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Fabric softener can seem like an essential part of any wash cycle. After all, you want your clean clothes to smell great and feel soft.

You may be surprised to learn that fabric softener is not always necessary in your wash cycle. There are times when you can, and should, leave it out all together, and other times when you need an alternative. 

An Overview of Fabric Softener 

Fabric softener was first created by the textile industry during the early 20th century. The initial process used seven parts water, three parts soap, and one part olive oil. Modern fabric softeners rely on chemicals to deposit a lubricating layer on the garments, making them feel soft. 

This doesn’t make fabric softeners sound good! That’s why it pays to use something else. 

It’s important to note that fabric softeners consist of chemicals. These have the potential to negatively impact your health, and be an irritant if you have allergies or skin sensitivities. 

The Alternatives 

The best option is to use specially formulated laundry detergent. Products like this will address the specific needs of your garments, from swimwear to sport to delicate fabrics, even wool & cashmere. 

This is actually the easiest and most effective solution. 

White Vinegar 

White vinegar is very effective at removing stains and smells from garments while leaving them feeling softer naturally. Your clothes won’t end up smelling of vinegar, unless you use too much of it. 

Baking Soda 

Baking soda is great at eliminating smells, including any created by the vinegar you may choose to use. It will also enhance colors, and improve your whites. That’s a good reason to add a little to your wash instead of fabric softener. 

When Not To Use Fabric Softeners 

There are several times when fabric softeners are not a good idea. 

On towels 

When you reach for a towel you want something that is soft, and fabric softeners will give you that. But the chemical layer will also reduce the absorbency of the towel, making it difficult to dry yourself. Instead, try a cup of white vinegar for the wash and ½ cup baking soda for the rinse. 

Specific Fabrics 

Microfiber cloths have the same problem as towels. The fabric softener will prevent them from absorbing moisture. 

It’s also a good idea to avoid fabric softener on any special fabrics, such as sportswear, swimwear, or even flameproof clothing. Again, the chemicals in the fabric softener will prevent the material from doing its job properly. 

Baby Clothing 

Babies have particularly sensitive skin. It’s a good idea not to use fabric softener as they are more likely to be irritated. You don’t need to give them extra reasons to cry. 

It is best to use delicate detergent and ½ cup white vinegar per load. 

It is also worth noting that if you pour fabric softener directly onto your clothes you’re likely to leave a stain, it must be added with the water as the machine washes. 

Regardless of your reasons for not wanting to use fabric softener, you should also consider the environmental impact. Chemicals in fabric softener have been linked with health issues. In fact, some research suggests it could increase the risk of cancer

You’re better off with natural, specially formulated washing detergents and fabric softeners.