Is Detergent the Same as Fabric Softener?

Is Detergent the Same as Fabric Softener
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If you are new at laundering then you might have different confusions about the laundry products. One of the confusions can be related to detergent and fabric softener. 

Just like you, it’s a common query of people – Is detergent the same as fabric softener?

No, detergent and fabric softener are not the same things. Detergent is a cleaning agent and fabric softener is a softening agent. Besides, you can use detergent on all types of clothes but fabric softeners aren’t usable on all types of clothes. 

Still confused? Well, then you should go through this whole article. I’ve added a clear comparison part to help you understand everything properly. So, read on.

Is Detergent the Same as Fabric Softener?

Detergent and fabric softeners are two products that are commonly used in the laundry process to clean and soften clothes. To some of us, they may seem similar, but they actually serve different purposes and should be used appropriately.

What is Detergent

Detergent is a cleaning agent that is used to remove dirt and stains from clothes. It works by breaking down and lifting away dirt and oils from the fabric. Besides, detergent makes it easier to rinse away in the wash. 

What is Fabric Softener

Fabric softener, on the other hand, is a product that is used to soften clothes and reduce static cling. We use fabric softeners for the rinse cycle of the laundry process. It works by coating the fabric with a thin layer of lubricant, which helps to smooth out the fibers and make clothes feel softer and more comfortable to wear.

You can also read: When to Add Fabric Softener to Top Loader

Detergent vs Fabric Softener

This is the main segment where you will clearly understand they aren’t the same thing. To make it easier for you a quick table is for you. 

FactorsDetergentFabric Softeners
PurposeCleaning agentSoftening agent
FormLiquid, powder, podLiquid, sheets
When to UseDuring wash cycleDuring rinse cycle
Applicable forAll types of fabricsCertain types
IngredientsEnzymes and surfactantsChemicals and fragrances

Now let’s get into the detailed explanation part.

Is Detergent the Same as Fabric Softener 1

Form And When to Use

I’ve already explained the purpose of detergent and fabric softener. So skipping the point let’s start with the form. 

Usually, detergents come in liquid, powder, or pod form. They are typically added to the wash cycle along with the clothes.

On the other hand, fabric softeners can come in liquid or sheet form and are typically added to the final rinse cycle of the wash.

Applicable for

If you pay attention to this point you’ll be clear.

Detergents can be used on all types of fabrics, There is no chance of harming the clothes if you can use them in the right way.

But you shouldn’t use fabric softeners on certain materials, such as silk or wool. It’s because they may cause damage or fading.


Detergents contain enzymes and surfactants that are effective at removing dirt and stains. And fabric softeners contain chemicals and fragrances that soften and freshen fabrics.

Can I use detergent as a Fabric softener?

No, I won’t recommend you use detergent as a fabric softener. Detergent is designed to clean clothes by removing dirt and stains, and it can have a harsh, drying effect on the fabric.

If you want to soften your clothes, it is best to use a dedicated fabric softener product. These can be added to the rinse cycle of your washing machine or can be used as a spray-on product for spot treatment of specific areas.

However, some detergents contain fabric-softening agents. So you may be able to achieve a similar effect by using a detergent that is specifically formulated to soften the fabric. 

However, it is generally not a good idea to use regular detergent as a fabric softener, as it may not provide the same benefits and could potentially damage your clothes.

What Happens If You Use Detergent Instead of Fabric Softener? 

Let’s see what will happen if you mistakenly use detergent instead of fabric softener.

  • Very first thing is, if you use detergent instead of fabric softener, they won’t be as soft or have as much of a pleasant scent as they would if you had used fabric softener.
  • Using detergent instead of fabric softener may also cause your clothes to have more static cling.
  • Depending on the detergent you use, it may also cause your clothes to feel stiff or harsh due to the ingredients in the detergent.
  • In some cases, using detergent instead of fabric softener may also cause your washing machine to become clogged or malfunction due to the different types of ingredients in each product. 

Can I use Fabric Softener as Detergent?

The answer is the same as before. Fabric softeners and detergents are not interchangeable. Fabric softeners can never fill the purposes of detergent. Plus, the use cycle of fabric softeners and detergents is also different. So, you can’t use fabric softener as a detergent.

What Happens if You Use Fabric Softener Instead of Detergent?

If you use fabric softener instead of detergent there you’ll face some negative effects. Let’s get them.

  • At first, if you use fabric softener instead of detergent, you may notice that your clothes feel softer, but they may also be less clean and fresh-smelling.
  • Next, if you use fabric softener in place of detergent, you may also find that it is more difficult to rinse the suds and residue from your clothes. It’s because fabric softener does not dissolve as easily as detergent. 
  • The worst thing that can happen is this can leave a film on your clothes and make them feel sticky or stiff.
  • Using fabric softener instead of detergent can also lead to build-up on your washing machine. This build-up can eventually lead to problems with your washing machine, such as clogs or malfunctions.
  • Finally, we all know fabric softener isn’t safe for use on all types of clothes but detergents are safe. So, if you use fabric softener on such types of clothes it can entirely damage the cloth.

Final Verdict

I hope I’ve cleared and resolved all your confusion on – is detergent the same as a fabric softener.

Obviously, they are different laundry products having different functions. Besides, their purposes are also different and their ingredients are also different. 

So, don’t make a mistake by thinking the same and using them in the wrong way. Eventually, it’ll damage your clothes. 

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