Used fabric softener instead of detergent :(

mrsh01September 28, 2011

I really hope someone can help me, because I've read some really great info on this forum, but have yet to find a situation like mine.

Give me a giant dunce hat, but I purchased what I thought was free and clear laundry detergent but turned out to be fabric softener, and I did my laundry with it, not once, not twice, but for nearly a month!!

So just to put the situation in perspective: I added at least a quarter cup of fabric softener directly into my washer tub for almost a month, a total of probably 25 loads, maybe more. This means I also took those clothes that were essentially soaked in liquid fabric softener and pretty much baked them in the dryer every time.

It took nearly a month for me to realize I was itchy and my towels were not as absorbent.

I've since rewashed all the clothes in vinegar, but some items are just holding onto the layer of fabric softener (particularly the light cotton items like t-shirts, that just seemed to soak it up).

My biggest problem though is that now even clothes that I just bought recently and never accidentally washed in fabric softener are making me itch. I think my foolish mistake has caused a way worse than normal buildup of fabric softener on the inside of my washer (and probably my dryer).

Some of my clothes have tiny bits of weird fibers embedded in them that make my skin crawl when I put them on. I know I'm having an allergic reaction, probably to a combination of fabric softener residue and old lint.

I've wiped out the inside of the dryer as well as I could. I cleaned the lint screen with soap and water using a toothbrush. As for the washer, I've run it empty with hot water twice using vinegar and twice using Affresh. I wiped it down with a soft wash cloth - what else can I do? I don't see any gunk, but I know there's some kind of residue because my clothes are still making my skin react.

I know this is an odd situation, since I can't imagine anyone else being foolish enough to dump so much fabric softener in the wash repeatedly. Anyone have any thoughts on how to get rid of a persistent fabric softener residue?

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I would rewash all your clothes using a good detergent, not vinegar. I would venture to guess that the buildup you are seeing in your clothes is really body oils and dirt as opposed to fabric softener (I assume that most of the FS rinsed out of the clothes during your rinse cycles, so the issue is that they were never really washed properly because you used no detergent). Get yourself some powder Tide or powder Sears detergent and just wash them on the warmest setting that your clothes can take. As to the washing machine, run a clean tub cycle with a good degreaser (maybe Cascade dishwasher powder?) and/or a Sanitary cycle after that if your washer has it.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 6:36PM
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I would recommend good old fashioned washing soda to clean out your machine and remove residue from your clothes. Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is a natural de-greaser. Fabric softener's main ingredient is a highly processed fat. Charlie's Soap has a high percentage of sodium carbonate and is claimed to remove washing machine residue. I might give that a try. Whatever you do, however, make sure you wash on the highest temp you can and use a powdered detergent.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 12:41PM
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mrsh01, did you have any luck resurrecting your fabric softener soaked laundry?

- ITGeek

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 3:18AM
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Sadly, I had some permanently ruined clothes - mostly thin cotton tank tops and t-shirts that just seemed to have absorbed so much of the stuff that even after a lot of re-washing I couldn't wear them anymore without itching like a crazy person. The washing soda did seem to help with some of my other clothing though :)
I removed every part of the machine that I could and cleaned it, ran 3 Affresh tablets through in 3 separate cycles, and it seems to be a little better. Might just take a few more cleanings to really get all the gunk and buildup out of there!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 8:11AM
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