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Best fabric softeners and conditioners to keep clothes smelling fresh

Is there anything better than gorgeously smelling bed sheets or soft-to-the-touch t-shirts? Adding fabric softener is a game changer; discover the best below and breathe life back into your clothes. 

By Hannah Wilson | Last updated Jan 24, 2023

Woman using fabric softener

Isn’t it remarkable just how much washing you do in a week? A never-ending pile of dirty clothes is a familiar scene for most parents. That’s why fabric conditioners can be an essential addition to your family's laundry load.  

Everybody knows that detergents, whether powder, liquid or pods, cleans your laundry and keeps it smelling fresh, but you might not know that every time you wash your clothes or bed sheets, you could be damaging the fabric leading to faded colours, smelly odours or even a loss of softness. That's why we recommend using a fabric softener. It is one of those magical cleaning products that can prevent damage and transform sweaty, tired clothes into freshly smelling, soft and pristine garments that you’ll want to wear again and again.

Whether you’re looking to be more environmentally friendly or your children have sensitive skin, we have a fabric softener to suit every budget, fabric and skin type. Using our triple-check vetting process, we've collated the fabric softeners recommended by parents, trusted by experts, and rated by verified customers to bring you the top 10 fabric softeners available in 2023. 

If you're looking for more advice on how to streamline your laundry routine, check out our guides to the best steam irons, best clothes steamers, best washing machines and the best rotary washing lines

Without further ado, here are our ten best fabric softeners and conditioners...

1. Best overall fabric softener: Fairy Fabric Softener

Fairy Fabric Softener

Price on writing: £14.49 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 6p | Number of washes: 240 | Litres: 4.8L | Brand: Fairy | Format: Gel| Scent: Floral | Skin type: Sensitive-safe | Feature: Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested 

Reasons to buy 

  • Highly recommended Mumsnetter brand 
  • 5* rated across multiple websites and suppliers
  • Voted #1 Fabric Softener for Sensitive Skin 
  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested
  • Lasts up to 240 washes
  • Refreshing floral scent
  • Less plastic waste (due to the bottle’s large capacity)

Reasons to avoid 

  • Bottle is large so contents could be difficult to pour and may cause spillages

What Mumsnet users say 

“Just bought some Fairy gel. Used with Fairy fabric conditioner and it smells amazing. House smells so nice now.” Frozenintime

“I use Fairy Non-Bio Pods with Fairy Fabric Softener or sometimes I'll use Lenor. I've used the pods alone without any conditioner and still smells amazing!” diamondsr4u

"I like the smell and that the clothes aren't as crispy. I like the Fairy white one" dementedpixie 

Our verdict

Favourite features? Fairy is a cleaning brand loved by Mumsnetters and trusted by experts. With a high percentage of 5* ratings across various suppliers, too, it's easy to see why this Fabric Softener was voted #1 for Sensitive skin. 

Allergy and eczema sufferers trust Fairy’s fabric softener because it’s dermatologically tested and hypoallergenic, meaning it won’t irritate sensitive skin. This large 4.8-litre bottle can last up to 240 washes, so no matter how dirty your little ones’ clothes get, you’ll still get plenty of use out of it. On Mumsnet's forums, we discovered that many of our users love its gorgeous floral scent and just how soft and fluffy Fairy’s fabric softener makes their clothes. Although they weren’t so keen on how easy it is to spill such a large bottle, so we definitely recommend not rushing. 

2. Best budget fabric softener: Almat So Soft Clear Skies

A picture of Almat Clear Skies Fabric Softener

Price on writing: £1.19 | Buy now from Aldi

Key specs

Cost per wash: 2p | Number of washes: 42 | Litres: 1.26L | Brand: Almat (Aldi) | Format: Liquid | Scent: Fresh | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Budget-friendly 

Reasons to buy 

  • Affordably priced
  • Highly-recommended by Mumsnetters 
  • Rated for its fresh scent  

Reasons to avoid 

  • Not suitable for sensitive skin 

What Mumsnet users say 

"Aldi Clear Skies (blue) or Comfort Apple Blossom, they are lovely and fresh" Milliemoo1908

"Aldi own brand ones are all nice" Sillybilli

Our verdict

Favourite features? According to a YouGov poll, Aldi is the nation's favourite supermarket, and with prices like this, it's a no-brainer. The cost of living crisis has everyone tightening their belts, which is why we're recommending Aldi's Almat Clear Skies fabric softener as a great savvy swap. At less than 1p a wash, it is by far the cheapest on this list. Mumsnetters love it, too, for its fresh scent! 

The only hiccup is that there is nowhere to say it is suitable for sensitive skin, so please keep in mind if this is a priority for you and your family. Also, it is a savvy money-saving swap, so some previous customers felt it didn't perform as well as the top brands, which is to be expected! Don't forget to check out their other fragrances, Mumsnetters mentioned the Almat Strawberry and Magnolia scent

3. Best smelling fabric softener: Lenor Burst of Sunshine

Lenor Burst of Sunshine

Price on writing: £12.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 19p | Number of washes: 52 | Litres: 1.8L | Brand: Lenor | Format: Liquid | Scent: Adam and Siam Wood | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Scent 

Reasons to buy 

  • Highly-recommended by Mumsnet users 
  • Mrs Hinch approved 
  • Long-lasting freshness and softness for fabrics
  • Gorgeously smelling fragrant 
  • Reduces static cling and wrinkles
  • Lasts up to 52 washes
  • Plant-based (80%) 
  • Dermatologically tested
  • 0% dye 

Reasons to avoid 

What Mumsnet users say 

“I find the same and I've had many washing machines over the years. I can smell [the fabric softener] when I bring the wet clothes out the machine but once they are dry I don't smell anything. Then I tried Lenor Sunshine Burst. It has a lovely scent that lasts for ages.” PivotPivotPivottt

"Yellow lenor is all time fave." TicTacHoh

"Lenor yellow one and gold orchid both lovely" Feeellostindirection

Our verdict

Favourite features? With Lenor's Burst of Sunshine Fabric Conditioner, you can breathe in the fresh scent of summer, no matter the season. When you use this fabric softener, all your clothes, bed sheets, and towels can enjoy the soft freshness and warm fragrances of linden blossom and calendula flowers with subtle notes of amber and Siam wood for up to a week.

Although it can't compete with the 240 washes of Fairy Fabric Softener, we love that the Lenor Burst of Sunshine offers long-lasting freshness and softness for your fabrics and helps reduce wrinkles and static cling, making clothes easier to iron. Lenor also prides itself on reducing damage to clothes by protecting the fabric from stretching, colour-fade and bobbling.  Dermatologically tested, its plant-based formula has 0% dyes, making it kind to sensitive skin, too!

4. Best vegan fabric softener: Ecozone Simple and Fresh Fabric Conditioner

A picture of the Ecozone Fabric Conditioner.

Price on writing: £4.17 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 11p | Number of washes: 37 | Litres: 1L | Brand: Ecozone | Format: Liquid | Scent: Fresh | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: Vegan-friendly, Approved by Allergy UK

Reasons to buy 

  • Vegan-friendly 
  • Cruelty-free (Approved by PETA) 
  • Suitable for sensitive skin - Allergy UK approved 
  • Boasts long-lasting freshness
  • Four fragrances to choose from (naturally sourced)

Reasons to avoid 

  • The one-litre bottle can only do up to 37 washes

What Mumsnet users say 

“We use Ecozone Bio Laundry Liquid with their tallow-free fabric softener.” SimonJT

Our verdict

Favourite features? This vegan-friendly and cruelty-free fabric conditioner by Ecozone is an eco-friendly alternative to some of the household brands on this list. It is free from synthetic dyes, petrochemicals and tallow, which is rendered animal fat. Ecozone’s brand focuses on using only natural plant extract ingredients in their products, which means you can feel good about yourself whilst keeping the fibres of your clothes feeling smooth and soft.

We love that the Ecozone Simple and Fresh Fabric Conditioner is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, as it’s allergy-friendly and approved by Allergy UK. Complimented by a sweet floral scent, this bottle of fabric conditioner is not as cost-effective as it only lasts up to 37 washes weighing in at 11p per wash.

5. Best fabric softener for sensitive skin: Surcare Fabric Conditioner

Surcare Fabric Conditioner

Price on writing: £1.50 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 7p | Number of washes: 21 | Litres: 750ml | Brand: Surcare | Format: Liquid | Scent: Fragrance-Free | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: Vegan-friendly, Fragrance Free, Allergy UK approved 

Reasons to buy 

  • Suitable for babies, children and those with sensitive skin
  • Unscented fabric conditioner
  • Has the Allergy UK Seal of Approval
  • Protects colours
  • Concentrated cleaning power

Reasons to avoid 

  • Only last for up to 21 washes

What Mumsnet users say 

"I have used Surcare for years on and off for DD2 and DS1, both of whom are allergic types - DS1's skin is v sensitive - I stopped for a while but despite only using Persil non-bio liquid his flared up so am back to Surcare laundry liquid and Surcare fabric rinse and it does seem to make a diff, ie he tells me when he's itchy and doesn't when he isn't (he's 15)." Janh

"It is very good! Clothes feel very soft and smell lovely." hayley013 

"It had a very pleasant smell and left our clothes feeling lovely and soft." Emilylouise23

Our verdict

Favourite features?

Surcare has dedicated 30 years to providing products with 0% fragrance, enzymes, acids and dyes to guarantee that their formulas are kind to your skin. Stamped with the Allergy UK Seal of Approval, this is a brand you can trust and comes highly recommended by Mumsnet users. 

Surcare Fabric Conditioner is considered one of the best products for sensitive skin on the Mumsnet forums, and that’s because Surcare understands and actively combats skin irritation whilst providing a product with plenty of cleaning power that leaves fabrics feeling soft. While one 750ml bottle will only last for up to 21 washes, we like that this conditioner protects the fibres and colours of your clothes. As well as being kind to you and your family’s skin, this product is also free from animal testing. 

6. Best eco-friendly fabric softener: Ecover Fabric Softener

Ecover Fabric Softener

Price on writing: £9.89 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 5p | Number of washes: 166 | Litres: 5L | Brand: Ecover | Format: Liquid | Scent: Apple and Almond | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: Palm oil free, vegan-friendly, dermatologically tested 

Reasons to buy 

  • Palm oil-free 
  • Bottle can be recycled
  • Made from plant-based and mineral ingredients only
  • Lasts up to 166 washes
  • Dermatologically tested 
  • Three fragrances to choose from including Zero fragrance 

Reasons to avoid 

  • Fragrance doesn’t last that long
  • Bought by Johnson and Johnson

What Mumsnet users say 

“l got some Ecover as a stop-gap and I’m liking it so far.” NorthSouthcatlady

"I'm not sure about Ecover laundry liquid but I use the Ecover fabric softener, which seems to be fine for my kids who have severe eczema." CinnamonStix

Our verdict

Favourite features? Worried about your carbon footprint and want to be more eco-friendly? Then this five-litre Ecover Fabric Softener refill pack is the ideal option. Choose between three different fragrances, including this Apple Blossom and Almond scent, or even pick their zero fragrance option, perfect for sensitive skin. It is dermatologically tested, vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, too. 

However, surely one of the best features of this fabric softener this refill softener can last up to 166 washes and uses 27% less plastic (compared to the equivalent of three bottles you’d need for that many washes) thanks to its large 100% recycled bottle. This product naturally softens all fabrics and adds a sweet-smelling freshness to your clothes. Made from plant-based and mineral ingredients (with no palm oil), this fabric softener cares for your skin, clothes and the environment.

7. Best luxurious scented fabric conditioner: Lenor Gold Orchid Fabric Conditioner

Lenor Gold Orchid Fabric Conditioner

Price on writing: £7.95 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 7p| Number of washes: 52 | Litres: 1.82L| Brand: Lenor | Format: Liquid | Scent: Vanilla, Mimosa, Honey and Rose | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Stunning scent 

Reasons to buy 

  • Highly-recommended Fabric Conditioner by Mumsnetters
  • Clothes retain the Lenor scent for up to a week
  • Lasts up to 52 washes (larger bottles also available)
  • Reduces static cling, stretching, colour fading and wrinkles

Reasons to avoid 

  • May produce an allergic reaction

What Mumsnet users say 

“We switch between different fabric softeners as I've found we get used to the smell of them. At the moment it's Lenor Gold Orchid which is lovely. I usually switch between blue Lenor and whatever is on offer.” RatherLostPenguins

"Lenor gold orchid. Absolutely love it!" Plump82

"Lenor gold orchid here too. I've had guests ask me for the name of it as they think it smells so good." Bakingdiva 

Our verdict

Favourite features? One bottle of Lenor Gold Orchid Fabric Conditioner lasts for up to 52 washes, while the divine scent of vanilla with a subtle blend of Mimosa, honey rose accords and peach makes clothes smell fresh for up to a week. So, many Mumsnetters said that it was love at first smell with this conditioner! 

Not only will your clothes and fabrics smell beautiful, but they’ll also be softer, easier to iron, have fewer wrinkles and benefit from a decreased static cling. As with all Lenor fabric conditioning products, you can also expect fabric protection against stretching and colour fading. We also like the ergonomic bottle design complete with a non-drip spout and a measuring cap, making it easier to measure, pour and fling it in with a load of washing.  

8. Best fabric softener for babies: Attitude Fabric Softener

Attitude Fabric Softener

Price on writing: £11.68 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 27p | Number of washes: 40 | Litres: 1L | Brand: Attitude | Format: Liquid | Scent: Unscented | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: Fragrance-free, non-toxic, dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic, Vegan-friendly

Reasons to buy 

  • Safe for babies and those with sensitive skin
  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Biodegradable 
  • Best for those who prefer unscented fabric conditioner 

Reasons to avoid 

  • Only last for up to 40 washes
  • The thick liquid that can get stuck in washing dispenser

What Mumsnet users say 

“All supermarket own-brand laundry stuff has been cruelty-free for years. The Co-op was the first to adopt it… If you want eco-friendly too, or just don’t fancy own-brand, then Bio D and Attitude are both good. And both are vegan.” YouGotThisKeepGoing

Our verdict

Favourite features? Your baby’s skin is delicate and, as such, you need to ensure your fabric softener doesn’t irritate their skin. That’s why we recommend Attitude Fabric Softener. This vegan-friendly product was specifically designed with babies in mind and only uses plant and mineral-based ingredients to ensure no harsh chemicals are irritating your little one’s skin and to ensure you aren’t harming the environment. 

The dermatologically-tested, hypoallergenic and non-toxic ingredients contain no dyes, harsh chemicals, parabens or fragrances but still ensure that your baby’s clothes are soft and fresh with little to no static cling. A one-litre bottle of Attitude can last for up to 40 cold-water washes, but you might find that it runs out quickly depending on how many washes you need to do a week.

9. Best natural fabric softener: Method Tropical Coconut Fabric Conditioner

Method Tropical Coconut Fabric Conditioner

Price on writing: £3.38 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 10p | Number of washes: 45 | Litres: 1.58L | Brand: Method | Format: Liquid | Scent: Tropical Coconut | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Vegan-friendly, recyclable plastic

Reasons to buy 

  • Made from natural ingredients
  • Smells of luscious tropical coconut
  • Available in two other fragrances (Ocean Violet and Pink Fressia)

Reasons to avoid 

  • More expensive then other brands 
  • Bought by Johnson and Johnson 

What Mumsnet users say 

“I have tried to be more environmentally-friendly for a few years, but it’s not always possible. I use Method washing liquid, fabric softener and cleaning products.” Raisinandcheese

"I love the purple method one" TunnelOfGoats

Our verdict

Favourite features? Give your nose the holiday smells it longs for with the Method Tropical Coconut Fabric Conditioner featuring a combination of exotic pineapple, coconut, red berries, cedarwood and vanilla. Available in two other scents, you'll have everyone asking you what products you're using! 

Made from 100% natural ingredients, this fabric softener is kind to your family’s skin and the environment, as well as cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. Every bottle is 100% recycled and can last up to 45 washes. Think huggably soft clothes for you and the whole family. The only downside is that it is more expensive then other competitive brands, so be prepared to factor that into your budget. 

10. Best hypoallergenic fabric softener: Pure Comfort Fabric Conditioner

Pure Comfort Fabric Conditioner

Price on writing: £6.18 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Cost per wash: 3p | Number of washes: 166 | Litres: 5L | Brand: Comfort | Format: Liquid | Scent: fresh citrus | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: British Skin Foundation Accredited, hypoallergenic, #1 for sensitive skin 

Reasons to buy 

  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested
  • Lasts up to 166 washes
  • Suitable for the whole family, including babies
  • Voted #1 for sensitive skin 
  • British Skin Foundation Accredited 

Reasons to avoid 

What Mumsnet users say 

“Comfort Pure or Fairy. Only ones I've found that don't set off my eczema.” Tomorrowisanewday

"Comfort baby in the white bottle" ToMockAKillingBird 

"Comfort Pure - it has a picture of a baby on the front. It's lovely." Maireas

Our verdict

Favourite features? Developed using skincare research recognised by the British Skin Foundation, the five-litre hypoallergenic Pure Comfort Fabric Conditioner is ideal for families with sensitive skin. Voted #1, it's been dermatologically tested to ensure its ingredients are kind to your skin, including your baby's! 

This conditioner also softens clothes, smooths fibres, reduces wrinkles and leaves fabrics smelling clean and fresh. Using the recommended 35ml of conditioner per wash, you can expect to get 166 washes out of this bottle, making it incredibly cost-effective. 

Is fabric softener the same as fabric conditioner?

No, fabric softeners aren’t the same as fabric conditioners; although fabric softeners and fabric conditioners are two terms used interchangeably, they do have different functions and purposes. 

Fabric softeners soften your clothes, improve their feel, and make them smell better (which can be optional as some are fragrance-free). Fabric conditioners reduce static cling, minimise colour fading, reduce the snagging and stretching of fabrics, and some also contain a fragrance.

Clothes that feel stiff after washing and drying need fabric softeners, while fabrics that feel static or need protection against stretching and discolouration need a fabric conditioner.

When should I not use fabric softener/conditioner?

It’s recommended that you don't use fabric softener on these fabrics

  •  Flame-resistant clothing (such as children's sleepwear or baby clothes): Fabric softener reduces the flame-resistant coating on clothes, increasing flammability. 
  • Microfiber/Towels: It can reduce the absorbency of certain fabric types.
  • Wool or cashmere: Unless using a special fabric softener, wool and cashmere can reduce the natural feel of these fabrics. 
  • Sportswear/Water-repellent fabric: It can alter the fibres and reduce the coating that makes them waterproof or sweat-wicking. 

How do I choose the best fabric softener?

  • Type: Some fabric softeners and conditioners only use natural ingredients, while others are purely chemical. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and it comes down to personal preference when choosing the right one. 

Natural fabric softeners are gentle on fabrics, better for the environment, and more subtle in their scent. However, they may be more expensive.

Chemical fabric softeners are often strongly scented (ideal for those who want fragranced fabrics) and are often cheaper due to being manufactured by larger companies. However, it’s worth noting that chemical softeners can reduce the absorbency of towels.

  • Skin type - Another consideration when buying a fabric softener or conditioner is your and your family’s skin. People and families with sensitive skin should opt for hypoallergenic products that have been dermatologically tested to minimise the risk of skin irritation.
  • Size: Fabric softeners and conditioners come in a variety of different sizes. If your family does a lot of washing, larger bottles or refill packs will be more economical. It’s also a good idea to buy in bulk as some retailers offer cheaper deals for the more products you buy, and fabric softeners don’t have a best-before date.
  • Scent: There are plenty of different fragrances to choose from, including apple blossom, coconut or vanilla. When selecting a softener, think about your favourite scents and find a fabric softener with those ingredients. Alternatively, you might prefer a fragrance-free option.
  • Price: Price is another important consideration; you might save money when buying larger bottles or bulk. Natural fabric softeners are often more expensive than ones containing chemicals, but harsh chemicals could irritate the skin.

Which fabric softener scent lasts the longest?

We recommend getting a chemical-based softener if you’re all about the scent and want a strong-smelling fabric softener. These fabric softeners often have stronger scents that last longer. For example, Lenor fabric softeners and conditioners can last up to a week after an item of clothing has been washed.

How much fabric softener should I use? 

Every brand has different washing guidelines and instructions, which you should follow to ensure you get the most from your fabric softener. These instructions are often on the bottle, and remember to avoid using it on specific fabrics. 

What happens when you use too much fabric softener?

Using too much fabric softener can damage your clothes and fabrics and leave a residue that won’t wash off, which, in turn, can attract more dirt. Using too much fabric softener can also turn whites grey and clog up your washing machine.

What is the best fabric softener? 

The best fabric softener to buy is the Fairy Fabric Softener. Safe for the whole family, it’s hypoallergenic and has been dermatologically tested, which means it shouldn't irritate your skin. It also keeps your clothes feeling soft and smelling fresh for days.

We love that this fabric softener helps to reduce static cling and has a soft floral scent. And who doesn’t love buying a big bottle of fabric softener that can last for up to 240 washes? That should see you through a few months of washing, at least.

What can be the best alternative to fabric softeners? 

Whether you've been looking for a fabric softener that works for you or you simply want to spend less money on one, some alternatives can help soften your clothing. Some you can try include: 

Just remember that these won't improve the smell of your laundry, they just help to soften the fibres!

How we chose our recommendations 

Mumsnetter recommendations 

We spent hours scrolling through our Mumsnet forums to find the best fabric softeners that are reliable, practical and effective at softening your clothes and giving them that fresh laundry smell that we all long for. Many of these fabric softeners have been tried, tested and rated by Mumsnet users, which is why you can be sure that these products work.

Expert opinions 

We then cross-referenced our long list using consumer and product comparison websites in search of award-winning, accredited, and repeatedly recommended fabric softeners. 

Verified customer reviews

Finally, we checked the consumer reviews on our shortlist, ensuring we prioritised those with the most 5* ratings and positive reviews. 

Celebrated fabric conditioners 

Our triple-check verification process left us with an honest, balanced and up-to-date guide to the best fabric softeners loved by parents, praised by experts and endorsed by customers.

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more of the insightful articles you love, like this one.