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Best fabric softeners and conditioners to keep clothes smelling fresh in 2024

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 Feb 6, 2024

best 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 the best fabric conditioner can be an essential addition to your family’s laundry load.

Everybody knows that the best laundry detergents, whether powder, liquid or pods, lift stains and kill bacteria. However, you might not know that every time you wash your clothes in your washing machine or tumble dryer, you could damage the fabric leading to faded colours, smelly odours and itchy, rough clothes. Hence why choosing the best fabric softener can be so important. 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.

So, how do you choose the best fabric conditioner for your family? Whether you’re looking to be more environmentally friendly or your children have sensitive skin, we have one to suit every budget, fabric and skin type. And just like all of our Mumsnet Swears By articles, from the best steam irons to the best washer dryer, each fabric softener has been subjected to our rigorous triple-check vetting process. By listening to the views and authentic recommendations of our 10 million Mumsnetters and cross-referencing them against the opinions of trusted experts and the ratings of verified customers, we guarantee that our guide to the best fabric softeners is balanced, honest and reliable.

For recommendations you can trust, here are the best fabric softeners UK 2024.

You may also want to check out our guides to the best integrated washing machines, best dehumidifiers, best fabric softeners, best laundry baskets, best rotary washing lines and best clothes pegs to help meet all your laundry needs.

The best fabric softeners: At a glance

  • Best fabric softener overall: Fairy Fabric Softener | Buy now

  • Best budget fabric softener: Surcare Fabric Conditioner | Buy now

  • Best smelling fabric softener: Lenor Burst of Sunshine | Buy now

  • Best vegan-friendly fabric softener: Ecozone Simple and Fresh Fabric Conditioner | Buy now

  • Best eco-friendly fabric softener: Ecover Fabric Softener | Buy now

Best fabric softener overall
What we like
  • Voted #1 Fabric Softener for Sensitive Skin

  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested

  • Lasts up to 240 washes and leaves behind a refreshing floral scent

  • Less plastic waste (due to the bottle’s large capacity)

What we don't like
  • Bottle is large, so contents can be difficult to pour and may cause spillages

Key specs

Cost per wash: 8p | Number of washes: 240 | Litres: 4.8L | Brand: Fairy | Format: Gel | Scent: Floral | Skin type: Sensitive-safe | Feature: Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested

What Mumsnet users say
Frozenintime · Tried & Tested
Just bought some Fairy gel. Used with Fairy fabric conditioner, and it smells amazing. The house smells so nice now.
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dementedpixie · Recommended
I like the smell and that the clothes aren't as crispy. I like the Fairy white one.
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Our verdict

Fairy Fabric Softener, when paired with Fairy non-bio laundry detergent (which you can find in our guide to the best laundry detergents for babies), reminds many Mums of those lovely, cuddly newborn days. From baby grows to bed sheets, parents across our Mumsnet forums trust Fairy to leave their laundry sweetly scented and huggably soft, which is why as our most recommended product, it secured the top spot as the best fabric softener.

Voted the #1 brand for sensitive skin, it is dermatologically tested and accredited by the Skin Health Alliance (meaning the experts trust it, too!). Maybe that’s why Mumsnetters still recommend Fairy’s hypoallergenic formula for allergy and eczema sufferers. Kind to skin, and your purse, it comes in a large 4.8L bottle that can last up to 240 washes, so it’ll last for ages and helps to reduce your monthly supermarket bill. Just be careful with pouring it into your washing machine's detergent drawer, as it is unwieldy, and spillages can happen.

Read next: The best vacuum storage bags for storing clothes

Best budget fabric softener
What we like
  • Suitable for babies, children and those with sensitive skin

  • Unscented fabric conditioner that reduces irritation

  • Has the Allergy UK Seal of Approval, no fragrance, acidity, enzymes or dyes

What we don't like
  • Only lasts for up to 21 washes

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

What Mumsnet users say
PuffTheMagicDragon · Tried & Tested
We're a Surcare household - both the washing powder and softener. My son has had no problems with his eczema since I started using it when he was five months old. His eczema was not very severe though, but it was troublesome.
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Our verdict

Surcare has dedicated the last 30 years to providing products that are, first and foremost, kind to your skin. With 0% fragrance, enzymes, acids or dyes, they’ve earned themselves an Allergy UK accreditation and the hard-won seal of approval from Mumsnetters across the forums.

Accepted as the best producer of products for sensitive skin, Surcare’s Fabric Conditioner has taken extra care with the ingredients they use to ensure they don’t irritate the skin and leave your clothes feeling soft. Mumsnet users regularly recommend it for adults and children suffering from eczema and notice considerable improvement after making the switch. The only downside is that a bottle only lasts for 21 washes, which means that any medium-sized household will need to buy in bulk. That said, at only £1.50, it is affordably priced!

Read next: Best lint remover and fabric shavers to get rid of lint, hair and bobbles from clothing

Best smelling fabric softener
What we like
  • Mrs Hinch approved

  • Long-lasting softness and gorgeous fragrance

  • Reduces static cling and wrinkles

What we don't like
  • The strong fragrance might irritate sensitive skin

Key specs

Cost per wash: 29p | Number of washes: 52 | Litres: 1.8L | Brand: Lenor | Format: Liquid | Scent: Amber and Siam Wood | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Stunning scent

What Mumsnet users say
PivotPivotPivottt · Tried & Tested
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 of the machine, but once they are dry, I don't smell anything. Then I tried Lenor Burst of Sunshine. It has a lovely scent that lasts for ages.
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Our verdict

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 (you won't even need your best clothes steamer). Our only recommendation is that if your skin is sensitive to strong fragrances, you might want to do a little test before you commit to the change. That said, it is dermatologically tested and made from plant-based ingredients that contain 0% dyes.

Read next: Best tumble dryer balls for fast and efficient clothes drying

Best vegan fabric softener

Ecozone Simple and Fresh Fabric Conditioner

What we like
  • It is vegan-friendly and cruelty-free

  • Suitable for sensitive skin - Allergy UK approved

  • Four fragrances to choose from (naturally sourced)

What we don't like
  • The one-litre bottle can only do up to 37 washes

Key specs

Cost per wash: 12p | Number of washes: 37 | Litres: 1L | Brand: Ecozone | Format: Liquid | Scent: Fresh | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: Vegan-friendly, Approved by Allergy UK

What Mumsnet users say
SimonJT · Tried & Tested
We use Ecozone Bio Laundry Liquid with their tallow-free fabric softener.
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Our verdict

Ecozone's vegan-friendly and cruelty-free fabric conditioner is the perfect eco-friendly alternative, much like the best rotary washing lines and a set of clothes pegs are to tumble dryers. 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, the only bump in the road is that it is not as cost-effective as other options, as it only lasts up to 37 washes (which might not be enough for a family of four!).

Read next: Best budget dehumidifiers: keep your home damp-free for under £100

Best eco-friendly fabric softener
What we like
  • Cost-effective and kind to the environment for guilt-free cleaning

  • Palm oil-free, plant-based and mineral ingredients only

  • Lasts up to 166 washes and is refillable

  • Three fragrances to choose from, including Zero fragrance

What we don't like
  • Fragrance doesn’t last that long

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

What Mumsnet users say
Cinnamonstix · Recommended
I use the Ecover fabric softener, which seems to be fine for my kids who have severe eczema.
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Our verdict

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.

Read next: For other ways to make your laundry routine more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, check out our guide to the best heated clothes airer, the best dehumidifiers and the best water softeners

Best fabric softener for a luxurious scent
What we like
  • Beautiful fragrance that lasts on clothes for up to a week

  • Reduces static cling, stretching, colour fading and wrinkles (cutting down your ironing pile)

  • Plant-based formula in a recyclable bottle, kind to skin and the environment

What we don't like
  • Strong fragrances can be irritating to sensitive skin

Key specs

Cost per wash: 17p| Number of washes: 48 | Litres: 1.82L| Brand: Lenor | Format: Liquid | Scent: Vanilla, Mimosa, Honey and Rose | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Stunning scent

What Mumsnet users say
Plump82 · Tried & Tested
Lenor gold orchid. Absolutely love it!
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Bakingdiva · Recommended
Lenor gold orchid here too. I've had guests ask me for the name of it as they think it smells so good.
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Our verdict

One bottle of Lenor Gold Orchid Fabric Conditioner lasts up to 48 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 their bottle is recyclable and that their ingredients are plant-based, making it kind to skin and the environment.

Read next: Best ironing boards to keep clothes smooth and wrinkle-free

Best fabric softener for babies
What we like
  • Safe for babies and those with sensitive skin

  • Hypoallergenic, vegan-friendly and dermatologically tested

  • Best for those who prefer unscented fabric conditioner

What we don't like
  • It's a thick liquid that can get stuck in the washing dispenser

Key specs

Cost per wash: 30p | 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

What Mumsnet users say
YouGotThisKeepGoing · Tried & Tested
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.
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Our verdict

For parents with an overflowing laundry basket filled with babygrows and romper suits, picking a fabric softener that is kind to your baby’s delicate skin can be mired with conflicting advice and hidden chemicals, which is why we're recommending Attitude's Fabric Softener. This vegan-friendly product was specifically designed with babies in mind and only used plant and mineral-based ingredients to ensure their formula is non-toxic and suitable for their skin.

The dermatologically-tested, hypoallergenic and chemical-free list of ingredients contains no dyes, parabens or fragrances but still ensures 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.

Read next: For de-clogging your washing machine and cleaning away the gunk, check out our guide to the best washing machine cleaners and the best mould removers.

Best natural fabric softener
What we like
  • Smells of luscious tropical coconut for a gorgeous summer scent

  • Available in two other fragrances (Ocean Violet and Pink Fressia)

  • Natural ingredients in a recyclable bottle, kind to the environment

What we don't like
  • More expensive than other brands

Key specs

Cost per wash: 18p | Number of washes: 45 | Litres: 1.58L | Brand: Method | Format: Liquid | Scent: Tropical Coconut | Skin type: Normal | Feature: Vegan-friendly, recyclable plastic

What Mumsnet users say
Raisinandcheese · Tried & Tested
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.
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Our verdict

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 summery-smelling, super soft clothes for you and the whole family.

Best hypoallergenic fabric softener
What we like
  • Hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested and accredited by the British Skin Foundation

  • Gentle on the skin and your clothes, leaving behind a delicate fragrance

  • Cost-effective sized bottle, lasting 166 washes

What we don't like
Key specs

Cost per wash: 9p | Number of washes: 166 | Litres: 5L | Brand: Comfort | Format: Liquid | Scent: Fresh citrus | Skin type: Sensitive | Feature: British Skin Foundation Accredited, hypoallergenic

What Mumsnet users say
Tomorrowisanewday · Tried & Tested
Comfort Pure or Fairy. Only ones I've found that doesn't set off my eczema.
See Post
Maireas · Recommended
Comfort Pure - it has a picture of a baby on the front. It's lovely.
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Our verdict

Comfort is the OG when it comes to fabric conditioners, having been taking care of the nation's clothes and skin for 50 years. Developed using skincare research recognised by the British Skin Foundation, the five-litre hypoallergenic Comfort Pure Fabric Conditioner is ideal for families with sensitive skin.

Dermatologically tested to ensure its ingredients are kind to your and your baby's skin, it leaves behind a fresh citrus scent you're sure to love. 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 166 washes out of this bottle, making it incredibly cost-effective, which we love under the current cost of living crisis.

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, which 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 various 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 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.