? (The Truth)

Ever wondered, "Does fabric softener damage my washing machine?" Imagine reaching into your washing machine, only to find your towels less absorbent and your workout clothes losing their wicking ability, all due to fabric softener use. It's frustrating, isn't it? Moreover, the residue build-up can lead to serious issues like mold growth, impacting your appliance's longevity. These problems could not only disrupt your laundry routine but also incur unexpected repair costs.

Fear not, though! This article comes armed with solutions to these pesky problems.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Fabric Softener Damage: Fabric softener can lead to performance issues in your washing machine due to residue build-up and result in less effective laundry cleaning.
  2. Chemical Concerns: Fabric softener contains chemicals that could cause skin irritation and environmental harm.
  3. Alternatives to Softeners: Ditching fabric softener doesn't mean sacrificing soft, fresh-smelling laundry. Alternatives like scented laundry detergent, vinegar, or wool dryer balls can all keep your clothes soft without damaging your appliance.

Does Fabric Softener Damage a Washing Machine?

Yes, fabric softteners can damage a washing machine, in the section below I'll give you the main reasons why it causes damage. We will also discuss some alternatives and remedies to prevent washing machine damage from fabric softener.

Residual buildup from fabric softeners on garments

One of the main reasons why fabric softeners can be problematic is the residual buildup they leave on our clothes. While fabric softeners may make our clothes feel soft and smell great, they can also leave behind a residue that can attract dirt and lint. This residue can make our clothes feel stiff and reduce their absorbency, particularly in the case of towels. Additionally, fabric softeners can diminish the wicking ability of workout clothes, which can be a problem for those who engage in intense physical activities.

Potential harm to washing machines from fabric softeners

Fabric softeners can also pose a risk to our washing machines. The residue from fabric softeners can build up inside the washing machine, especially in the drum. This buildup can clog the drainage system, leading to leaks and other issues. Over time, the fabric softener residue can damage various parts of the washing machine, including the drum, seals, pump, and drainage system. This can result in reduced efficiency, foul odors, mold growth, and even a shortened lifespan of the machine.

Fabric softeners can deteriorate clothes and towels

In addition to potentially damaging our washing machines, fabric softeners can also deteriorate our clothes and towels. The chemicals found in fabric softeners can wear out many types of clothing, including swimwear, athletic clothes, wool, linens, down-filled items, and even baby clothes. This can lead to garments losing their shape, color fading, and fabric becoming thin and worn out. If you've noticed your clothes or towels deteriorating more quickly than expected, fabric softener may be to blame.

Fabric softeners may not be eco-friendly

Another factor to consider is the environmental impact of fabric softeners. Many fabric softeners contain petroleum-based materials that are harmful to the environment. These chemicals can end up in our water systems, polluting aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, fabric softeners are often packaged in single-use plastic bottles, adding to the problem of plastic waste. If you're looking for a more eco-friendly laundry routine, it may be worth considering alternatives to fabric softeners.

Potential allergic responses

It's important to note that some individuals may be allergic to the ingredients in fabric softeners. These allergies can manifest as itching, redness, swelling, and other skin irritations. In some cases, fabric softeners can even cause asthma or respiratory issues. If you or someone in your household has sensitive skin or respiratory conditions, it may be best to avoid using fabric softeners altogether.

How does fabric softener harm washing machines?

Now that we understand the potential harm that fabric softeners can cause to both our clothes and the environment, let's dive deeper into how they can specifically damage our washing machines.

Decreases the washing machine's effectiveness

Fabric softener residue can reduce the effectiveness of your washing machine. As the residue builds up, it can interfere with the machine's ability to properly clean your clothes. This means that your clothes may not come out as clean as they should be, defeating the purpose of using a washing machine in the first place.

Unpleasant odor originating from the washing machine

Fabric softener residue can also contribute to unpleasant odors originating from your washing machine. Over time, the residue can become trapped in the machine, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. This can result in foul odors that can transfer to your clothes, making them smell less fresh.

Fungal accumulation in the washing machine

The buildup of fabric softener residue can also lead to fungal accumulation in your washing machine. Mold and mildew thrive in damp environments, and the residue provides the perfect breeding ground for them. This can not only contribute to the foul odors mentioned earlier but can also pose a health risk to you and your family.

Reduces the longevity of your washing machine

The damage caused by fabric softener residue can reduce the longevity of your washing machine. The buildup can put additional strain on the machine's components, leading to premature wear and tear. This can result in costly repairs or even the need for a replacement washing machine sooner than expected.

Plumbing blockages

Fabric softener residue can also cause blockages in your plumbing system. The residue can clog pipes and drains, leading to slow drainage or even complete blockages. This can be a major inconvenience and may require the assistance of a plumber to resolve.

Fire hazard

In rare cases, fabric softener residue can pose a fire hazard. The residue can accumulate on heating elements or other hot surfaces within the washing machine, increasing the risk of a fire. While this is not a common occurrence, it's important to be aware of the potential risks.

Remedies to prevent washing machine damage from fabric softener

Now that we understand the potential harm that fabric softeners can cause to our washing machines, let's explore some remedies to prevent this damage.

Limit the quantity of fabric softener used

One simple solution is to limit the quantity of fabric softener used in each load of laundry. By using less fabric softener, you can reduce the amount of residue that builds up in your washing machine. Follow the instructions on the fabric softener bottle and use the recommended amount for each load. In some cases, you may find that you can achieve the desired softness and scent with less fabric softener than you initially thought.

Consider discontinuing the use of fabric softener

If you're concerned about the potential damage fabric softeners can cause to your washing machine, you may want to consider discontinuing their use altogether. There are alternative methods and products that can achieve similar results without the negative consequences.

Opt for a substitute

There are several alternatives to fabric softeners that can help soften your clothes without causing damage to your washing machine. One popular option is distilled white vinegar. Adding a small amount of vinegar to your rinse cycle can help remove any remaining detergent residue and leave your clothes feeling soft. Another option is baking soda, which can also help soften fabrics and eliminate odors. These alternatives are more environmentally friendly and can be a safer choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

Procedure to prepare a homemade fabric softener alternative?

If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can even create your own fabric softener alternative at home. Here's a simple recipe to get you started:

Necessary ingredients:

  • 2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Steps to create your own fabric softener:

  1. In a container or jar, combine the distilled white vinegar with the essential oil (if using).
  2. Stir the mixture well to ensure the essential oil is evenly distributed.
  3. Use approximately 1/4 cup of the homemade fabric softener in the rinse cycle of each load of laundry.
  4. Enjoy softer, fresher-smelling clothes without the potential damage to your washing machine.


Fabric softeners can provide a pleasant scent and softness to our clothes, but they can also cause damage to our washing machines. The residue left behind by fabric softeners can lead to reduced effectiveness, unpleasant odors, fungal accumulation, and even plumbing blockages. Additionally, fabric softeners can deteriorate our clothes and towels, and they may not be eco-friendly or suitable for those with allergies or sensitive skin.

To prevent washing machine damage from fabric softeners, it's important to use them sparingly, consider alternatives such as vinegar or baking soda, or even create your own fabric softener alternative at home. Regular cleaning and maintenance of your washing machine are also essential to remove any residue that may have accumulated over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it true you shouldn't use fabric softener?

While fabric softeners can provide softness and a pleasant scent to your clothes, it is true that they can cause damage to both your washing machine and your garments. Fabric softeners can leave a residue on your clothes, attract dirt and lint, and reduce absorbency. They can also build up in your washing machine, leading to reduced efficiency, foul odors, mold growth, and even a shortened lifespan of the machine.

Is it better to wash clothes without fabric softener?

Washing clothes without fabric softener can help prevent the potential damage that fabric softeners can cause. Fabric softeners can leave a residue on your clothes, making them feel stiff and reducing their absorbency.

What happens if I put fabric softener in the wash?

If you put fabric softener in the wash, it can leave a residue on your clothes and potentially damage your washing machine. The residue can make your clothes feel stiff, attract dirt and lint, and reduce their absorbency. It can also build up inside your washing machine, leading to reduced efficiency, foul odors, mold growth, and other issues. To prevent these problems, it's best to use fabric softener sparingly or consider alternative options.

How do I get fabric softener out of my washing machine?

To remove fabric softener residue from your washing machine, you can clean it with a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water. Fill the detergent dispenser with the vinegar mixture and run a hot water cycle without any clothes. This will help dissolve and remove the fabric softener residue. You can also wipe down the drum and other parts of the washing machine with a cloth soaked in the vinegar mixture.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments