What Happens if I Use Fabric Softener Instead of Detergent?

What happens if I use fabric softener instead of Detergent
Disclosure: homelyee.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (paid link)

Many people may be confused about what happens if I use fabric softener instead of detergent? Both products are used during washing clothes.

So, which one is better? First, we need to know the main difference between them to find it out. Before wasting any more of your precious time, let’s jump into it.

Detergents – The Shampoo For Your Clothes

Your hair is the beauty of your head. People with thick long hair feel proud of themselves, especially ladies. But hairs also pick up sweat, dust, and dirt throughout the day. In this situation, what do you do to clean your hair? The obvious answer is you shampoo your hair during showers.

Similarly, detergents are like shampoo for your clothes. It cleans all the stains and grim off your clothes. It makes them suitable and wearable again because detergents mainly comprise chemicals and enzymes that help perform the cleaning process. Therefore you can blindly go for detergents when it comes to cleaning clothes.

Fabric Softener – The Conditioner For Your Clothes 

When you shampoo your hair, what else do you do to make it soft? The straight answer is you apply conditioner. While the shampoo cleans your hair but on the other hand, it is also leaving it dry and hard.

To make it soft and bouncy again, you apply conditioner. Likewise, detergents may clean all your clothes’ stains but also heavily affect the fabric.

In many cases, you can see that the fabric of a cloth may get thin by applying just detergents over and over again. There may be a risk that the cloth can tear up. For this reason, it is highly recommended that the chance of tearing gets reduced after every wash if you apply fabric softener.

As a result, the fabric of your cloth will remain soft, and you will get the same level of comfort as you got while wearing them for the first time.

Core Differences Between Detergents And Fabric Softeners.

Given below are the core differences between detergents and fabric softeners.

Laundry DetergentsThe Fabric Softeners
Help remove dirt, stains, and body odour.Help to soften cloth fabrics.
Made up of alkali, alcohol solution, and enzymes.Made up of soap, ammonium, and tallow oil.
Alkaline in nature.Reduces the alkali level.
It can be applied to most clothes.It cannot be applied to wool and synthetic clothes.
Compulsory product for cleaning.Not a compulsory product.

Key Ingrigitants of Detergents

  • Alcohol Ethoxylate: Non-ionic wetting agent. Removes oily stains from your clothes.
  • Alcohol Ethoxy Sulphate and Alkyl Sulphate: Anionic surface active agent. Two of the most widely used chemicals for removing stains.
  • Amine Oxide: Both acidic and alkaline agents at the same time. Used along with other agents to remove stains. It can be anionic, cationic, or non-ionic.
  • Carboxymethyl Glysogen: A polymer that comes from natural starch. It helps stop stains from returning to the clothes they have been removed from.
  • Citric Acid: The acid in lemons or citrus fruits is smooth and helps remove foul smells from clothes. Known as a constituting agent.
  • Cyclodextrin: Another constituting agent that removes from cloth fabric.
  • Ethanol: Clear and colourless alcohol is used as a detergent solution.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: One of the primary and most standard bleaching agents.
  • Sodium Carbonate: The salt of carbonic acid is used as a builder in detergents.

Key Ingrigitants of Fabric Softeners

  • Water: The primary solvent component.
  • Diethyl ester Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride: The active conditioner agent softens the fabric.
  • Artificial Fragrance: A synthetic aroma is added to the mixture to make the fabric fresh.
  • Polyquaternium 33: A polymer is a cation agent in the mixture.
  • Calcium Chloride: The density regulator dedicates the water’s density compared to the mixture.
  • Formic Acid: A stabilizer agent that maintains the solvent’s pH level. 
  • Pentasodium Pentetate: A compounding agent in the mixture is added as a subsequent.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fabric Softeners.

fabric softener instead of Detergent

By looking at the table below, you can see the prime advantages and disadvantages of Fabric Softeners. 

Helps to soften fabric fibresIt can damage some specific fabrics
Increases the longevity of clothesOverwhelming aroma
Decreases the elasticity malfunction of clothesIncreases the laundry bills
The scent of the softener can keep clothes fresh and smelling for daysIncreases the soap foam level inside the Washing machine

Can Fabric Softener Clean Clothes?

Fabric softeners can’t clean clothes. They can only soften and condition your clothes’ fabric. Inside the ingredients of a fabric softener, there are no enzymes or the necessary chemicals to remove dirt and stains from clothes’ fabric. Only using softeners won’t help.

When Is The Best Time To Use Fabric Softener?

Fabric softener must be added to the flush component of your wash cycle inside the washing machine. If it is added earlier, the enzymes of the washing detergent will remove the conditioner. Once the flush component starts working, most detergents are drained from the washing machine. Cotton, linen, and wool are the best quality fabrics on which softeners can be used.

When Is Not A Good Time To Use Fabric Softener?

Some specific fabrics on which fabric softeners cannot be applied at any cost.

  • Microfiber Material: Microfiber fabrics usually clutch dust, dirt, and sweat. There are very few spaces that lock these particles within the fabric. Applying fabric softener to it will block those spaces and resist doing its job.
  • Fleece or other Fluffy Fabrics: There is no restriction that you cannot use fabric softeners to fleece and other fluffy fabrics. If you do, these types of fabric get stiff and rugged. Therefore, you must clear all the fabric conditioners from these fabric types.
  • Sportswear: Like microfiber materials, sportswear clothes have little gaps that allow precipitation to evaporate. In this case, fabric softener may act like glue to fill those gaps and prevent the vapour from escaping.
  • Baby Clothes: You must keep baby clothes away from fabric softeners. Firstly, babies’ skin is susceptible; it can get irritated by the chemicals used in the fabric softener ingredient. 

Secondly, baby clothes are coated with a flame-resistant layer, and fabric softener can tear off that layer from the clothes making them less safe. We must avoid fabric softeners for baby clothes for these two primary reasons.

  • Towels: Towels are usually made as spongy as possible to dry our skin. Softeners, on the other hand, put a layer on the towel fabric, which causes the towel fabric to be less spongy. Thus, it will keep your skin dry.

Can You Mix Fabric Softener With Detergent?

There are 2-in-1 detergent and fabric softener products available in the market. You can either buy them or buy them separately. When using 2-in-1 products, they will work automatically. 

The dissolvable components will keep the detergents apart from the softeners. But if you use them separately, the detergent will not allow the fabric softener to work.

Can You Use Fabric Softener As Detergent?

A detergent’s enzymes and cleaning agents are missing from the fabric softener. For this reason, a fabric softener cannot be used as a detergent. In short, a fabric softener can only soften your clothes and provide a nice-smelling aroma.

What Happens If You Accidentally Use Fabric Softener Instead of Detergent?

If you add fabric softener accidentally, then don’t worry. No harm will occur to your clothes. Allow your washing machine to finish cleaning, and you can re-wash it with detergent. The detergent will wash off the softener component and do its work.

Alternatives Of Fabric Softener

You can use many things to soften your clothes instead of using a fabric softener. Here are some examples of them.

  • Baking soda.
  • Wool drying balls.
  • Vinegar.

Alternatives Of Detergent

Way before detergents were invented, the main element of washing clothes was soap flakes; also, you can use baking soda. Other options are washing up liquid, hair shampoo, or hair conditioner.


In this section, I have figured out some relevant questions with answers.

What are Detergents?

Detergents are the main washing components for clothes.

What are Fabric Softeners?

Fabric softeners are complementary products that can soften the fabric of your clothes.

Can Fabric Softeners Clean Clothes?

Unfortunately, fabric softeners cannot clean clothes. The key ingredients for cleaning clothes, chemicals, and enzymes must be included.

Can we use fabric softeners for all clothes?

As mentioned above, we cannot use fabric softeners for some specific fabrics. For example, microfiber materials, fleece or other fluffy materials, sportswear, baby clothes, and towels.


In conclusion, you enjoyed understanding the fundamental differences between detergents and fabric softeners. Properly using these products will always make your clothes look good as new.

Moreover, it will also reduce your effort in washing time. Just put them in the designated tray of your washing machine and let the machine do the rest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *