Fabric softeners primarily come in two forms: liquid, or dryer sheets. Softeners are very popular to use when washing your clothes, eliminating static, softening fabric fibers, and even adding a lovely floral scent. However, you’ll definitely want to think twice before using fabric softener with your athletic clothes, lab coat, scrubs, or other performance fabrics.
When it comes to these performance fabrics, the fabric softener actually does more damage than good. Performance fabrics are made with technological features built in, such as moisture wicking or stain resistant – the problem with fabric softener is that it leaves a coating on the fibers of the fabric, so over time those technological features will fade.
This all has to do with the process by which fabric softener actually softens your clothes and linens. Fabric softener releases a sort of waxy substance onto your clothing – this is how it softens and prevents static cling. However, this is what makes your performance fabrics, well, not perform so well after you wash them with fabric softener. The difference may not be noticeable after the first wash, but it will build up over time.
The same principle applies to washing your towels or any micro-fiber fabrics. As a matter of fact, it is recommended in general that you not use heat to dry micro-fiber as it does a lot of damage to the fibers, making them lose all their moisture-wicking properties.
The moral of the story? Don’t use fabric softener with any fabric that has technological features!