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Is Fabric Softener Bad for Workout Clothes?

February 3, 2019

Traditionally, fabric softeners are great in that they smoothen your clothes. A type of conditioner, they also prevent them from fading, stretching, and accumulating lint. For the most parts, they also eliminate static and wrinkles. On top of all that, they add a nice scent to your laundry. Considering all this it’s hard to imagine why fabric softener isn’t a great thing, right? Well, as it turns out, it really depends on the type of clothing you’re wearing, in the old days it was great, but for athletic clothing keep fabric softener far-far away!

First, an overview of what extra fabric softener is…

Depending on the type of softener that you’re using, you add them either during the rinse cycle or at the beginning of the dryer cycle.

The Different Types of Fabric Softeners

There are two different types of fabric softeners—liquid and dryer sheets.

Liquid fabric softeners:

– permeates into your clothing fibers
– lubricates clothing with special chemicals
– added during the wash cycle
– does not mix well with laundry detergent
– frequent cleaning is required as it tends to build up in the machine
– can make towels less absorbent

fabric softener types dryer sheets

Dryer sheets:

– placed in the dryer with your clothes
– reduces static by balancing out loose electrons
– coated with stearic acid, which makes fabric feel softer
– can stain clothes if not used properly
– can get clogged in the lint trap if not removed after every use

How does Fabric Softener Work?

These specially formulated liquids apply a layer of lubricating chemicals to your clothing. In addition to that, they impart anti-static properties to fabrics, which helps to prevent wrinkles, dust, and lint from accumulating.

Risks Associated with Fabric Softeners

As great as they may be, there are a few risks that are worth noting. For one thing, it’s not uncommon for fabric softeners to cause irritant dermatitis—something that is also common with soaps and detergent. To prevent irritation, many manufacturers opt to produce them without perfumes and dyes.

Another thing is that liquid fabric softeners increase flammability, something that can be attributed to its fat content. Because of this, clothing with fabric softener will burn much more severely.

When to Use Fabric Softeners

Now you might be wondering—”When should I use a fabric softener?”. Don’t worry, despite the risks, they are relatively safe to use. Still, it’s always a good idea to double check whether or not a material is compatible with a softener before using it. For the most parts, though, it’s no problem.

As far as workout clothes go, it depends. In the end, it depends on the type of fabric that is used. On this page, we will be going over what exactly is compatible.

Is Fabric Softener Bad for Gym Clothes?

Gym wear is often made out of moisture-wicking fabrics such as polyester and other synthetics. Ultimately, what this means is that they are designed to pull moisture such as sweat away from the body. As a result, they help the wearer keep a comfortable body temperature; it also prevents skin irritation by ensuring that sweat is not left on the body for too long.

is fabric softener bad for workout clothes

How does it work? These fabrics are highly permeable, which allows moisture to pass through to the outside, where it can then evaporate.

Should you use fabric softeners on gym clothes? The answer is no. As it is, the lubricating residue left by softeners tends to disrupt the garments’ intended performance. In other words, the moisture will not be able to get through to the surface. Before you know it, the sweat will lead to a certain odor.

The bottom line? Skip on the fabric softener when you’re washing your gym clothes. Trust me, you will be making the right decision.

Does Fabric Softener Harm Regular Clothing?

Given that your clothing is not made out of a moisture-wicking material such as polyester, there is no harm in using a bit of fabric softener. After all, you want it to feel smoother against your skin, right?

By depositing a waxy residue on the fabric, your clothes will be left soft and comfy. Not to mention that they will also smell nice, too. Just because you can use fabric softeners, however, doesn’t mean that you should always use them. For one thing, most of today’s clothing is already soft to the touch. Unless they’re noticeably rough on your skin, you probably don’t need to get out the softener.

Should You Use Fabric Softener on Active Wear?

As with gym wear, activewear is often made out of polyester, a moisture-wicking material. Because of this, it’s generally not recommended that you add fabric softener when you’re putting them in the wash. As described earlier, the waxy residue will prevent moisture such as sweat from evaporating, which can ultimately lead to icky odors.

fabric softener active wear

Let’s talk about another type of material that is often used in activewear—wool and smart wool. As you might be able to guess, it’s also not a good idea to pair them with fabric softeners. While wool is not moisture-wicking like polyester, it does have a core that absorbs moisture. When you add a conditioner, it will be absorbed in this core; this prevents the fiber from removing moisture from your skin. Ultimately, what you will be left with is a greasy, smelly mess.

What kind of activewear is compatible with fabric softeners? Cotton. Unlike polyester or wool, these garments can be safely softened with conditioners. With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, there is still a chance that it can lead to skin irritation. After all, you never know when a certain chemical will cause a reaction. To be on the safe side, you might want to skip on the softener.

Is Fabric Softener Bad for Leggings/Yoga Pants?

Leggings are made out of a variety of materials. However, cotton, lycra, and polyester combinations tend to be the most common. Some also have spandex added, which provides stretch.

fabric softener bad leggings yoga pants

As a general rule, you do not want to use fabric softener on leggings. For one thing, lycra and polyester are both considered to be moisture-wicking materials. If conditioner is added, moisture will accumulate in the core of the fabric, which can lead to stink and irritation. Over time, it can also destroy the structure of the material.

Alternatives for Fabric Softener

Fortunately, there are several alternatives out there when it comes to softening clothes.

1. Using White Vinegar

You might have already heard, but white vinegar is excellent for cleaning. While it doesn’t reduce static like fabric softener, it does soften clothes to a certain degree. Worried about the vinegar smell? Don’t be—it will not leave any type of scent whatsoever! As with liquid fabric softener, you want to add half a cup to the rinse cycle.

2. Using Aluminum Foil Balls

Did you know that you can create your own dryer balls using aluminum? Sure, they might not be capable of softening your clothes, but they reduce a good amount of static! The entire process is easy as well—just scrunch up a few sheets of aluminum foil and put them in the dryer. Just remember to take them out when the cycle is complete.

3. Using Wool Dryer Balls

fabric softener alternatives dryer wool balls

If you don’t want to make your own dryer balls, you can always buy them. As a matter of fact, wool dryer balls are wonderful at softening fabric. Not only that, but they reduce static, wrinkling, as well as drying time! Sustainable to boot, they are typically made out of 100% wool yarn, which means that they are super soft. Perhaps the best part of all, however, is that they can be used again and again—that alone will save you money in the long run!

4. Using Hypoallergic Wool Dryer Balls

If you are allergic to wool, you might want to give hypoallergenic dryer balls a try. Made from non-toxic materials, they both soften clothes and reduce static cling. If anything, they work just as great as their wool counterparts! They are also relatively inexpensive, which is nice.

5. Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is another great alternative. All you have to do is sprinkle one-quarter of a cup into the washing machine during the wash cycle—that will be enough to soften and freshen up your clothes.

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Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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