Liquid fabric softener being added to a washing machine dispenser

What is fabric softener and what does it do?

If you’re looking for a way to help make your family’s clothes softer, smell fresher and less staticky, explore the benefits of adding fabric softener to your next load of laundry. Learn how fabric softener works, when to use it and whether it’s the right fit for your family.

Detergent and fabric softener dispensers in a washer Detergent and fabric softener dispensers in a washer

What is fabric softener?

Fabric softeners contain lubricating ingredients that help coat and soften fibers in your fabrics when added to your laundry load in the form of liquid, powder or dryer sheets.

What does fabric softener do?

The ingredients in fabric softeners are deposited onto fabric fibers to help fight wrinkles, reduce static and add a soft touch and fresh scent to your laundry.

What is fabric conditioner?

With all the same benefits as fabric softeners, fabric conditioners are another way to provide protection to the integrity of your fabrics by smoothing and conditioning fibers. The ingredients in fabric conditioner can help combat the pilling, fading and stretching that often occurs as a result of normal wear and tear in the care of your clothes.

Laundry being removed from a dryer Laundry being removed from a dryer

How do you use fabric softener?

If your washer has a softener dispenser, you can add liquid fabric softener at the beginning of your wash cycle so that it’s automatically dispensed at the right time. Check your Washer Use & Care Guide for dispenser availability, location and filling instructions.

Otherwise, you should add liquid or powder fabric softener to the full tub of your washer’s final rinse cycle. This helps prevent detergent from washing the fabric softener away and properly dilutes it to help avoid staining your fabrics. Find out how to remove fabric softener stains from your clothes, should they occur.

If using dryer sheets, add a new sheet to the top of your load before starting a dry cycle or simply toss in 2-3 dryer balls after loading laundry into your dryer. Learn more about using dryer sheets and how they work.

Avoid build-up on your laundry or appliances by adding the correct amount of softener or dryer sheets as designated on the product packaging. It's also important to regularly clean your washer and clean your dryer in order to remove build-up from fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Should you use fabric softener on all of your laundry?

Because they work well for most natural fiber items, like cotton bed sheets and clothes, it can be tempting to add fabric softener or use dryer sheets in every load, but some fabrics don’t respond well to them. The lubricants used in fabric softeners are designed to coat fibers and may leave behind a film that affects the safety and effectiveness of certain materials, like your children’s flame-resistant pajamas or microfiber towels and cloths. If you’re not sure whether or not to use fabric softener on your children’s clothes, learn more about how to wash baby clothes. Always check the care label on your items before using fabric softener.

Avoid using fabric softeners on these fabrics, as it may result in the following:

Water-repellent fabrics icon

Water-Repellent Fabrics
Reduced water-repelling performance

Flame-resistant clothing icon

Flame-Resistant Clothing
May affect their ability to self-extinguish

Towels icon

Loss in absorbency—use softener only in moderation

Athleticwear and microfiber fabrics icon

Athleticwear & Microfiber Fabrics
Impaired moisture-wicking or stain-absorbing ability

A jar of wool dryer balls A jar of wool dryer balls

Are there fabric softener alternatives?

Yes, dryer balls can be used as a fabric softener alternative. If someone in your family has skin sensitivities or allergies it may be best to avoid using fabric softener and dryer sheets, as the scent and ingredients in some varieties can cause irritation.

Try dryer balls as a more allergy-friendly alternative to combat static and add a slight softening effect, as they can be easily found in unscented, wool or plastic forms. They can also help to keep down jackets from getting lumpy in the wash.

Explore Whirlpool® washing machines

From jackets and beanies to school uniforms and work slacks, washers by Whirlpool brand are designed with your family’s needs in mind. Explore features like the 2 in 1 Removable Agitator and the Smooth Wave Stainless Steel Wash Basket on select models to start streamlining laundry day.

Get more laundry tips to care for every load

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