Does Fabric Softener Expire?

Fabric softener smells incredible and makes our laundry softer. However, sometimes you may open it and find it thickened or lumpy. Does this mean it has gone bad? We have researched whether fabric softener expires and have the answer for you.

Fabric softener can expire. Once you open the fabric softener, expect it to last up to a year. You can leave an unopened bottle on your shelf for three years.

Now that you know opened fabric softener expires in about a year, continue reading to learn more about why it expires. We will also cover how to tell if your softener has gone bad and if you can safely use an expired softener.

Liquid Softener is perfect for bringing out the good smell of your fabric, Does Fabric Softener Expire?

Does Fabric Softener Expire?

Over time, the ingredients in the fabric softener break down. When they break down, they separate from each other and can change the texture of your soap.

In an unopened bottle, this process typically takes up to three years. However, it can happen within as little as six months once opened. Sometimes it stays good for up to a year if it is a higher quality softener.

Fabric softener typically has an expiration date on the bottle. For the best results, discard your product once it passes this date.

Stack of folded towels and softener on white table in bathroom

Can I Use My Fabric Softener After The Expiration Date?

While it is best to use fabric softener by the expiration date, you can use it after it has expired, as long as it isn't clumpy. Be sure to shake the bottle well and remove lumps before using it.

Fabric softener breaks down over time and will become less effective as it ages. An expired softener may not smell the way it was intended, so make sure it smells okay before using it. 

An expired softener may also leave grease stains on your clothing. If it is excessively lumpy, it can clog your machine. So, while you can use it, you probably should avoid doing so once it has solidified.

How Can I Tell If My Fabric Softener Is Bad?

Baby clothes and detergents on the table

When you open your fabric softener, check that it isn't separated, thick, or clumpy. You will also want to smell it to ensure the smell hasn't become weak or gone rancid. 

Why Is My Fabric Softener So Thin?

As fabric softener ages, it separates, and this separation will result in a thin soap. Fix this problem by shaking your softener until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

What Makes Fabric Softener Go Clumpy and Thick?

It is crucial that you store your soap in a temperature-controlled location. Exposing a fabric softener to extreme cold, will cause it to freeze and thicken

To fix thick fabric softener, boil some water and add it to your softener. Be sure to add it to your soap in small amounts and shake the bottle thoroughly before adding more to ensure you don't add too much.

Alternative Uses For Old Fabric Softener

old fabric softerner

If you decide you don't want to risk getting grease stains on your clothes or a clog in your washing machine but don't want to waste your softener, there are other uses. In fact, you can use it in many cleaning projects and benefit your hair.

Use it to make air freshener, bug repellent, and clean up burnt-on food. Fabric softener isn't just for cleaning. It can also get hairspray residue off furniture, detangle doll hair, and treat frizzy hair.

Air Freshener

All you need to make a homemade air freshener is a fabric softener, water, and a spray bottle. It seems like many people prefer to use fabric softener crystals for their softener. 

First, heat your water. While it is heating, add your fabric softener to the spray bottle. Once the water is hot enough to melt your detergent, carefully pour it into your spray bottle and mix the ingredients together.

Here is a great video that explains how to make your air freshener.

Bug Repellent

If mosquitos are a problem for you, you will want to try this! All you need is baking soda, fabric softener, water, and a bottle. 

First, pour 1/8 of a cup of fabric softener and two tablespoons of baking soda into a spray bottle. Then fill it up with water and shake until mixed. You can spray this mixture on your clothes and have an effective mosquito repellent.

Clean Burnt-On Food

Let your fabric softener do it for you instead of spending precious time and energy trying to scrub burnt food out of a pan. Fill the pan with water and put a bit of fabric softener in the pan.

Let it sit for at least an hour, but ideally overnight for tough stains, then clean the pan like usual.

Remove Old Hairspray

Old hairspray

Hairspray makes your hair stay looking fantastic, but it can be a pain to clean up. To use fabric softener to clean residue, add one part fabric softener to two parts warm water and shake the bottle. Use it like you would any other cleaner.

Detangle Doll Hair

If you have dolls that need their hair detangled, fabric softener is excellent. Mix the fabric softener with warm water in a spray bottle to make the solution. 

Spray the doll's hair until thoroughly saturated. Brush the doll's hair gently to get it saturated and let the doll sit for four hours. After four hours, you can rinse the doll's hair. If needed, repeat until the doll's hair is untangled. 

Here is a great video showing the proper technique to fix your doll's hair.

Frizzy Hair

Fabric softener and water also work to tame frizzy hair on humans. Add three cups of water to three tablespoons of softener in a spray bottle, combine, and spray lightly onto your hair after a shower or while wet. 

While your hair is still wet, use a wide-toothed comb to brush through any tangles, and then let your hair dry.

Is Fabric Softener Necessary?

liquid washing machine softerner has been poured

So, you just found out you are out of fabric softener or that it has expired. Should you make an emergency trip to the store, or is it okay to wash your clothes without it?

While fabric softener reduces static and prevents wrinkles, you can run a load without it. Fabric softener doesn't clean your clothes but makes them softer and smell better, and it also makes ironing unnecessary because it takes out wrinkles. 

If your load comprises microfiber items, sportswear, or towels, you never want to use fabric softener. This is because fabric softener leaves a coating on clothing that will make these items less absorbent. 

You should also avoid using it on clothing that is flame or water-resistant. This is because the coating can alter the cloth fibers and make them less effective.

Alternatives To Fabric Softener

If you need an alternative to fabric softener, there are plenty of options. Many of them are easier on sensitive skin and better for the environment.

You can use aluminum foil, dryer balls, and tennis balls. Some other options include adding hair conditioner and a baking soda/vinegar mixture. These methods won't make your clothes fragrant in the way softener will, but they will help with static and wrinkles.

Dryer Balls

You can buy dryer balls or make them at home. You can use tennis balls by simply throwing them into the dryer. Store-bought dryer balls are eco-friendly and reusable.

You can check out these Whitmore dryer balls on Amazon here.

All you need to do to use aluminum foil as a dryer ball is cut off a big sheet of foil and roll it into a ball. Throw it in the dryer with your load to reduce static. You can continue to use them until they fall apart.

Another option is wool dryer balls. You buy 100% wool yarn, wrap it around your fingers, and make a ball. While wrapping, make sure you change directions multiple times until it is the size of a golf ball and cut it off.

You can use a crochet hook to pull the end through the ball, so it won't come undone. Then put it in a sock and run it through your dryer and washer, to tighten it up. 

Next, add another layer of yarn until it is the size of a tennis ball, and rewash it. Now, it is ready to use. This video explains how to make it.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

The natural cleaners vinegar and baking soda altogether

For this method, mix two parts of water and two parts baking soda together. Then add in one part vinegar and add any scents or essential oils you want. 

When using this mixture in your washer, use about a quarter cup.


You can also use hair conditioner as a fabric softener substitute. To make this softener, you will need three cups of hot water and half a cup of vinegar for every cup of conditioner. 

Simply mix all these ingredients and store the mixture in an air-tight container. Use the same amount of liquid you would usually use when using store-bought softener.

Final Thoughts

Liquid Softener is perfect for bringing out the good smell of your fabric

After reading this post, you should know that fabric softener expires. We also learned that you could use an expired fabric softener.

However, an expired fabric softener risks clogging your washing machine or getting grease stains on clothing. In addition, we also covered alternative uses for fabric softener and alternatives to fabric softener. 

If you enjoyed this article, click the links below to explore this blog.

3 Types Of Fabric Softeners To Know

How To Wash And Soften Flannel Sheets To Keep From Pilling

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