Gear Guy

Will fabric softeners destroy performance fabrics?

Much of my clothing made with high-performance fabrics, such as Coolmax, states that you should not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Why is that? If they are accidentally dried with a dryer sheet will they return to normal after the next wash or are the performance aspects ruined? Joe Helm Canal Winchester, Ohio


Sheet-style fabric softeners emit a wax-like substance that adheres to the fabric, making it feel softer and reducing static build-up. But, wax also reduces the fabric's ability to absorb moisture. Mrs. Gear insists on using softener sheets with the bath towels. True, the towels feel softer, but they don't absorb water as well after a shower.!!!!!!!!

But no harm—the stuff comes right off. Just re-wash any fabrics that were softened, and you'll be fine.

Overall, I've found that today's performance fabrics are extremely easy to care for. In olden days, for instance, one had to be cautious with polypropylene underwear, as the stuff would literally melt at a surprisingly low temperature. You'd toss an item into the clothes dryer, and a half-hour later take out a small compact ball of dark blue plastic. What a drag. But nowadays I toss everything in together, cotton and Coolmax alike, and dry it on the same temp. No problems.

But if I have any control over it, I DON'T use softening sheets.


Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
More Gear