Is It Ok To Soak Clothes In Fabric Softener Overnight?

If you are like many people who prefer soft and fragrant garments, you may be a fan of fabric softeners. Fabric softeners are wonderful as they can also reduce static cling – just by being added to your regular laundry sessions. But can you use them to soak your clothes at night and then wash it off the next day? 

Soaking your clothes in fabric softener overnight is not recommended, as it can fade, discolour, stain, or damage the fibres in your clothing and also trigger various skin allergies. 

To keep your clothes soft and fragrant, we recommend soaking your clothes in fabric softener for not more than 10 minutes. Of course, make sure to check the product’s instructions for best results, as some products can be used for less time or longer. 

Let’s have a closer look into how you can use fabric softener for soaking your garments in this article!

How Long Can You Use Fabric Softener For Soaking Your Clothes? 

A fabric softener is usually in liquid form and is often used during the rinse cycle of the washing machine. It is specially designed to soften clothes and reduce static cling, but also comes in various fragrances for people who like their garments to smell perfumed. 

person using fabric softener on laundry

If you want to soak your clothes in fabric softener, most variants will only need 5 to 10 minutes to do their job. Any longer than that and the chemicals in the product can stain your clothes or make them less absorbent due to the residue that will coat your fabrics. 

As mentioned earlier, soaking your clothes in fabric softener is overkill and will do more harm than good. Aim to soak for at least 10 minutes, rinse with cold water, and then air dry your garments to keep them fragrant and soft for a longer time. 

NOTE: Some fabric softeners are not meant to be rinsed. Make sure to read the product’s instructions to get the most value for your money.

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Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Soak Your Clothes For Too Long

Let’s go into more detail about why you shouldn’t soak your clothes in fabric softener overnight:

It May Damage Your Fabrics

Over time, soaking your clothes in fabric softener for too long can weaken the fibres of your garments. This is because many fabric softeners contain chemicals that, while making your clothes feel softer, can break down the material, especially in more delicate fabrics. 

woman drying clothes in bedroom

This means your favourite shirt or dress might not last as long as it should, leading to wear and tear much faster than expected.

It Will Cause Residue To Build Up

When you leave clothes in fabric softener for too long, it doesn’t just wash away completely. Instead, it leaves a residue that builds up over time. This residue can make your clothes feel less fresh and can even trap odours instead of helping to remove them. 

The build-up can also affect your washing machine, leading to maintenance issues and inefficiency, as the residue sticks to the drum and other parts of the machine.

It May Irritate Your Skin

For those with sensitive skin, prolonged exposure to the chemicals in fabric softeners can cause irritation, rashes, or allergic reactions. The residue left on clothes can come into direct contact with your skin, leading to discomfort and irritation.

If you’ve noticed your skin feeling itchy or uncomfortable after wearing freshly washed clothes, the fabric softener could be the culprit.

It Will Affect The Absorbent Properties Of Your Garments

Fabric softener can coat the fibres of your clothes, affecting their ability to absorb moisture. This is particularly problematic for towels and sportswear, where absorbency is very necessary.  


Soaking these items in fabric softener for too long can leave you with towels that don’t dry you properly and workout clothes that don’t wick away sweat as effectively, impacting their efficiency. 

How To Use Fabric Softener To Soak Your Clothes

The most convenient way to use fabric softener is by putting the right amount in the designated compartment of your washing machine. Your washer will automatically dispense the product at the right time, which is usually during the rinse cycle. 

However, if you want to manually soak your garments, here are the things you should do:

  1. Put warm water in a basin, bucket, or bathtub 
  2. Add the recommended amount of fabric softener based on the product’s instructions
  3. Gently mix the fabric softener with the water until it is fully dissolved
  4. Once they’re done in the washing machine or or you’ve finished hand washing them, put your garments in the container and make sure that they are fully submerged
  5. Soak the garments for 5 to 10 minutes
  6. Remove excess water by gently squeezing the fabric
  7. Rinse with cold water, then air dry

Additional Fabric Softener Tips

Now that you know that it’s best to only soak your garments in fabric softener for just a few minutes, here are some bonus tips to make your laundry sessions much more convenient: 

  • Always Spot Test
    If you’re using a fabric softener on a particular item for the first time, consider doing a spot test to ensure it doesn’t affect the fabric negatively. 
  • Use White Vinegar Instead
    Consider skipping fabric softener for delicate fabrics such as cashmere and wool, towels, microfibre cloths, and other highly absorbent materials. Distilled white vinegar is a wonderful alternative that is gentler and cheaper to use. 
  • Do Regular Maintenance On Your Washer
    Regularly clean your washing machine to prevent the build-up of fabric softener residue, which can affect machine performance and laundry freshness.

While fabric softeners can make your clothes feel soft and smell pleasant, it’s important to use them correctly and sparingly. Overuse and prolonged soaking can damage your clothes, and your machine, and even irritate your skin!

Do you have questions? Feel free to leave a comment below!

SEE ALSO: Can You Put Fabric Softener And Vinegar Together In A Washing Machine?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you leave clothes in fabric softener overnight?

No, you cannot leave clothes in fabric softener overnight. Doing so can cause fading, discolouration, staining, or damage to the fabric fibres, and may also trigger skin allergies.

How long do you soak clothes in fabric softener?

You should soak clothes in fabric softener for only 5 to 10 minutes. This duration is enough for the softener to do its job without causing harm to your clothes or leaving unwanted residue.

What happens if you leave fabric softener on clothes?

If you leave fabric softener on clothes for too long, it can weaken the fibres of your garments, leave a residue that builds up over time, and affect the absorbency of fabrics. This residue can also trap odours and potentially irritate your skin.

Is too much softener bad for clothes?

Yes, too much softener is bad for clothes. Overuse can damage the fabric, decrease the material’s lifespan, and affect its absorbency and freshness. It’s important to use fabric softener sparingly and according to the product instructions.

Does fabric softener damage your washing machine?

Fabric softener can damage your washing machine if it builds up over time. The residue from the softener can stick to the drum and other parts of the machine, leading to maintenance issues and inefficiency. Regular cleaning of your washing machine is recommended to prevent this buildup.

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