People use fabric softener because it makes clothes feel softer and it can make them smell nice, too. But fabric softeners can be bad for your clothes when used on the wrong garments. In fact, with activewear, using fabric softener can lead to real problems. Want to know why—and what to do about it? Read on.
How Does Fabric Softener Work?
First, let’s talk about how fabric softeners work. As your clothes go through the wash, these products (both liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets) add a thin layer of chemicals that are designed to lubricate your clothes, helping them to feel soft and smooth. Once treated, your clothes may also be less likely to wrinkle or collect lint, thanks to the anti-static nature of the softener. So far, so good.
Will It Harm My Clothes?
Fabric softeners have their benefits, but they can also damage some types of clothing. Here’s what you need to know.
Everyday Clothing & Fabric Softener
For your everyday clothing, which will mostly be made from natural fibers like cotton, fabric softener should work just fine. You can enjoy the benefits of reducing static cling and improving the smell of your clothes, and any negative side effects should be minimal.
Workout Clothing & Fabric Softener
Will fabric softener harm your workout clothing? Let’s take a closer look:
Typically, your activewear will be made from synthetic materials that offer moisture-wicking properties. These materials are designed to pull sweat away from your body as quickly as possible, helping you to feel drier and cooler. A plain cotton T-shirt will quickly become drenched during a workout, but a shirt made from synthetics can pull moisture away and allow it to evaporate, keeping the shirt dry and light.
Fabric Softeners Can Harm Synthetics
When you use a fabric softener, your clothing is coated with a chemical layer. These chemicals will block up the pores in the synthetic materials, reducing their ability to wick away moisture. As a result, not only will you wind up soaked and uncomfortable during your workouts, but your clothes can begin to stink.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to avoid this outcome—just don’t use fabric softeners when washing your workout clothes!
Alternatives To Fabric Softener
Okay, so you’re skipping the fabric softener. But you still want soft clothes! And static cling is so annoying! Fortunately, there are a few solutions:
- White vinegar can be a great alternative to traditional fabric softeners. While it doesn’t help with static, it can help to soften your clothes—even your workout clothes. And don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar after. Simply add a capful during to the wash. WARNING: Don’t mix vinegar with bleach, as this can create a toxic gas.
- Baking Soda. Baking soda can help to soften your clothes, as well. Just add a half cup to the wash and let it do its thing. WARNING: Don’t add baking soda with vinegar, as this can cause an explosion of suds (remember those Volcano experiments)?
- Aluminum Foil. To help get rid of static cling, roll up a ball of aluminum foil and place it in the dryer along with your laundry. What’s nice about this fabric softener substitute is that aluminum foil is something you probably have on hand already, and you can reuse the same ball of foil for multiple loads!
Can You Remove Fabric Softener?
Removing fabric softener buildup from clothes that have been through a few cycles with either a liquid softener or dryer sheets can be tough. One trick you can try is to add a small amount of vinegar to the wash. Instead of adding fabric softener to the wash cycle, add a comparable amount of white vinegar. While you may not be able to return the clothes to “good as new” condition, the vinegar may help to reverse some of the softener buildup.
Try WIN Detergent
For clothes made from synthetic materials, skip the fabric softener. Instead, simply use a detergent that is designed for activewear, such as WIN Sports Detergent. With WIN Detergent, you can eliminate odor from your workout clothes and help to keep them in top-performing condition!