How To Get Fabric Softener Stains Out Of Clothes

Are you having trouble removing fabric softener stains from your clothes? In this post, we’ll walk you through the various methods to remove those tough fabric softener stains from your favorite outfit. Whether you’re dealing with a stubborn stain that won’t go away or just looking for a way to prevent such stains from happening in the first place, installing some simple laundering tips into your routine can make all the difference. Keep reading to learn more about how to get fabric softener stains out of clothes quickly and effectively.

fabric conditioner being poured into the machine

What causes fabric conditioner stains?

So, what causes those aggravating stains after your clothes come out of the washer? Have you ever wondered what exactly goes into your favorite fabric conditioner? You may be surprised that while formulas vary, a few common ingredients are found in most brands.

  • First up is a group of chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats for short, responsible for softening and reducing static in your clothes. They also are used to kill bacteria, viruses, and mold.
  • Another common ingredient is amines which help neutralize odors and keep your garments fresh. The fragrance gives the product a pleasant scent. They also reduce the drying time of the garment.
  • Lanolin is a wax-like substance that is naturally secreted from the sebaceous glands of sheep. It’s used as an ingredient in many skincare and cosmetic products, as well as other items such as leather treatment and lubricants due to its water-resistant and emollient properties. Lanolin is often derived from wool and is a natural alternative to petroleum-based ingredients. Lanolin prevents static build-up and reduces the loss of fibers from clothing during washing. Fatty acids from natural sources, such as animal fats (lanolin), can form a sticky residue in laundry when heated. As the fabric conditioner is heated up, it breaks down into the fatty acid molecules which stick to your clothes, creating those stubborn stains!
photo of a sad looking sheep
  • Cationic surfactants are positively charged and help soften fabrics. Surfactants help break down dirt, stains, and oils stuck in fabric fibers, making them easier to remove. They also help to prevent static on the garments.
  • Water.
  • And lastly, some fabric conditioners use synthetic fragrances to enhance their scent.
  • Many eco-friendly options use plant-based ingredients if you prefer a more natural approach.

How to get fabric softener stains out of clothes

  1. Identify the type of fabric softener stain you are dealing with.

    There are two types of fabric conditioner stains
    ✔️ Fresh stains straight from the washing machine
    ✔️ Dried in stains that have been run through the tumble drier

    Fresh stains are easier to remove
    Dried stains are more difficult to remove as the color has been permanently set into the fabric fibers. If you’re dealing with dried-in stains, you may need to leave the pretreatment on for a couple of hours to break down the stain, and you may also need to repeat the process if the stain persists.

  2. Treat the stain straight away.

    Always check the manufacturer’s care label before attempting any stain removal, and treat the affected area as soon as possible for the best chances of success.

  3. Pre-treat the fabric softener stain before washing it to help remove it completely.

    To ensure that the stain is completely removed, it’s essential to pre-treat it before washing. This means applying a stain remover or some other cleaning agent directly onto the affected area and giving it time to soak before washing. This extra step will increase your chances of removing the fatty acid stain.

    powdered stain remover

  4. Wash the item in warm water and detergent to help remove any fabric softener residue.

    Once you’ve successfully removed the stain, wash the item in warm water and detergent to remove any residual fabric softener stain.

  5. Always use cool water.

    Opt for cool or warm water and a heavy-duty laundry detergent to break down the animal fat and lift the stain from the fabric. Using hot water will always set the stain.lady with washing inside the machine looking at the ingredients in the fabric softener

  6. What to do if the whole load is stained with fabric conditioner

    If a whole load of laundry is stained with fabric conditioner, you first need to remove as much excess fabric conditioner from the clothes as possible. This can be done by hand-washing the items in clean water or using a rinse cycle on your washing machine.

    If there is still some staining after this process, you can use a stain remover or pre-treating product like this one
    Follow the instructions on the packaging, and make sure to launder your clothes as soon as possible after treating them.
    If your laundry is still stained after this, you may want to consider professional cleaning services.
    It is also essential to check the care labels on each garment to ensure you use the correct cleaning method.

Preventing fabric softener stains in the future.

  • Always pour the fabric softener directly into the washer’s designated compartment rather than directly onto your clothes. This will ensure the softener is spread evenly over your clothes and the entire load. Additionally, it allows you to adjust the amount of fabric softener used depending on how much laundry you are doing.
  • Double-check that you’re measuring the proper amount of fabric softener. Too much can cause stains to develop on your clothes. To ensure you don’t overuse, look for specific measurements on the fabric softener bottle or consult your washing machine’s manual for instructions. If you have a front-load washer, they may require smaller amounts of detergent and fabric softener than top-loading machines.
  • Do not overstuff your washing machine, as this will not allow the fabric softener to rinse away correctly and can leave residue on your clothes. The correct amount of laundry for a standard washing machine is 3-5kg. If you wash delicate items, you should use a lower load size.
  • Shake Liquid Fabric Softener and Dilute if Necessary Shake the liquid fabric softener bottle before use to ensure ingredients are well mixed. Determine whether dilute the fabric softener according to care labels and the manufacturer’s instructions. Diluting concentrated fabric softeners with water helps reduce residue on clothes. This is particularly important for items that require frequent washing, such as infant and toddler clothes. After diluting the fabric softener, pour it into your washer’s fabric softener dispenser before adding your liquid detergent. Start the washing machine cycle using a gentle setting for delicate fabrics. Adding fabric softener to the wash and rinse cycle can help reduce static cling on clothing but may also cause fabric conditioner stains.
  • Consider switching to dryer sheets instead of liquid fabric softeners, as these are less likely to cause stains and are easier to control. With these tips, you can keep your clothes looking fresh and stain-free!
two jumpers and a dryer sheet

Ultimately, fabric softener stains are a common but tricky household challenge. But with some knowledge and effort, you can defeat them! It’s essential to correctly identify the fabric softener stain you are dealing with to pick the right product for the job. Additionally, pre-treating the stain before washing it is also a practical step to take. Clean the item in warm water and detergent as directed on the label.

Now that you understand what causes fabric conditioner stains and how to prevent them, we hope you will succeed in tackling them in the future. Have you found a better way to remove fabric conditioner stains from clothes? We would love to hear your stories!


Are fabric softener stains permanent?

No, fabric softener stains are not permanent. Usually, the color can be removed with a simple laundry detergent wash. However, it is essential to note that the sooner you act, the easier it will be to remove the stain. Some colors may require multiple washes or specialty stain removal products for complete removal.

What shall I do if fabric softener stains won’t come out?

If fabric softener stains won’t come out, the best thing to do is to pre-treat them with a gentle liquid laundry detergent and hot water. Additionally, you can use a small amount of baking soda or white vinegar mixed with lukewarm water to help lift the stain from the garment’s fibers. If that doesn’t work, you may need to take the garment to a professional dry cleaner.
Be sure to point out the fabric type and the stain’s exact location so they can properly treat it.

lady in a shop looking at fabric softener bottle

How can I use bar or dish soap to remove fabric softener stains?

To remove fabric softener stains using bar or dish soap, you’ll want to dab a small amount of the soapy liquid onto the stained area and lightly rub it in.
Let the suds sit on the stain for several minutes before rinsing with cool water. Blot the area dry with a cloth and repeat until the stain is gone.
If the stain persists, you may want to try using a stronger detergent or spot cleaner.
Additionally, it’s important to always test cleaning solutions on an inconspicuous area of the garment first before applying them to the stained area. This will help ensure that your clothing does not suffer any damage.

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