How to remove fabric softener stains

how to remove fabric softener stains

Believe it or not, fabric softener can also be harsh on your clothes and leave behind stains. Luckily, they are easy to manage.

Fabric softeners can leave stains due to user error, like using placing too much of it on your washer’s compartment. The blemishes brought by fabric softeners can give unattractive greasy looking stains or blue streaks on a garment’s surface.

There are a few good ways to remove fabric softener stains, involving liquid laundry detergent, bar soap, oxygen-based bleach, and even shampoo. It is also easy to avoid fabric softener stains in the first place, by removing it from your laundry process and using white vinegar instead.

Removing stains using concentrated liquid detergent

Concentrated laundry detergent can be used if fabric softener stains are large and are difficult to remove. Liquid detergents are effective tools for removing fabric softener stains from your clothes because they contain surfactants that can penetrate any stain with ease. Surfactants lift the stain from the fabric alongside the dirt particles, making your clothing good as new. 

Simply soak and gently rub your stained clothing in a laundry detergent and water mixture, before running it through a wash cycle. The temperature water you use depends on whether your garment can tolerate heat.

Garments that are not sensitive to heat

This method is only applicable to clothes that can tolerate heat because one of the steps in this method requires that your clothes be soaked in hot water. You shouldn’t use this method on wool or other delicate fabrics.

  1. Soak the stained garment in a basin with hot water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. After this, grab your concentrated laundry detergent and pour it on the fabric stain. Mildly rub the area.
  3. After continuous rubbing, mix laundry detergent and water in a basin to form a lather.
  4. Allow the garment to sit in the basin to allow the penetration of the detergent’s components into your fabrics. Do this for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  5. Wash the soaked garment in your washing machine on a normal wash cycle.

At this point, the fabric softener stains should be gone entirely. If they are stubbornly persisting, repeat the entire process until the stains become completely eradicated.

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Heat-sensitive garments

Some garments are not heat-resistant and are easily distorted when subjected to high temperatures. To prevent your clothes from being warped, you must substitute the use of hot water with cold water.

  1. Mix cold water and laundry detergent in a basin.
  2. Pretreat the stained garment by soaking it in the mixture.
  3. Pour liquid detergent on the stain and try scrubbing the clothing with your knuckles for a minute or two.
  4. Proceed with washing your clothes as normal in the washing machine.

Another detergent approach

This method starts the same as the others by soaking your stained clothing in a bucket of warm or cold water, depending on the fabric. After letting it soak in water for 5 to 10 minutes, follow these steps:

  1. After the allotted time, apply the liquid detergent directly on the stain. Make sure to cover the stained area completely. 
  2. Let the detergent sit on the affected area for another 5 to 10 minutes, allowing it to penetrate deeply into the stain for easier removal.  
  3. After 5 to 10 minutes, when the stain is no longer visible, wash your clothes normally. 
  4. Let the garment air dry.  

Don’t forget to check the clothes care tag to see if the fabric is compatible with hot water. If the care label on the clothing says you can only use cold water, follow the care label’s instructions to avoid damaging your clothes. 

The classic bar soap method

If you’re running low on liquid detergent, you can use a bar of soap as an alternative. This method is similar to the concentrated laundry detergent approach, but you have to let the garments air dry when using the soap method, instead of drying by heat.

Follow these steps:

  1. Wet the area of the fabric softener stain using a clean cloth dampened with lukewarm water.
  2. Rub the bar of soap on the area of the damp stain, and thinly cover the stained spot.
  3. Use a non-abrasive brush to carefully scrub the area to form a lather. Continue scrubbing until the stain disappears.
  4. Wash your garment as usual and allow it to air dry.

Regular liquid soap: a simple stain remedy  

If the stain is new and small, you can try this method. Here you’ll just need a regular liquid soap and a bucket of warm water. Regular soaps contain surfactants that allow them to lift the stains off from the fabric, giving you an easier time to remove the stains.  

Follow these simple steps to remove fabric softener stains using your regular soap. 

  1. Soak the stained garment in the bucket of warm water. Leave it for a few minutes. 
  2. Grab a regular liquid soap of your choice. 
  3. Apply the soap directly on the stained area. Make sure to cover the whole stain with the solution.  
  4. Let the soap soak on the stained area for 5 to 10 minutes to loosen up the stain from the fabric’s fibers, making it easier for you to remove.  
  5. After the allotted time, scrub the affected area using a soft-bristled brush in a circular motion.  
  6. When the stain visibly lightens, wash the garment with clean water. Don’t add any detergent or soap. 
  7. At this point, the stain should no longer be visible. Let your clothes air dry.  
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Removing light stains using shampoo

Shampoo can be used on more than just your hair. You can also use it when removing light fabric softener stains. This method works best on light and fresh stains. To remove this stain, follow these easy steps:

  1. Soak the fabric softener-stained garment in a basin with lukewarm water.
  2. Pour a few drops of shampoo on the stain. Rub it using your fingers or knuckles.
  3. Wash the garment as usual.
  4. Allow it to dry.

Vinegar removes fabric softener stains and softens fabrics at the same time

Vinegar’s acidic properties are what make this kitchen product an excellent stain remover. But make sure to dilute the vinegar with water to avoid the bleaching effects it can cause on colored fabrics. 

The use of white vinegar for this method will not only remove the stains, but serve as a natural fabric softener at the same time.

Follow these steps:

  1. Toss the fabric softener-stained clothes to your washing machine.
  2. Fill your washing machine with water up to the level capable of soaking the clothes.
  3. Add one cup of distilled white vinegar. If you have a front-opening washing machine, add 1 cup of white vinegar to its wash compartment. Don’t add any soap or detergent and let the vinegar work alone for the best results.
  4. Run a full wash cycle to rinse the clothes in the washing machine. 
  5. After the wash cycle, the stain should be gone. If it’s still noticeable, repeat the process. 
  6. When there’s no stain left, air dry your clothes.

Common questions about fabric softener stains

Why does fabric softener stain clothes? 

Fabric softener stains usually occur on clothes because of user error problems. If you use fabric softener on a fabric with a care label saying not to apply any softeners on it, it can cause staining. Not reading the label carefully on your garment and the misuse of the fabric softener can lead to stains.

Will vinegar remove fabric softener stains?

It can.  If the stains are fresh and light, add a cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle and see if it helps. For more stubborn fabric softener stains, you’ll have better luck with liquid detergent or soap. Blue streaks made by fabric softener stains can be enhanced by vinegar, making them more difficult to remove.

To avoid fabric softener stains all together, consider using white vinegar as a replacement for fabric softener. It softens clothes naturally and doesn’t leave behind a smell.

Are fabric softener stains permanent?

Fabric softener stains are not permanent if they’re on low maintenance clothes like cotton. They can be removed with detergent or soap and are usually not too complex to get rid of. With numerous companies manufacturing many quality stain removers for various types of stains, it’s impossible to have permanent fabric softener stains on your favorite clothing.

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Can fabric softener ruin your clothes? 

Fabric softeners can ruin your clothes if you don’t follow the fabric’s label instructions properly. For instance, some garments do not advise using fabric softeners, such as work out or sports clothing, as these can be damaged and are prone to stains. Make it a habit to follow the right instructions on your clothing’s label and the fabric softener to keep your clothes stain-free. 

Can oxygen-based bleach get rid of fabric softener stains?

Fabric softener stains can be removed by oxygen-based bleach. Oxygen bleach liberates oxygen when it meets water. This reaction enables the oxygen bleach to remove fabric softener stains from the fabric.

The good thing is, you can use oxygen bleach on both white and colored clothes. This method works best for old or dried up stains.

  1. Mix the oxygen-based bleach with warm water in a basin. The amount of oxygen-based bleach and water will depend on the instruction provided by the manufacturer.
  2. Soak the fabric softener-stained garment in the basin and leave it for at least four hours or overnight.
  3. After soaking the garments, wash them as usual without any detergent or fabric softener. 
  4. Let the clothes air dry. 

How can I prevent fabric softener stains? 

Before using fabric softener, you must read and follow the instructions on the back of your fabric softener. Consider diluting your fabric softener. Diluting fabric softener is better because it won’t leave a residue on your clothes. Never pour fabric softener directly onto your clothes because pouring it over dry clothes will make it more likely to leave a stain. 

What happens if you use too much fabric softener? 

Fabric softeners are great products that can make our clothes smell and feel better, leaving most people to use a bit too much of it when washing their garments. So, what happens when you apply too much? The extra fabric softener usually settles back on the clothing, leaving you with dull and stiff garments.  

The bottom line

Fabric softener stains can generally be removed with little effort. Try using concentrated dish soap, bar soap, shampoo or oxygen-based bleach to get rid of the stains.

It’s also a good idea to prevent these stains from getting on your clothes in the first place. You can do this by using less fabric softener when washing your clothes or by diluting it. And consider switching to white vinegar instead of fabric softener to avoid fabric softener stains all together in the future.

how to remove fabric softener stains

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