Does Fabric Softener Damage a Washing Machine?

A fabric softener is like a double-edged sword, if you use it too frequently, it may choke your washer and if you use it wisely it can make your fabric soft and fluffy.

So, if you are asking yourself if fabric softeners are safe to be used in your washing machine or not.

The honest and blunt answer to that would be it depends.

A fabric softener can damage your washing machine if you’re not careful.

Anything in excess can be damaging.

You must not forget that Fabric Softeners are chemicals.

They can leave a residue on your clothes and in your washing machine.

These residues just build up over time and damage your washing machine in many ways.

Here are some common reasons why you should use scarcely use the softeners OR completely avoid them if possible.

Fabric softeners leave a residue on your clothes

Have you ever noticed that your clothes feel a little stiff after you’ve used a fabric softener? That’s because fabric softeners leave a residue on your clothes.

These residues can make your clothes feel stiff and can also make them attract dirt and lint.

Fabric softeners can damage your washing machine

The residue from fabric softeners can also build up inside your washing machine and damage the drum.

It can also cause your washing machine to leak and break down over time due to a choked drainage system.

Damages clothes and towels

If you use too much fabric softener, it can damage your clothes and towels.

The fabric softener can make the fibers in your clothes and towels weak, thereby making them less absorbent.

This means that your towels won’t be able to absorb water as well, and your clothes won’t be as soft.

Fabric softeners may not be biodegradable

Most fabric softeners are made from synthetic materials.

These synthetic materials can take years to break down and may not be biodegradable.

This means that they can pollute the environment and harm wildlife.

Allergic reactions

Some people may also be allergic to the ingredients in fabric softeners.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include itching, redness, and swelling.

If you experience any of these symptoms after using a fabric softener, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

How fabric softener damages washing machines?

The main way that a fabric softener damages a washing machine is by clogging the drains. Over time, the fabric softener will build up and clog the washer’s drainage system, thereby causing the machine to break down

A choked drainage system eventually leads to water damage and mold growth.

It can also cause your washing machine to break down over time and cause leakage problems.

Some of the common and well-known problems that may arise due to excessive use of fabric softeners are:

Reduced efficiency of the washing machine

The efficiency of the washing machine gets reduced over time as the fabric softener residue builds up on the various parts of the machine.

This makes it difficult for the water and detergent to reach all the dirty areas of your clothes and results in a less than satisfactory wash.

Foul smell from the washing machine

The foul smell coming from the washing machine is mostly due to the fabric softener residue that has built up over time and has started to rot.

This smell can be quite strong and unpleasant.

Mold growth in the washing machine

The fabric softener residue can also provide the perfect environment for mold to grow.

The warm, damp conditions inside the washing machine, coupled with the fabric softener residue, create a perfect environment for the bacteria and mold to thrive.

Mold is not only unpleasant to look at, but it can also be dangerous to your health.

Shortens the lifespan of your washing machine

Excessive use of fabric softener can shorten the lifespan of your washing machine.

The build-up of residue can damage various parts of the machine, such as the seals, pump, and drainage system.

These damages can eventually lead to a breakdown of the machine.

So, while using a fabric softener is not going to cause an immediate problem, it is important to be aware of the potential damage that it can cause over time.

It is best to use the softeners sparingly or not use them at all.

Clogging of pipes

Fabric softeners can also clog the pipes leading to and from the washing machine.

This can lead to serious problems, such as Leakage, Water damage, and encourage Mold and Bacteria to thrive.

Risk of fire

Fabric softeners can also be a fire hazard.

The residue from fabric softeners can build up on the heating element of your washing machine.

This build-up can eventually catch fire, causing serious damage to your home.

Fabric softeners may be highly flammable, so it is important to be aware of this risk.

Possible solutions to the problem of fabric softener damaging washing machines

There are a few things that you can do to minimize the risk of negative effects of fabric softeners.

Here are some proven solutions…

Use only a small amount of fabric softener

If you want to use a fabric softener desperately, it is best to use them in limited quantities.

This will help to reduce the build-up of residue and minimize the risk of damage to your machine.

Stop using fabric softener altogether

The best way to protect your washing machine from damage is to stop using fabric softener altogether.

You can simply use distilled white vinegar OR baking soda as an alternative to fabric softeners.

Clean your washer regularly

It is important to clean your washing machine regularly to remove any residue that may have built up over time.

You can use a commercial washing machine cleaner or make your own cleaning solution with vinegar and water.

Lastly, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning your machine.

Use an alternative

It’s best to use vinegar or baking soda as an alternative to fabric softener.

Baking Soda OR Vinegar can not only clean the fabrics but also has a fabric softening effect.

The best part with vinegar OR baking soda is that it does not leave any unpleasant smell behind post-wash.

Both of these products are effective at softening the fabrics and will not damage your machine.

How to make a fabric softener alternative at home?

Here is a simple recipe to make a fabric softener at home.

What you will need

  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 20 to 30 drops of essential oil (with fragrance)

Instructions to make fabric softener at home

1. Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well.

2. Add a few drops of essential oil to the mixture, if desired.

3. Your Fabric softener is ready.

This homemade fabric softener will soften fabrics and remove static without damaging your machine.

Also Read: How to make a washing machine cleaner at home?

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while fabric softeners may make your clothes softer and smell nicer, they can also cause serious damage to your washing machine in long run.

The build-up of residue can clog the drains, damage the seals and pump, and shorten the lifespan of the machine.

It is advisable to use only a small amount of fabric softener only if required and recommended to stick to alternative homemade solutions made up of Vinegar OR Baking soda.

Additionally, be sure to clean your washing machine regularly to remove any residue that may have built up over time.

Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at)