Is Fabric Softener Bad For Black Clothes? (& what’s better!)

We all have at least one set of black clothes because black goes with almost anything. Those black clothes will need to be washed from time to time, which leads to the question, is fabric softener bad for black clothes?

The answer is yes… No… Sometimes – it all depends on the fabric the black clothes are made from. If you want to find the truth concerning fabric softener and black clothes, keep reading.

What Is Fabric Softener?

Fabric softener is designed to prevent the fibres of your clothes tangling together during the washing process in your machine which could cause friction. Friction causes the material to become damaged and also creates static which leads to clothes feeling hard and stiff.

The fabric softener lubricates the fabric to prevent all of the above leaving your clothes feeling soft and comfortable. They also use certain chemicals in fabric softeners to leave your laundry smelling fragrant after use.

There are many different brands of fabric softeners but they all work in much the same way. The chemicals within the softeners coat the fibres of your clothes and make your clothes feel soft.

Liquid fabric softeners are used in the washing machine and dryer sheets which are used in the tumble dryer, are simply synthetic sheets coated in the same fabric softener. The chemicals in dryer sheets get released when they get hot which is why they’re designed for use in the dryer.

Is Fabric Softener Bad For Black Clothes?

For many black and darkly coloured clothes, fabric softeners are a good thing. This is because the chemicals from the softener coats the fabrics and helps to prevent wear and tear in the machine. This means the black clothes last longer and maintain their colour for longer too.

However, in some cases, the fabric softener can remain on the clothes after the rinse cycle has finished. This leads to white or sometimes blue/grey streaks appearing on the black clothes.

Due to the way fabric softeners work, by coating the fibres of the material in a waterproof coating, these streaks can be difficult to remove. This could be enough of a problem that you won’t want to wear the items ever again.

The other problem is that as the fibres become more impervious to water, the clothes cannot get washed properly. Clothes get clean when enough water soaks into the items and loosens the dirt, sweat and bacteria.

These are all then removed during the washing and rinsing process. But, if the fabric cannot absorb water, less and less cleaning takes place.

What Materials Are Fabric Softeners Bad For?

woman holding knitted wool sweaters

There are certain fabrics that can get damaged if exposed to fabric softeners. These include;

  • Wool
  • Cashmere
  • Swimwear
  • Sportswear
  • Microfibre
  • Towels
  • Towelling
  • Feather or Down Filled Coats

Before using fabric softener on any item of laundry, you should always check the wash care label first to prevent damage.

Is There Anything Else That Fabric Softener Is Bad For?

Despite its obvious uses and benefits in the laundry, fabric softener does cause many problems, not just damaging certain fabrics. They include;

  • Harmful to the environment
    There are many chemicals used to make fabric softeners that are not fully biodegradable, which means they can survive for years. As these chemicals are flushed out with our waste water, they get distributed into our streams, rivers and oceans. Many of these chemicals are harmful to aquatic life as well as bird and animal life.
  • Causes allergies
    The chemicals used to make fabric softeners can trigger allergies in people with sensitive skin. As well as triggering asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.
  • Prevents clothes getting clean
    As more and more fabric softener builds up on the fibres of your clothes, they become less able to soak up water. This prevents the fibres from releasing dirt and chemicals which stops the clothes becoming clean.
  • Renders towels useless
    Due to the buildup of chemicals that coat the fibres of the material, towels become less able to absorb water. This makes the towel useless.

So Why Use Fabric Softener On Black Clothes?

Given all of the above information, why would you use fabric softener on black clothes? The main reason is because it helps to prevent colour loss through bleeds!

The fibres that get coated in fabric softener also absorb less water, and it’s water that allows the dyes to run during the washing process. 

As we said earlier, that does mean that the items won’t get washed properly, but at least the colours won’t fade.

What Can You Use Instead Of Fabric Softener On Black Clothes?

The number one best fabric softener to use on black clothes is white vinegar. A ½ a cupful of distilled white vinegar added to the rinse cycle on a black wash will help to prevent colour loss and soften the fibres.

This means it’s a win, win, cleaner, softer black clothes and the prospect of the colour lasting longer too!

SEE ALSO: How To Use White Vinegar In The Washing Machine (and why!)

If you intend to tumble dry your black clothes, you should use wool dryer balls instead of drying sheets. Not only are drying balls more environmentally friendly, they will also reduce drying time and static.

How To Prevent Colour Fade In Black Clothes

The biggest problem when washing black or dark clothes is colour fade. This is caused by the dyes running which is often caused by incorrect washing.

Always Check The Care Label

Always check the wash care labels

Before washing any clothes, but in particular black clothes, you should check the wash care label first. This will advise you on the correct temperature to wash the clothes to get the best from them. 

As well as giving drying and ironing advice too. Many items will also advise on whether you should use fabric softener or not as well.

Always Use The Lowest Temperature

Hot water is best for removing dirt, stains and bacteria. Unfortunately it is also best for causing colours to run too. Black clothes will remain more colour fast if washed in cool or cold water.

Always Use The Shortest Wash Cycle

The least amount of time the clothes are exposed to water, the less dye that can run. If your black clothes are heavily stained or soiled, we recommend soaking them in cold water for a while before putting them in the washing machine.

This allows the dirt particles to become loosened before washing and means you can still use a short wash cycle on the machine.

Always Use A Colour Detergent

Many white detergents have added bleaches or whitening agents. These are great for getting whites clean. 

But they’re not so good for black or dark clothes as they cause the colours to fade.

Always Turn Black Clothes Inside Out

Before washing black clothes it’s always a good idea to turn them inside out. This prevents the colours on the outside of the garments fading too much.

 Washing machines tend to concentrate on the sides that are exposed to the water and detergent. Which is why this works so well.

Pay Particular Attention When Drying Black Clothes

You might be tempted to tumble dry your black clothes because it’s faster. However tumble drying can also contribute to black clothes fading. The heat and friction can cause the fibres to become damaged which can cause the colours to fade.

If you decide to air dry your black clothes on a clothesline, always keep them out of direct sunlight. Sunlight lightens fabrics which is great for white clothes, but not so good for black garments.

Either line dry in the shade or use a clothes airer indoors to dry black and dark clothes.

SEE ALSO: Washing Machine Drawer Compartments Explained

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do you use fabric softener on black clothes?

You can use fabric softener on black clothes. It helps prevent dyes from leaking and helps prevent colours from fading. However, using too much fabric softener can cause streaky stains on black clothes and over time, prevent clothes from cleaning properly.

Why do my black clothes fade after washing?

There are several reasons why black clothes fade after washing which include; Washing black clothes using too much heat, washing them for too long, not turning them inside out and using an incorrect detergent.

How do you get white residue off black clothes?

To remove white residue from black clothes, wash them again at the highest recommended temperature for that item without using detergent. Instead add 1 cupful of distilled white vinegar in the rinse cycle. If some residue still remains, repeat once more.

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