Updated: January 14, 2023

Earwigs are small, nocturnal insects known for their pincers located at the end of their abdomen. They are often found in damp areas, such as under rocks or in piles of wood. While they do not pose a threat to humans, their presence can be unsightly and unwanted. One method that has been suggested for repelling earwigs is the use of fabric softener.

Fabric softener is a liquid or sheet used during laundry to soften clothes and reduce static cling. It typically contains chemicals that coat fabric fibers and prevent them from becoming stiff. But can it work as an insect repellent?

Earwig Behavior

Earwigs are attracted to moisture and darkness, making them common pests in gardens, basements, and bathrooms. They prefer to hide in tight spaces and may enter homes through cracks or openings. While they do not transmit diseases, they can damage plants and crops.

People may want to repel earwigs to avoid infestations or simply for aesthetic reasons. There are several methods that have been suggested for repelling these insects, including diatomaceous earth, citrus oil, and cedar oil. Fabric softener is another option that has gained popularity in recent years.

Fabric Softener

Fabric softener is typically added to the rinse cycle during laundry. It works by coating fabric fibers with a thin layer of chemicals that prevent them from becoming stiff or scratchy. This can make clothes feel softer and more comfortable to wear.

There are two main types of fabric softeners: liquid and dryer sheets. Liquid fabric softeners are added directly to the washing machine, while dryer sheets are added to the dryer.

Theory of Fabric Softener Repelling Earwigs

The theory behind using fabric softener as an insect repellent is that its scent and texture may repel earwigs. Some people have reported success using fabric softener sheets in their gardens or around their homes to deter these insects.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that placing dryer sheets in areas where earwigs are present can help keep them away. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim.

Scientific Evidence

Despite the anecdotal evidence, there have been few scientific studies done on the effectiveness of fabric softener for repelling earwigs. One study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology found that fabric softener sheets did not have any significant effect on the behavior of earwigs.

While this study had a small sample size and only tested one brand of fabric softener sheets, it suggests that there may be little to no scientific basis for using fabric softener as an insect repellent.

Alternative Methods

If fabric softener does not work as an insect repellent, there are other methods that may be more effective. Diatomaceous earth is a natural substance made from fossilized algae that can be sprinkled around the home or garden to repel insects like earwigs.

Citrus oil and cedar oil are also popular options for repelling insects. These oils can be mixed with water and sprayed around the home or garden to deter pests.

Comparison to Fabric Softener

While fabric softener may not be an effective method for repelling earwigs, it still has its benefits for laundry purposes. It can soften clothes and reduce static cling, making them more comfortable to wear.

For those looking for alternative methods for repelling earwigs, diatomaceous earth or essential oils may be more effective options.


While some people have reported success using fabric softener as an insect repellent, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim. More research is needed to determine whether fabric softener can effectively repel earwigs.

In the meantime, there are other methods that may be more effective for keeping these pests away. Diatomaceous earth and essential oils are natural options that can be used around the home or garden with minimal risk of harm to humans or pets.