Expert Warns Viral Money-Saving Laundry Hack Can End up Ruining Clothes

An appliance expert has spoken out against a popular TikTok cleaning hack, claiming it will leave your clothes even worse than they went in.

The hack sees avid cleaners use sponges soaked in fabric softener, sometimes diluted with water, instead of dryer sheets. In theory, they should effectively replace dryer sheets as a reusable alternative.

"I make sure to put same amount of solution, so equal parts water, equal part of the detergent. Sometimes I'll add a bit more water just depending what detergent I'm using to avoid any staining," TikToker @araceliigj, one of a number of people who have gone viral with the hack, told Newsweek. "It's something my mom taught me, she's used it with our clothes when my siblings and I were growing up."

Although it sounds great, not everyone is sold, including appliance expert Colin Jones, category expert at Appliances Online, who recently told Australia's 9 Now that the fabric conditioner will actually likely leave clothes with more stains.

"Dryer sheets are used to remove the static from your clothes and add a fragrant smell to your garments. Using a sponge soaked in fabric softener as an alternative to dryer sheets will not dispense the softener evenly throughout your garments, leaving you with stain marks on your clothes," he explained.

Instead, he recommends avoiding dryer sheets altogether and opting for the cooling down spin on the machine to remove any static, and simply using fabric softener while washing your clothes for fragrance.

This isn't the first time the hack has come under criticism for unwanted side effects. Last year, popular home and cleaning influencer Stephanie Booth ranked it as the "home hack that needs to go" saying: "The fabric softener soaked sponges have been known to cause oily spots on clothing and coat your dryer in a waxy residue."

Bailey Carson, head of cleaning for household service app Handy, backed it up, telling Insider that it has the potential to further damage clothes by lifting dye on items too. "This hack has the additional risk of causing damage to clothes in the drying process such as residue spots and in some cases lifting dye from clothing that can't be reversed."

She added that fabric softener, when not washed out with water, can irritate skin conditions like eczema.

Even more concerning than stained clothing however is an appliance fire, which one mom who attempted the hack in 2021 believes it caused. Although the exact cause of the fire can't be confirmed, the mom said a fire broke out after she tried the hack.

A video shared by the woman showed the clothes left burnt and blackened by the fire with the dryer destroyed too.

Fabric softeners do have flammability warning labels on the packaging, but as reported by Fox News, most refer to the product's ability to degrade flame retardant chemicals in clothing rather than the product being flammable itself.

"Liquid fabric softeners—as used in the washing machine—and dryer sheets are used safely by millions of people every week. You do not have to worry about liquid fabric softener residue after you take your clothing out of the washer," a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute told Fox News.

"It is important to use these products as directed and to read the fabric care labels of the garments you are laundering. You should not use dryer sheets with garments labeled flame-resistant or with children's sleepwear."

Tumble dryer
Stock image of a dryer. Getty Images

Update 6/22/22, 10:10 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from @araceliigj.