Can I Wash Clothes Without Fabric Softener?

I loved washing clothes, especially since I started using fabric softener. I use the liquid one because it works better than dryer sheets.

However, I recently read that the softeners are unsuitable for the environment. So, I wanted to try washing clothes without it.

fabric softener
Fabric softener. Credit: canva

So, can I wash clothes without fabric softener? The answer is yes! You can get rid of it and still have clean clothes. 

Getting to Know Your Fabric Softener

What Is It?

It is a chemical compound that helps keep clothing from feeling stiff or scratchy when washed in hot water and prevents static. They also add a scent, remove odor, and make clothes feel softer and more comfortable against the skin.

The most common one used today is a detergent-based product called “liquid” fabric softener.

The liquid one comes as a spray bottle with an attached nozzle. When sprayed onto dirty laundry, the liquid penetrates the fibers of the clothing and works its way into the material’s pores.

How Does It Work?

Liquid fabric softener contains surfactants, which act like soap by breaking down dirt and grease. Surfactants also soften fabrics by making them smoother and easier to launder.

Surfactants are made up of molecules consisting of a hydrophilic head group (the part that attracts water) and a hydrophobic tail (the part that repels water).

When it is applied to dirty clothes, the surfactant molecules attach themselves to the fabric’s surface. This makes the material smooth and helps remove stains and other contaminants.

After the laundry has been treated with the liquid softener, it’s ready to go through the washer.

Can It Clean Clothes?

No, but it does soften clothes. It only cleans and softens clothes. It doesn’t do any stain removal.

If you want to remove stains from clothes, you’ll need to use another method, such as a commercial stain remover.

Can I Wash Clothes without Fabric Softener?

softener washing machine
Using fabric softener in a washing machine. Credit: canva

Can You Do Laundry without It?

Yes, you can wash clothes without it. You can get rid of your softener and still have clean clothes. 

There are several ways to do laundry without the item.

Do We Really Need It?

If you’re wondering whether you really need it, the short answer is no. Most people don’t realize how much they put on their clothes every time they take them out of the dryer.

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, about half of all Americans use it regularly.

And while some people may think that it is necessary to keep clothes looking new, there are plenty of ways to care for clothes without adding chemicals.

Why Do We Want to Avoid Using It?

While many people love the convenience of using it, there are many reasons why you should avoid using it.

  1. First, it uses potentially harmful ingredients. Some of these include phosphates, chlorine, and ammonia. These chemicals can be toxic if they come into contact with our bodies.
  2. Second, it adds unnecessary expense to your laundry routine. A typical load of laundry costs around $10. If you add the softener, you could spend more than $15 per load.
  3. Third, it isn’t environmentally friendly. It’s one of the most significant contributors to the pollution problem in America. According to the EPA, the average American household uses approximately 1,000 pounds of the item yearly. That amounts to about 6 gallons of it!

What Happens if You Don’t Use It?

You might not know what happens if you skip using it, but here’s a quick overview.

The washing item breaks down the oils and fats found in most clothing so that your clothes won’t feel sticky or greasy when you wear them. Without it, your clothes will likely feel rough against your skin. Your clothes will also smell different.

The good news is that you don’t need to worry about washing clothes without the softener agent. There are plenty of ways to ensure your clothes stay fresh and clean.


There are lots of eco-friendly alternatives. Try some of these methods.

Baking Soda

baking soda
Baking soda. Credit: canva

If you’re looking for some natural alternatives, consider adding baking soda to your machine’s rinse cycle. This will replace the need for the softener and help eliminate static cling.

Baking soda is a great natural alternative. It is a natural way to soften your clothes without ruining the environment.

Add it to your machine’s rinse cycle, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how it can improve your laundry day.


If you’re looking for a chemical-free alternative, you can also try vinegar. 

Vinegar is another alternative that can help remove any odors left behind by the detergent while leaving clothes smelling cleaner than ever!

Add one cup of white vinegar during each washing cycle for soft and non-static-clingy clothes.

Essential Oils

If you’re a fan of the scent, consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils to your wash or rinse cycle.

Rose scent, lavender, and eucalyptus oil are all excellent choices for those who prefer a unique fragrance to their clothes.

Dryer Balls

dryer balls
Dryer balls. Credit: canva

You can also use wool dryer balls to help eliminate any odors left behind by your detergent.

Put a few balls down the dryer sheet before adding the clothes to speed up the drying process.

Vinegar + Baking soda

Try combining baking soda and vinegar in your wash cycle for an excellent alternative. This will help remove odors that are left behind by the detergent.

Soft Water

Many people complain about hard water with their laundry, meaning they need to add more detergent or switch to soft water.

You can use soft water in your washer by filling it with white vinegar for better results.

Dry Towel

If you don’t want to wash your clothes with vinegar, dry towels are an excellent alternative to help eliminate odors. After a shower, use a dry towel to remove excess moisture from your clothes, like your face.


Another option for removing odors is using fresh lemon juice in the rinse cycle of your washing machine. Add half a cup of lemon juice, return it to the washer, and rerun the process. 

Tips to Keep Your Clothes Smelling Fresh!

Keep Your Wash Cycle Short

The longer you spend in the wash cycle, the more time is needed for any detergents or fabric softeners to work their magic. Many cleaning detergents rely on a long wash cycle to help lift away dirt and increase softness.

So, if you’re looking for more effective results, consider shortening your wash cycle.

Keep Your Washing Machine Clean

Believe it; your washing machine can contribute to the softener’s problem. The excess soap can remain in the lint filter at the device’s bottom. 

Suppose you’re looking to reduce the try to keep your washing machine as clean as possible. You can do this by running a cycle with a few cups of vinegar before going through a normal wash cycle.

Don’t Over-Wash!

Another common mistake is leaving clothes in the washer too long after being washed. The longer they stay there, the more time any detergent or softener has to seep into the fabric and contribute to buildup.

When you use your regular wash cycle, take them out after completing the process.


How to soften clothes in a washing machine?

To soften clothes in a washing machine, you can add some softener powder to your washing machine.

What can I use in the washing machine instead of fabric softener?

You can use vinegar in place of the softener when washing clothes.

Why does my washing machine smell so bad?

Your washing machine may emit a foul odor because of buildups inside the drum. To eliminate these smells, you can run a cycle with vinegar.

Why should you not use fabric softener on some clothes?

Some fabrics such as cotton, silk, wool, nylon, and polyester are sensitive. These types of materials require special care during washing.

How to soften clothes with baking soda?

Baking soda is another natural way to soften clothes. Just sprinkle some baking soda onto the clothing and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing off.

How can I make my clothes smell good without fabric softener?

Use a dry towel to remove extra moisture from your clothes after a shower. This will also prevent mold growth.

You can also use lemon juice or essential oil in the rinse water to remove excess moisture.

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