CSS Maintenance Tips – Fabric Softeners

Providing easy preventative maintenance tips to your members is a great way to cut down on maintenance costs and empower your members to take responsibility for their units.

CSS Maintenance Tips are suggestions of quick tips you can pass on to your members via your website or email – just edit to meet your needs.  If you have an i4 website, just file this in your maintenance forum so members can refer back to it at any time!


People often ask my advice on fabric softeners and how they affect washers and dyers.  So here’s why I do not recommend them.

Please don’t take my word for this stuff – there are many more comprehensive and well-researched articles online regarding this subject… these are just my personal observations and recommendations.

Fabric softeners (either liquid or sheet form) work by coating your clothing with a layer of chemical slime – this slime repels static, gives clothes that “soft” feeling and retains scent.

The chemicals themselves are an issue because most range between mild irritants and asthmagens to known carcinogens – these chemicals are then absorbed through our skin from our clothes all day and our sheets and pillows at night.  The worst of these products feature Febreze, which contains several known carcinogens and occupies a category of nastiness all its own.

If you use cloth diapers – it’s especially important you do not use fabric softeners – obviously because of where those diapers will be spending their time – but also because fabric softener will reduce the absorbency and effectiveness of the diapers over time.

If you’re not concerned with your family bathing in these chemicals all day and night, you might also consider the environment.  Using dryer balls instead of fabric softener will not only reduce drying time, saving you electricity and money, but they also prevent all those nasty chemicals from entering our water system.

If you use a liquid fabric softener, those chemicals go right down the drain; if you’re using dryer sheets, those chemicals, and the synthetic (eg: won’t break down) sheets they’re carried on, end up in land fill.

Then there’s your appliances… that same chemical slime that coats your clothes also coats your appliances.  The liquid product will coat your washer and dryer and the dryer sheets will coat your dryer.  Also – it just costs a lot more to continue purchasing fabric softeners when you can purchase safe, reusable alternatives for a fraction of the cost!

So what are the alternatives?  Glad you asked!  Alternatives are plentiful and will save you loads of money over time!

1. Dryer Balls
There are lots of different options here – you can get wool balls, plastic ones in all different shapes and sizes… or you can even use tennis balls, tin foil balls or tin-foil covered tennis balls!  Dryer balls serve 2 purposes – to break apart static and reduce drying time.

I prefer the wool balls because they’re a little gentler on clothing and you can add a couple drops of essential oil to them to make your laundry smell nice, but any of the options will tend to dramatically reduce drying time, break up static and fluff your laundry.  If you’re concerned with wrinkles, there are even some of the balls that you can fill with a bit of water to “steam” as you dry!

You can purchase dryer balls pretty much anywhere these days… if you Google them, you can read about all the different options.

2. Reusable Dryer Sheets
These are specifically to address static.  If your clothes are made of natural fibres (eg: cotton, hemp, bamboo etc), static isn’t an issue, but if you wear a lot of polyesters, you may find that dryer balls alone don’t solve the problem.  I don’t personally find them necessary, but I did purchase some while doing laundry for a friend who had a lot of synthetics in her wash and they made a difference.

Sheets are also a good option if you have delicate synthetics that you don’t want to subject to the dryer balls.

4. Other Additives
If you spend some time on Google, you’ll find all sorts of other suggestions for fabric softener alternatives – such as vinegar or baking soda.  I personally don’t think they’re necessary for “fabric softening”, but there are good washing alternatives too – such as baking soda for softening and reducing odours in cloth diapers.

There are lots more tips and tricks online – this is just to get you started!

Happy laundering!
Melissa : )