To freshen clothing many consumers add liquid fabric softener to their wash. Softener is dispensed in your washer by either gravity, centrifugal force or by suction created by flowing water and is simply too thick to be properly dispensed. Because softener is dispensed in the rinse cycle of a washing machine it leaves a residue on the inside of the outer tub. This residue is a food source for bacteria and mold and the clothes washer can begin to smell bad.
We recommend switching to dryer sheets or even the newer chemical free dryer balls. Dryer sheets can also be overused. They can be reused and/or cut into halves and still be effective. The sheets contain chemicals that can coat towels and cause them to be less absorbent. The chemicals can also coat a sensor that detects moisture in clothing on “automatic” settings in almost all dryers. This can cause long dry times and multiple repair attempts. Do not scrape the sensors to clean. Use vinegar or rubbing alcohol on a cotton tip to clean them.
Fabric softener and dryer sheets can also clog the dryer lint screen to cause long dry times. To test your lint screen hold it level and pour a half cup of water on the screen. If water does not flow easily through the mesh the screen needs cleaning.
If the user is adamant about using softener it should be diluted with water before using. Some experts claim by as much as 6:1 (water to softener, respectively). If used without diluting it can congeal and plug the dispensing ports and/or cause odor.
Dryer balls are a newer, chemical-free alternative to both softeners and sheets. They soften by lifting and separating the clothing which allows air to pass more easily between items. They don’t cause as much noise as one may suspect because of raised nubs which take the force . They aren’t very popular because they don’t leave the fresh scent of softeners and sheets and don’t completely eliminate static cling. The latter is more noticeable in colder climates. The balls cost around ten dollars for a package of two.
There are opinions that dryer sheets and fabric softeners contain carcinogens. The FDA claims that shampoos, detergents, deodorants, creams, soaps and other cosmetic products are not absorbed by the skin. Many health officials disagree with this stance. Some links to more expert opinions can be found at