We have no problem with the general use of fabric softener! Fabric softener (including dryer sheets) works by applying a layer of fabric softener molecules to the top of the fabric surface. This prevents the fabric molecules themselves from interacting electrostatically with the environment, minimizing static, and makes them feel soft to the touch. This is fine as long as you’re using a good detergent and properly treating hard water so the fabric softener doesn’t build up over consecutive washes.
There are a few cases where fabric softener is not recommended:
Absorbent items (towels, dish rags, diapers, etc.) – avoid synthetic fabric softeners on all absorbent items, and only use plant-based fabric softeners on 100% natural fiber absorbent items. The main reason for this is that the layer of fabric softener prevents the fabric fibers from doing their job – absorbing liquids. The secondary reason is that because there’s just so much more fabric surface to coat, and the fabric softener can get deep into the fabric fibers, it’s more prone to forming buildup with minerals in your water, trapping soils and bacteria.
Children’s clothing that needs to be flame-resistant or flame-retardant (and any other items that need to be). The layer of fabric softener is highly flammable (if the article of clothing were to catch on fire – it’s not going to spontaneously ignite or anything). The care tag of these items often says “no fabric softeners or soaps” or some variation of that.
Some performance fabrics in exercise gear. The moisture-wicking properties of these items are due to microscopic holes built into the weave or knit of the fabric. Fabric softener blocks these holes. The care tag of these items often says “no fabric softeners or soaps” or some variation of that.
Satin materials. Fabric softener can cause stains on it. Other than the materials listed above, we consider fabric softener completely optional! Some people choose not to use it because unlike detergent, fabric softener is designed to remain on the fabric, so your body will come in contact with them, and some people aren’t comfortable with exposure to the actual fabric softener molecules themselves. Some people rarely use it because they don’t separate laundry enough to avoid having one of those no-no items in the load. Some people love it for its intended use. Others love it so much they use it on everything and then end up causing problems for certain laundry. So there’s a big spectrum of fabric softener use! If you are interested in using a plant-based fabric softener, we suggest using one by: