How to Remove Fabric Softener Stains After Clothes Have Been Dried (Tips and Tricks)

removing fabric softener stains

How to Remove Fabric Softener Stains

It’s Monday morning and you are scheduled to attend a meeting that can make or break your career.  Plus, it’s the first day of school for your children and they’re depending on you to help them make a good impression.  You’ve done the hard work of preparation but when you go to the dryer to take out your clothes, there are stains all over your clean laundry.  What’s happened? It seems that your fabric softener has left stains.  How could this be?!

The goal of each and every wash is to remove the dirt from your clothes and any stains that have appeared on your clothes.  The last thing you need to worry about when you throw your clothes in the wash, is adding stains to your laundry while washing. It’s almost self-defeating to treat stains when something like your fabric softener is adding stains to your clothes.

How Do Fabric Softeners Cause Stains?

How is something that is created to enhance your wash be so detrimental to achieving clean spotless clothes?  The fact is that fabric softeners have the potential to stain your clothes in the wash because they are often times oil based and sometimes not well-diluted in your wash.

If you’re washing your clothes in cold water, the liquid softener coagulates and creates stains on your clean laundry.  It’s better to use liquid fabric softener with hot or warm water so that it can dissolve properly.  However, stains may still occur in warmer water temperatures.  Also, if you are using old fabric softeners, you will more than likely have stains on your clean clothes.

Fabric softener is used to make clothes feel softer and smell great.  However, should you eliminate it from your wash routine because it sometimes stains? This is a hard call so let’s examine laundry stains in general so that you can learn how to remove fabric softener stains. 

How to Remove Stains in General

Stains are generally removed from clothes by scrubbing the stain vigorously with some type of stain remover.  You can start by removing as much of the stain as you can from your stained garment.  You can use a paper towel or brush to get as much of the stain off of the fabric as possible.

Another thing that you can do is  soak the stain in detergent and water for a time to loosen the stain off of your fabric.  If possible, do not throw a stained item back into the wash.

The temperature of the water you are using to treat the stain should be as cold as possible. Yet keep in mind that a grease-based stain needs to be soaked in warm water.

Removing Stains With Vinegar

The great thing about vinegar in your wash is that it helps with the hard water build up.  The deposits that you can’t see from hard water can become like a glue that holds on to odors and residue.  Vinegar helps to break down these deposits that stain your clothes.

Vinegar has an acetic acid that is mild enough not to ruin your clothes but strong enough to remove stains.  White vinegar helps to remove stains like underarm perspiration, odors, and mildew stains.  Its effectiveness on fabric softener depends on what you mix the vinegar with.

Consider Adding Baking Powder

Baking powder is a popular companion to vinegar when it comes to removing stains. You don’t need a lot of baking powder to boost vinegar’s stain removing properties. One tablespoon of baking powder per two parts of vinegar should do the trick. Using vinegar in your wash is a lot safer than chlorine bleach.  Always choose white vinegar over apple cider because apple cider will stain your clothes.

In order to use vinegar as a stain remover you need to do these steps:

  1. Run the item with the stain under cold water to flush out the stain.  Always expose the underside of the stain under the water for better stain removal.
  2. Saturate the stain with white vinegar and leave it to soak for 10 minutes
  3. When it is evident that the stain is gone, air dry the item.

For Stubborn stains do the following:

  1. Mix together 1/3 cup of white vinegar with 2/3 cups of water  and soak the stained garment in the solution.
  2. When finished soaking, hang the item out in the sun to dry.
  3. Rewash the item in the washing machine.

How to Remove Tough Fabric Softener Stains

You expect ketchup stains or perspiration stains but the last thing you expect is fabric softener stains! One way to get fabric softener stains removed is to first  try to brush off any excess fabric softener from the clothing item then rinse the item with cold water.  The higher the water pressure, the easier it is to wash away any residue.

After you have tried to water blast the stain away, put the item in the wash (don’t over-do it with the detergent) and wash the clothing in the hottest water possible according to the garment’s care instructions.

When the wash is done, take it out of the washer and look for the stain.  If this procedure did not get the stain out, spray the garment again and then repeat the wash.

How To Remove Fabric Softener Stains on Dry Clothes

What happens if you don’t catch the stain before you place your clothes in the dryer? A well-known fact is that when a stain is dried in the dryer, it is almost impossible to get the stain out.  Don’t panic, there is still an opportunity to remove the stain. There’s two different methods you can try:

Method #1

One of the things you can do is soak the stain with vinegar and then make a paste of baking soda and vinegar and apply it to the stain.  The next day, if the stain is not removed, put the item in a bucket of warm water that has about three parts of detergent and vinegar and soak overnight.  After that, put the item in the washer and run for a complete cycle.

Method #2

Another method is to fill a spray bottle with three tablespoons  of vinegar and two tablespoons of liquid detergent and then fill the rest of the bottle with warm water. Shake the solution vigorously and then spray the stain completely with the cleaner.

You can also try rubbing the solution into the stain with a clean sponge and then use the sponge to blot the stain dry. After you do this, launder the item as usual.  If the stain doesn’t come out the first try, you can repeat the process until the stain comes out.

Quick Guide to Removing Dry Fabric Softener Stains

I tend to panic when I take my clothes out of the dryer and I see fabric softener stains. Stains that survive the drying process are notoriously hard to remove.  Recently my perfect summer white dress came out of the washer with a blue-gray fabric softener stain.

I love this dress so I am determined to get those stains out.  Here is what I found that worked to get those stains out.

  1. I ran the stain under cold water to get as much of it out as possible.
  2. Then I put the dress back in the washer and choose hot for the temperature of the water. 
  3. I ran the dress through a full cycle of washing.
  4. When the washer finished there were still some stains, so I sponged the area lightly with rubbing alcohol until I saw that the stains were lighter.
  5. Then I threw the dress back in the washer for a full cycle.
  6. Voila! The stains came out!!

Here are some cautions you want to pay attention to:

  • Read the care instructions of the stained items and be sure to follow them.  If the tag says cold-water only, skip the hot water temperature and wash in cold water.
  • Be careful of combining cleaning products together.  Read the warnings on the containers about mixing the cleaner with other projects.  Follow the suggestions.
  • Pretest your stain remover on a discreet part of your item such as inside seams, etc.
  • Always make sure you have proper ventilation when you are using cleaning products to remove a stain.

How To Avoid Stains In The Future

To avoid fabric softener stains in the future, you may want to do the following:

  • Use fresh fabric softener because anything that is past a year old can potentially stain your clothes.
  • Make sure you don’t overload your washer when using fabric softener
  • Add water to the fabric softener to dilute it before you put it in the washer dispenser
  • Clean the washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser with hot, soapy water routinely.
  • Try to find an alternative to the liquid softener that does not cause stains in your laundry.

Alternatives to Store Bought Fabric Softeners

White Vinegar

White vinegar softens your clothes and does not smell like vinegar once the clothes are dried. (Use vinegar sparingly in your washing machine)

Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls lessen the occurrence of wrinkles and static cling. I’ve been using these for years now and love them.

Aluminum Foil

Three-inch balls of aluminum foil thrown into your dryer can reduce static and soften your clothes.

Overall, you need to be on alert for stains when you are using fabric softener. Don’t get stressed if you miss the stains and throw your clothes in the dryer because there are a variety of different ways to treat the stain.  Just pick the procedure that makes sense to you and watch those dry fabric stains disappear. 

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