Liquid Fabric Softeners Vs. Dryer Sheets

When it comes to fabric softeners, there are two popular options: liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets. Both products soften your clothes, reduce static, and keep them smelling fresh. But is there a difference between the two products?

At Reno’s Appliance, we’re washer and dryer experts and can give you the straight facts about fabric softener.

How does liquid fabric softener work?

Liquid fabric softener works while your clothes are washing. It soaks into your clothes and lubricates the fabric fibers with special chemicals that make them feel softer. This lubrication is also what helps reduce static cling.

Most washing machines have a clearly labeled compartment specifically made to hold fabric softener. The machine will automatically dispense the softener at the right time in the cycle. This timing is important because fabric softener does not mix well with detergent. If your machine doesn’t have a fabric softener compartment, then you will need to take an extra trip to the laundry room just to add the fabric softener, which can be inconvenient. 

Another drawback is that liquid fabric softeners are made from oil, so they may stain clothes if not used properly. You have to be sure to add liquid softener during the final rinse when the tub is full of water to avoid staining. Also, liquid softeners tend to build up in the dispenser so frequent cleaning is required.

How do dryer sheets work?

Dryer sheets, like the name implies, are added during the drying cycle. They are coated with stearic acid, which melts from the heat of the dryer and coats clothes to make them feel softer, reduce static, and infuse them with a fresh scent.

Dryer sheets may also stain clothes if not used properly. To avoid staining, fill your dryer with clean, wet clothes and place the dryer sheet on top. Also, avoid overfilling the dryer when using dryer sheets.

When should fabric softeners not be used?

Never use any fabric softener when washing these items:

  • Microfiber clothes: Using softeners may damage the fabric.
  • Athletic wear: Softeners may reduce the fabric’s ability to “wick away” sweat.
  • Children’s clothing: Fabric softeners will reduce the flame-resistant properties of children’s clothing.
  • Towels: The idea of a soft, fluffy towel sounds nice, but softeners will reduce the towel’s ability to absorb water.

Are there alternatives to fabric softener?

If you want the benefits of fabric softeners, but don’t want to use commercial products, then there are alternatives you can try.

Adding a half-cup of white vinegar to the wash during the rinse cycle when the tub is full of water will soften clothes without leaving a vinegar smell behind. As a bonus, vinegar will brighten and preserve colors. But vinegar will have no effect on static.

As an alternative to dryer sheets, you can make three inch balls out of aluminum foil and toss 3 or 4 of them into the dryer. This will reduce static, but won’t add any softness. You can reuse the foil ball over several cycles. Replace them when the foil becomes smooth.

What’s the bottom line?

Both dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners have advantages and drawbacks. But both products work well and do what they advertise. This is one of those debates where there is no clear winner. It just comes down to personal preference.

The best detergents and fabric softeners aren’t going to be effective if you don’t have a solid washer and dryer. Come to Reno’s Appliance and view our extensive selection of washing machines from dependable manufacturers like MaytagWhirlpoolGEElectrolux, and dryers from trusted brands including Frigidaire, LG, and Bosch. Reno’s also carries washer and dryer pairs, plus a full line of parts and accessories to keep your appliances running right.  

Reno’s Appliance was founded in 1951 as Reno’s Radio & TV. Since then, the shop has grown to become the one-stop home appliance source trusted by thousands. Reno’s sons continue to carry on the tradition set forth by their father and exhibit exceptional customer service. We have every home appliance you will possibly need. Stop by our showroom in Paterson, NJ to view our selection.