Can You Get Fabric Softener Stains Out of Clothes

Fabric softener makes clothing fresh and after in the laundry, but can also stain your clothes. You might find fabric softener stains on the outside of a bottle that has leaked, or on your clothing after it’s been washed in the washing machine with the product.

Fabric softener is a laundry room staple for many households. It makes your clothes smell fresh and feel soft, but the downside is that it can cause stains if not used correctly.

Can You Get Fabric Softener Stains Out of Clothes

If you’ve found the spots on your clothes, don’t be distraught. There are a few methods you can try to remove fabric softener stains from your clothes. Read on to learn how to remove these stubborn stains.

What Are Fabric Softener Stains?

Fabric softener stains are created when the oily residue from fabric softeners and dryer sheets is left behind on clothing after drying. This oily residue is designed to reduce static cling and leave a nice fragrance, but it can also build up on clothing over time and form an unsightly stain.

The type of stain that forms depends upon the color of your clothing. Fabric softener stains on white garments will appear as yellow or brown stains and fabric softener stains on dark garments will appear as gray, blue, or black stains.

Are Fabric Softener Stains Permanent?

Fabric softener stains are not permanent. These stains are simple to remove and can be removed by using soap and water or a strong chemical. You may have noticed that your clothes sometimes develop brown stains after you wash them. While these stains can be alarming, they are not permanent.

Can You Get Fabric Softener Stains Out of Clothes

Yes, it is possible to get fabric softener stains out of clothes. Fabric softeners contain things like silicone oils and waxes that can leave oily deposits on clothing that can interfere with dyes and cause whites to have a grayish look. If these deposits build up over time, your clothing will start to look dingy.

The good news is that you can use water and a bar of soap to remove the stains or white vinegar.

How Do You Get Fabric Softener Stains Out of Clothing?

If you have an item of clothing with a fabric softener stain, there are a few ways to remove it. While it’s not possible to remove every trace of fabric softener, you can get rid of most of the stain, leaving your garment looking like new.

Water and Soap

  1. The first step is to dampen the stained area with water and apply a few drops of laundry detergent directly onto the fabric softener stain. 
  2. Then, rub the stained area between your fingers for about 30 seconds. This should break down and lift away the fabric softener residue from the fibers of the material. 
  3. Let the detergent sit for 10 minutes so it can penetrate the fibers of the fabric, then wash or rinse as you normally would. 
  4. Once you’ve done this, wash your clothing as usual for the best results. Wash the clothing in the hottest water setting it is safe to use. 
  5. Hang the garment flat to air dry.

How to Remove Fabric Softener Stains with Vinegar

  1. Read the care label first.
  2. Brush off any excess fabric softener with a toothbrush.
  3. Dampen the fabric softener stained area with hot water.
  4. Apply liquid laundry detergent to the dampened area and gently rub it in with your fingers.
  5. Pour some undiluted white distilled vinegar on the stain, let the solution sit for an hour or so, then rinse it out. That should take care of any remaining stains.
  6. Rinse well with warm water.
  7. Add a cup of white vinegar to the washer.
  8. Add Wash on the hottest water setting.
  9. Let the garment dry.

How Do You Get Out Fabric Softener Stains After Drying?

Make a mixture of warm water with an oxygen-based bleach

  1. Oxygen-based bleaches are safe for most colorfast fabrics and will not damage them. 
  2. Mix one part bleach with five parts hot water in a large bucket or sink. 
  3. Make sure the container you use is large enough to completely submerge the garment you’re trying to clean.

Soak the stained garment

  1. Soak the stained garment for at least three hours or overnight. 
  2. If the stain is really bad, you may need to leave it soaking for up to 24 hours. 
  3. Check every so often to make sure the stain is lifted from the clothing material.

Wash as usual without any detergent or fabric softener

  1. Once the stain has been removed from your clothing, wash it as normal without any detergent or fabric softener. 
  2. Fabric softener can sometimes mask the scent of other cleaning chemicals, so if you still notice a lingering odor after washing your clothes, repeat.

How to Avoid Fabric Softener Stains

The problem is that fabric softener stains can be nearly impossible to get out. But if you’re diligent and a little creative, you can avoid them altogether.

Pour directly into clothes

Some fabric softeners will leave white residue on your clothing if they come into contact with the fabric before being diluted. This is especially true with dryer sheets. Even if you use fewer than the recommended number of sheets, your clothing may still have staining issues.

Dilute with water

If you find that your softener is leaving white residue behind on your clothes, even when used properly, try diluting it with water before use. Add 1 part water to 2 parts fabric softener and mix well in a bucket or large bowl before adding to your washing machine or dryer dispenser.

Clean dispenser regularly

Your washing machine and/or dryer’s dispensers should be cleaned regularly (usually every six months) as a general rule of thumb. This will clear out any leftover residue from the dispenser.

Shake up your fabric softener

If you have a liquid fabric softener, shake it well before you pour it into the dispenser. Fabric softeners naturally separate so shaking it will help distribute the oils more evenly in the solution.

Don’t overload the washer

Make sure you’re not overloading your washing machine when you wash your clothes. Overloading the washer can cause fabric softener to spill out over your clothes and cause staining.

Use less fabric softener

You don’t need to use very much fabric softener in order to get good results. Using too much of it can lead to staining, so try using less than what’s recommended by the manufacturer.


In this post, we’ve gone over a whole slew of different methods to remove fabric softener buildup and stains. These methods can be applied to both laundry detergent and fabric softener buildup in clothing. Some methods are better than others, but they all have their strengths based on the type of fabric softener stain you’re trying to remove. 

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