How to Use Fabric Softener in the Wash

bottles of laundry detergents in front of folded towels

Fabric softener is a great addition to your laundry regimen. It not only softens clothes to the touch, but also greatly reduces static cling in synthetic fibers. It also helps boost a fresh scent that will linger after drying. Whether your preference is to use a washing machine product or a dryer product, this information will give you the best results.

Decide on the Format You Wish to Use

Fabric softener meant for the washer is usually sold in a liquid form and works in both top-loading and front-loading washers. If you wish to use a dryer-based fabric softener, then wait till the wash cycle is complete, and add the dryer product as you put clothes in the dryer. While you can use both, it is not necessary to do so.

Note: If you intend to line-dry your laundry, it is best to use a liquid product, as a dryer product would not work without a dryer.

Option 1 - Liquid Fabric Softener

clothes on an outdoor clothesline

Measure the liquid fabric softener; the quantity of fabric conditioner you use should be proportional to the size of the load you're washing. For a large load, pour the liquid fabric softener into the lid of the bottle up to the top fill line. This line will be marked on the inside of the lid. For a medium or small load, pour to the lower or middle fill line on the lid.

If you have a top-loading washing machine, you treat softener the same as you would detergent. You can pour the liquid directly into the rinse water as it begins to fill or have it pumped into the washer from the rinse basin on top of the washer. With front-loading washers, pour the fabric conditioner into the rinse container so it will go into the washer as the rinse cycle begins.

Option 2 - Dryer Sheet Softeners

In this option, you'll complete a full wash cycle as normal. When it is finished, pull out all the clothes that are dryer-safe and load them into the dryer. Add one dryer sheet for a medium load and two for a large load. Put fabric conditioner sheets in the dryer after you've loaded laundry. Place the sheet(s) on top of the load so that when the dryer starts they are free to move and come in contact with all the wet clothes.

Note: Dryer sheets can be used two or three times before discarding.

The newest type of dryer-based fabric softener is in the form of dryer balls. Store-bought dryer balls come in the form of spiked spheres that lift the clothes and to help air circulate, reducing static electricity and helping the clothes dry faster. You could also make your own reusable wool dryer balls, which would give you the added bonus of customizing your scent.

Alternative Uses for Fabric Softener

handwashing clothes

Liquid fabric softener can also be used during the rinse process after hand-washing clothes. For an average sink full of water, use one tbsp. of fabric softener. Immerse the clothing in the water and squeeze the fabric softener and water through them, then rinse thoroughly with cool water.

With new steam-activated washers and dryers, place a dryer sheet in the machine as you are steaming, to release the scent and reduce static electricity build-up.

Precautions to Take

Do not pour colored liquid fabric softener directly onto clothes. The coloring agent can stain light-colored garments.

Be careful with powerfully scented products if you have skin allergies or sensitivities.

Use a stiff brush on your dryer's lint trap every few loads when using dryer sheets, and wash it in hot soapy water once a month to prevent build-up of the drying agent on the lint trap.