Ask The Audience: The Great Fabric Softener Debate

Ivy says:

It’s been awhile since we had a good, rousing debate about householdy stuff. Now, we all know by now that using fabric softener on things like towels causes them to lose absorbency, but what about everything else? Do you use fabric softener? Or what about dryer sheets? Or maybe just some vinegar in the rinse? Or nothing?

how to use fabric softener

What do you use, Home Eccers? Me, I like the way fabric softener makes everything smell, so I use it when I remember. Mr. Ivy is a lover of dryer sheets and we’re both fans of vinegar in our towel loads. I must say, the Downy ball has certainly helped me to remember to use either fabric softener or vinegar, depending on what I’m washing.

So, tell me, Home Eccers, what are you using?

laundry supplies guide

Click this picture for more tips!



35 Comments

  1. ThatBobbieGirl on October 18, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    I don’t use anything as far as fabric softener, for several reasons:

    First, I stopped using the grocery store stuff because of the chemicals.

    Then, I stopped using the natural stuff from the health food store because it’s really expensive and I didn’t really notice a difference in using it or not using it.

    Also, strong smells have really started bothering my husband and me these last few years. He can’t even stand it when I chew gum near him, and anything perfumy gives me a headache. (Can I possibly be the same girl who used to douse herself in Evyan’s White Shoulder’s before setting foot outside the house?)

    Lastly, but not leastly, I’m having to be really careful about what goes on my skin or I just end up scratching myself silly from the itching. I wash my face with plain water and a washcloth – I kid you not.

    DH talked about some system to hook up to the washer that makes silver ions to get your clothes clean without detergent or soap, plus it makes your clothes soft. I said “sure, let’s give it a whirl” but since it’s over $400, it hasnt’ happened yet, and I’m not holding my breath…

    So I pretty much just use BiOKleen laundry powder to wash the clothes, and my imagination to soften them.

  2. Ann O'Malley on October 18, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I use vinegar on all my clothes. I’ve noticed a huge difference in how soft all of my clothes and towels are. My clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar. Use one cup of vinegar at the start of the rinse cycle.

  3. Stephanie on October 18, 2008 at 7:52 am

    In the summer no fabric softener on anything.

    In the winter though I need to use a little just to control static cling. I buy a super cheap bottle of liquid softener, water it down by at least half. I cut up a sponge into about 1 inch squares and soak them in the watered down softener. I throw a square in the dryer with each load. That cheap bottle of fabric softener lasts forever!

  4. Emily C on October 17, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    We’re too cheap ’round here for either.

    End of story.

    Every couple of months I’ll do the towels once or twice with vinegar.

  5. Mom of three on October 17, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Jackie,
    I use the TIDE HE, but haven’t seen the unscented. Will look when I go to the store next. Maybe they just haven’t started stocking it here yet.

  6. Jackie W. on October 17, 2008 at 11:19 am

    @ Mom of three- I am 27 and have suffered from eczema my entire life…so unscented laundry detergent is a must for me. We have a front loader and I have found that using the HE Tide Free (it’s unscented and free of dyes) works just fine for me.

  7. aimee on October 17, 2008 at 11:16 am

    we don’t use any fabric softener. our new he machine doesn’t have a dispenser and my daughter has eczema…..seriously – no difference in the way the clothes feel. the towels come out fluffy and the clothes are just as soft. i use a bit less detergent than recommended and i think that helps….i do love the fresh laundry smell so we use ecos laundry detergent (magnolia & lily i think) even my husband noticed how great the clothes smell, and i love mrs. meyers too.

  8. JayMonster on October 17, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Mrs Meyers Clean Day Fabric Softener (liquid… they also have eco-friendly dryer sheets) Earth Friendly, available in a light (natural) scent or scent free. Works great, and still environmentally friendly.

  9. Wendy on October 17, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I have used vinegar for years as fabric softener. And no one here smells like vinegar when they sweat. If anything the vinegar neutralizes the smell that dirty laundry can have. If you are still concerned with the smell, just add some scented essential oil to the vinegar to get a different scent.

  10. kathy on October 17, 2008 at 6:35 am

    I would also like to know more about vinegar as a softener and what it does. So many uses, but I have never heard of using in washer.

  11. Fawn on October 17, 2008 at 12:23 am

    I wish I’d known about moldy-smelling frontloaders earlier, because mine now is! Grrr.

    For unscented HE detergents, the ONLY one I’ve found is the Seventh Generation stuff. Why don’t manufacturers think to make HE unscented detergent? Geez louise…

  12. Keter on October 16, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I end up with a lot of static in my clothes if I don’t use a dryer sheet. I have skin allergies and liquid softener is a no-no.

    To avoid wrinkles in jeans, just dry them on the permanent press setting, and if you have an “automatic” sensor setting that controls the machine by sensing humidity, use it. You don’t want to overheat or overdry your clothes – both will cause wrinkles. The cotton setting is too hot for anything but towels, and the permanent press setting has a cool-down period at the end of the cycle that cools the clothes so they won’t wrinkle (and you don’t have to rush to get them out of the dryer). Also be sure you don’t overload the dryer: my big Kenmore only does about seven pairs properly, even though it’s rated for more.

  13. Raine on October 16, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I use homemade fabric softener made with vinegar and baking soda and a little bit of store-bought softener for the scent [we have well water, so it’s hard without the baking soda] in the wash, and dryer balls in the dryer.

    My mom never used any type of fabric softeners growing up, while my husband’s family used both the liquid and 2 dryer sheets per load. Even with that, he likes the results of the homemade, and I like having less chemicals and saving money. I also use homemade laundry soap, and the vinegar in it keeps soap residue from sticking to the clothes or washer.

  14. Mom of three on October 16, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Since I recently bought a new front loader, I had asked this very question. 😉

    I have gone to vinegar in my towels, and I love how fluffy they were but was concerned about using it other clothes, because I was afraid the vinegar would react with our sweat. But reading online, I was concerned about the moldy smells some front loaders get and from what I read it is caused by 1) too much soap (I use half of the new HE soap than what is recommended) 2 fabric softener 3) not airing out the machine (I leave the door open.

    So I have been mixing the two half and half. Since I use the concentrate, I have already diluted it with water, so I am now using 1/2 vinegar, 1/4 concentrated fabric softener, 1/4 water. When it runs out, I plan on just using the vinegar.

    My machine is only 3 months old, so I can’t really say if that is going to help long term.

    Now to drier sheets. Yes, I do use them, in front of the filter to my Hoover Nano Vacuum cleaner. They keep the musty smell and dust out of the filter so it lasts longer (since I can wash it, I put a new one in after each cleaning.)

    My front loader has a place for fabric softener, so I don’t use the downy ball. I did with my old washer though because it was a cheap one without a place for the softener. (It also had mold issues and was a top loader, go figure.) I would almost be afraid too, since it spins so fast. Wouldn’t want to damage the drum.

    Because my UR is in a total state of disrepair (see my blog for all the latest renovation news), today as I washed, I just used all vinegar. We will see if anyone notices. 🙂

    I have severe migraines, so I am hoping this plus the new nasal allergy meds will help cut down on those. I am wondering if those clean smelling sheets haven’t been the cause of my morning migraines.

    So if someone like Awesome Mom who uses it on everything can reassure me that our clothes aren’t going to smell like a bad salad when we sweat, I will probably go to all vinegar. It’s certainly cheaper than fabric softener. It made the towels fluffier. And there’s no musty smell in my washer so far. (In fact, I can actually smell the detergent smell in the clothes more). Next question, has anyone seen the new HE detergents in Unscented? That’s what I usually buy, but I haven’t seen it in Unscented around here yet.

    • Sharlisha Ryan Bird on September 17, 2009 at 2:44 am

      Costcos brand has the detergent

  15. Soire on October 16, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I use dryer balls, and half a dryer sheet for my sweater load, and vinegar in the diaper load! 😀 It’s a good mix, and a box of 200 dryer sheets has lasted us … uhm… we moved in 3? years ago? and are still on the first box of the costco two pack 😛

  16. Tara on October 16, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    I haven’t used dryer sheets in years. I avoid the static by air-drying those items; now we dry most items that way. Towels still go in the dryer till I get better at this, and until I can air-dry outside (inside the apartment, it’s a bit much). I would use vinegar but I never remember.

    To get the stubborn wrinkles out of jeans – regular dryer round for 15 minutes or so, then hang to dry neatly. Snap them, straighten them before you hang them – the heat softens them enough to drop the wrinkles. I haven’t found a way around that, either. 🙂

  17. Domestically Challenged on October 16, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I use BOTH dryer sheets and fabric softener, both in unscented sensitive skin varieties. ;o)

  18. Leigh on October 16, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    we’ve had a similar experience to some others – our kids have very sensitive skin, eczema, and allergies, so we had to stop using dryer sheets and fabric softener. We use the dryer balls, too, and when I remember and have vinegar on hand, I use vinegar in the rinse cycle.

    My brother came over yesterday and did a load of towels while he visited, and you would’ve thought I had slapped our mama when I told him I didn’t use dryer sheets – didn’t even own any anymore. He had never heard of NOT using them, so it was fun giving him a little bit more “big sister” education!

  19. CanadianCarrie on October 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I can’t stand the smell of most fabric softeners, headaches and excema aren’t my idea of a good time! 🙁 So I use 2 dryer balls and only the dryer sheets when I notice the clothes get a little Static clingy. I might start using Vinegar, it sounds like it works well!
    Oh,oh, I have a question!
    So how do I keep my jeans from getting those stubborn wrinkles in them? I have tried washing them with softer items (not just a full load of jeans) sometimes it works, sometimes not….

  20. Tracy on October 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    I stopped using fab softener a long time ago. I dont have a dryer and I use vinegar for everything. My clothes are hung outside and they smell so fresh!

  21. angie on October 16, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I use 7th generation fabric softener (believe it’s made from soy). All the yummy goodness without the chemicals, which occasionally cause migraines. They use extracts so the smells are natural. It’s not as strong as the chemical stuff but works. I’ve always wanted to try vinegar though.

  22. Lesley on October 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    What, exactly does the vinegar do? And your stuff doesn’t smell like vinegar?
    I use dryer balls and a dryer sheet. The dryer balls have cut down on the amount of time I have to run the dryer by about 10-15 minutes.
    And I have heard that most people use way too much detergent in their laundry, causing stuff to be stiffer than it should be. And that a lot of the “lint” is actually detergent debris!

  23. Badbadivy on October 16, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    And by wash cycle, I mean rinse cycle. Lordy.

  24. Badbadivy on October 16, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    AA: I use a downy ball with my vinegar and I just fill it to the line that the ball indicates. It saves a lot of time trying to remember the wash cycle. And yep, just plain white vinegar. It works like a charm!

  25. AA on October 16, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Wow .. I had never heard about using vinegar. Guess that’s why this is a 101 site 😉

    I use dryer sheets. I’ve never really noticed a lack of absorbency with my towels, but have never given it much thought either. I would like to try the vinegar trick though. A few questions:

    How much vinegar is used? Just plain old white vinegar? Do you dilute it first? When do you add it? And, any tips for remembering to add it? (Not just that it should be added, but to remember to go back and add it – since I’m known for forgetting I started laundry and not tossing it into the dryer until a couple hours later. :}

    Thanks!!

  26. Awesome Mom on October 16, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Vinegar on everything except for bedding. I love the smell of fabric softener so I use the liquid on my sheets and blankets.

  27. tink on October 16, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Sorry for the typos, I had surgery yesterday and I’m nicely drugged up;

  28. tink on October 16, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I have a spray bottle full of 30% lquid fab sofynet and the rest water . For each dryer load,I squirt a few shots of the liquid fab on to a clean wash cloth and run it wwhatever you are drying. Soft, fresh smelling, and frugal

  29. Kacie on October 16, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    I don’t use fabric softener, either. One day, I just stopped putting in dryer sheets and I can’t really tell the difference. Well, my clothes no longer smell like fabric softener. Instead, they just smell like the detergent.

  30. Jennifer on October 16, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets. I don’t miss them at all. I’ll use some vinegar in the rinse cycle occasionally to help rinse out all the detergent.

    I have dryer balls but don’t use them because since I started using them the paint in my dryer has started chipping. Not sure if they’re to blame but it was the easiest thing to change.

  31. Elizabeth Anne on October 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I confess, I love fabric softener. I know it’s “not really necessary”, but I love the smell, and I love how it makes my clothes feel. We also live in an area of EXTREMELY hard water, so without it my clothes feel kinda crunchy.

  32. Bramble on October 16, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    We dont use it, it makes my kid break out in a rash and the smell gives me headaches. 🙁 I don’t really notice a difference in my clothes on the rare occasion I have used it, and if i’m line drying i’ve found if i just use a little less detergent then it comes out less stiff.

  33. chocolatechic on October 16, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I don’t own a dryer, so I must use fabric softener.

    I use it on everything except my towels. For my towels, I use vinegar.

  34. Charlotte on October 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I don’t use softener or dryer sheets because I have found that both of them make my daughter’s eczema worse.

    Instead I use dryer balls – 2 knobbly plastic balls that you put inside the drum of the dryer. They roll around (making a loud clanking sound!) and agitate and beat the laundry to soften it instead.

    OK so you don’t get any fragrance, but I have found that my laundry is just as soft (even towels!). And there is nothing to reduce the absorbency of the towels either.

Leave a Comment