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Can You Wash Clothes With Fabric Softener? (Solved!)

Washing clothes is a must. In the end, you don’t want to go out in dirty and stinking clothes, worrying whether other people can smell them. Besides, after some time, it becomes unsanitary.

However, what happens if you run out of detergent and you’re not sure if you can use your fabric softener to wash your clothes?

Even though it’s possible to wash your clothes without detergent, which I will discuss later in this article, can you wash clothes with fabric softener?

Continue reading to find out;

Can You Wash Clothes With Fabric Softener?

No. You cannot use fabric softener to wash your laundry. Fabric softener is not designed to be a substitute for laundry detergent.

It does not have the necessary components like alkalies and enzymes required to remove dirt from your clothes. While utilizing it might be risk-free, it will not clean your clothes at all.

If you don’t have detergent, or you’re looking for other alternatives, the best way to go is to hand-wash your laundry or find better alternatives than fabric softener.

Using the softener minus detergent will only make your laundry smell better and feel smoother, though it won’t get rid of those stubborn stains and even the not-so-stubborn ones.

Difference Between Fabric Softener And Laundry Detergent

Detergent is designed to wash fabrics by eliminating stains, sweat, dirt, oil, and other stubborn stains.

On the other hand, fabric softener is formulated to soften, protect and boost your laundry, leaving them in the best condition possible throughout numerous washing sessions. Each of them does a different but essential task in keeping your clothes in good condition.

Detergent is a blend of enzymes and chemicals that eliminate bacteria, stains, and oils from clothes. What’s more, it is designed to eliminate stains and dirt from textile and uphold your garments` color.

The major components of detergent include;

Alcohol compounds – these are compounds that remove the dirt from the clothes and stop the same dirt from getting back to the clothes.

Alkalies – alkalies are a peculiar blend of base compounds and dissolvable salts that react with the water to eliminate those stubborn stains from your laundry.

Preservatives and pH adjusters – included for handy purposes like avoiding clothes` damage as a result of using hard water

Enzymes – enzymes are purposely included in the formulation to target particular stains and break them up.

Fabric softeners – also known as fabric conditioners, preserve the clothes by reinforcing the fabric and decreasing friction while washing them. The key components in fabric conditioners are;

Emulsifiers – are included explicitly to makes the oils in the conditioner soluble.

Conditioning agents – help prevent friction and develop a “slippery coat,” which offers the fabric certain smoothness.

Fragrances – they keep the clothes smelling well. Though, there are some scent-free options.

Preservatives – are handy in maintaining the stability of the formulation.

As I’ve said before, detergents and fabric conditioners are two different products with different uses. To make it easier for you, think of detergent as shampoo and fabric conditioner as a conditioner.

While you should not use fabric softener for washing laundry, it is handy in preserving your laundry by reinforcing its fabric fibers and making them feel smooth and smell better.

How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent

Indeed, you can do your laundry without detergent, and it will still be clean. There are various options for people who need to wash a lot of clothes in their washing machine. Also, if you prefer hand washing, there are multiple options for you too.

Here are the alternatives for laundry detergent, if you have many clothes that you need to clean using the washing machine;

1.  Borax or Baking Soda

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If you’re attempting to boost what is left of your detergent, you can add 1/2 cup of borax or baking soda. These two unique products are detergent enhancers that will help get your laundry done even when you have minimal detergent.

Place the baking soda or borax   inside the washer before adding water, the detergent, or the dirty laundry. This step is crucial since if not done as instructed, the product might not work as effectively as it should.

If you don’t have any detergent left, even in the box or bottle, you can utilize one cup of borax or baking soda for a medium-sized laundry pile. I know this looks too good to be a true way to do laundry, but it’s very effective, and it works the same way as detergent.

Laundry detergent doesn’t affect the washing process as significantly as you think. It’s essential to keep in mind that most dirt comes off due to the water and the force created by water when it’s moving in the washer and over the dirty laundry.

It is advisable to pre-soak the clothes before you wash them and ensure to utilize water with the temperature indicated in your clothes` labels. Pre-soaking is an ideal way to get rid of those stubborn stains that don’t look like they will come out.

2.  Rinse out the empty Box or Bottle

Although you think the little detergent in your bottle might not be enough to wash the pile of clothes you have, you could be wrong. Fill the bottle or box with warm water. Once you’ve filled it, shake it well to ensure the soap and water blend nicely.

Pour it inside the washer, which should be enough to wash half of the pile. Another thing to think through is that most of us utilize excess detergent when washing clothes.

If you have a high-efficiency washing machine, you require using very little of it. It only needs about two tablespoons of detergent to get a significant load of laundry done.

On the other hand, for numerous washers, the water’s cleaning action is what’s essential. This is what will remove most of the stains and dirt. If you soak your clothes before washing them, the water will be more efficient.

In case you don’t own a high-efficiency washing machine, make sure you follow the garment’s guidelines on the label. While water temperature might seem illogical, the incorrect temperature could result in fading or shrinking the garment. These are vital considerations to always remember.

3.  Oxygen-based Bleach

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Oxygen-based bleach  might sound like a controversial alternative since you should not wash your clothes with products that contain ammonia. This is what makes it unique. When you don`t have detergent, utilize half a cup of this product can get the job done.

Add the powder to an empty washing machine before placing the water or laundry. This lets it remove the dirt on your garments effectively.

This should be a last resort, and do not utilize it frequently to avoid any issues with your laundry. Buy more detergent when possible to keep your clothes looking good.

Other Alternatives;

These alternatives are for those who don’t have detergent but have a few garments that need to be washed. It is easier to manage the clothes in the sink or basin than a washing machine since you will utilize a lot less of the alternative cleaner.

Note: Ensure you add the substitute to the water and mix well before placing the clothes. Avoid pouring it directly into the clothes to avoid spotting.

1.  Shampoo

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Shampoo   is an excellent substitute for detergent, and it will leave your clothes clean. When hand-washing your garments, go for a mild one, such as baby shampoo.

Moreover, do not use a mixture of conditioner and shampoo or hair-dye shampoo. Utilize a teaspoon for a medium-sized basin of water. You can utilize more if you have more garments.

2.  Bar Soap

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There are multiple bar soaps  in the market, and they remove stains and clean your clothes well.

You can utilize the bath bars or laundry bars if you’re hand-washing your garments by rubbing either against your clothes or the stained area. Go for bar soaps that do not include skin softeners or oils to avoid staining your clothes.

3.  Hand-wash, body-wash, or liquid dishwashing soap

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Body wash and hand wash  are to be used the same as with shampoo. Also, utilize a small amount and go for one without the extra moisturizers.

As for dishwashing soap, this should be a last resort. It is the way to go if you don’t have any of the other alternative cleaners I’ve mentioned. Use a small amount, but check to ensure that it does not include any bleaching agents before using it.


Even though fabric conditioners and detergents are frequently packed similarly, they have different but equally important laundry washing roles.

Laundry detergent is designed to clean clothes by getting rid of dirt, and buildup, while the conditioner is used to strengthen and shield the clothes during the cleaning process.

If you don’t have any detergent left, I have also given several ideal substitutes that will work as efficiently as detergents.

Do not utilize dishwashing soap and oxygen-based bleach often to avoid problems with your clothes. If you wash your clothes using fabric conditioner by mistake, it will be harmless and useless.

They will not be damaged, and they will not be clean either. In this case, redo the clothes using the proper items.

Hopefully, I have given you a good enough answer to the question, can you wash clothes with fabric softener?

Queen of Chores