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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? Possibly not. But how do you get your old clothes feeling brand-new again? The answer is simple - just add fabric softener to your washing machine. Discover our favourite fabric softeners below and breathe life back into your clothes.

By Hannah Wilson | Last updated Jan 5, 2022

Woman using fabric softener

Isn’t it remarkable just how much washing you do in a week? A never-ending pile of dirty clothes that need to be washed is a familiar scene for most parents. That’s why it’s important to find laundry products that are right for you and your family.

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Everybody knows that washing powders and liquids help to clean clothes and bed sheets. But what you might not know is that every time you wash your clothes and sheets, you could be damaging the fabric. Damaged fabrics could lead to faded colours, smelly odours or even a loss of softness.

Fabric softeners are one of those magical cleaning products that can 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’ve searched the Mumsnet forums and trusted consumer websites to bring you the very best fabric softeners. 

Here are 10 best fabric softeners and conditioners that you should try this year.

1. Best overall fabric softener: Fairy Fabric Softener

Fairy Fabric Softener

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

“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

Fairy is a much-loved cleaning brand for many households, and this hypoallergenic gel fabric softener is no different. When we took to the Mumsnet forums, we discovered that many of our users love just how soft and fluffy this fabric softener makes their clothes. 

We like that the floral-scented Fairy Fabric Softener is both dermatologically tested and hypoallergenic tested. This means that it won’t irritate sensitive skin, which is ideal for those who suffer from allergies or eczema. And if you need something to reduce the static cling of your fabrics then this fabric softener is also a great choice. 

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.

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested
  • Lasts up to 240 washes
  • Refreshing floral scent
  • Less plastic waste (due to the bottle’s large capacity)

Cons

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

2. Best budget fabric softener: Asevi Talco Rosa Fabric Softener

Asevi Talca Rosa Fabric Softener

Price: £3 | Buy now from Amazon

“Asevi Talca Rosa is gorgeous. It smells like baby powder. It’s a Spanish one.” Whenigrowupiwanttobea

The rose-scented Asevi Talco Rosa Fabric Softener comes in liquid form and is an absolute bargain. Not only does it offer the ultimate softness for your clothes, but it also locks in a luscious smell of roses and talcum powder, with no harsh chemical undertones, to help keep your clothes smelling fresher for longer.

Asevi Fabric Softener is hypoallergenic and has been dermatologically tested to minimise the risk of skin allergies or irritations. One bottle can last up to 60 washes, which means you can enjoy the softness and gorgeous fragrance for at least a month (depending on how messy your family is). 

Pros

  • Luscious rose-scented fabric softener
  • Excellent value for money
  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested

Cons

  • Not strongly scented

3. Best smelling fabric softener: Lenor Burst of Sunshine

Lenor Burst of Sunshine

Price: £9.96 | Buy now from Amazon

“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

Breathe in the fresh scent of summer, no matter what season it is, with Lenor Burst of Sunshine Fabric Conditioner. When you use this fabric softener, all of 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.

We love that the Lenor Burst of Sunshine not only offers long-lasting freshness and softness for your fabrics but it also helps to reduce wrinkles and static cling, and makes clothes easier to iron. Clothes that go through the wash multiple times can also benefit from the fabric protection that this conditioner provides, which means your clothes won’t stretch, fade or go bobbly as quickly.

Pros

  • Long-lasting freshness and softness for fabrics
  • Gorgeously smelling fragrant 
  • Reduces static cling and wrinkles
  • Lasts up to 52 washes

Cons

  • Can increase fabric flammability
  • May produce an allergic reaction

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

Ecozone Simple and Fresh Fabric Conditioner

Price: £3.98 | Buy now from Amazon

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

This vegan-friendly and cruelty-free fabric conditioner by Ecozone contains no tallow, which is rendered animal fat. It’s also free from synthetic dyes and harsh petrochemicals, as it uses only natural plant extract ingredients that keep 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. Complimented by a sweet floral scent, this bottle of fabric conditioner lasts up to 37 washes. But there are three other fragrances to try if you’re not a fan of floral scents.  

Pros

  • Vegan-friendly - free from synthetic dyes, petrochemicals and tallow 
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Boasts long-lasting freshness
  • Four fragrances to choose from

Cons

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

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

Surcare Fabric Conditioner

Price: £7.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“Tried Oilatum, aqueous cream etc with no improvement at all when DD was a baby. The ONLY thing that made any difference for her was switching to a non-perfumed non-bio laundry liquid and fabric conditioner. Surcare was the only brand available then.” ElvisPresleysSideburns

Surcare Fabric Conditioner is the best fabric softener for sensitive skin as it contains no fragrances, dyes, acids or enzymes. Surcare is a brand that understands skin irritation, which is why their dermatologically-approved, fragrance-free softener is gentle on the skin, but still 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. 

Pros

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

Cons

  • Only last for up to 21 washes

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

Ecover Fabric Softener

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

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

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. With a sweet apple blossom and almond fragrance, this refill softener can last up to 166 washes and uses 27% less plastic (compared to the equivalent three bottles you’d need for that many washes) thanks to its large 100% recycled bottle.

As well as adding a sweet-smelling freshness to your clothes, this product also naturally softens all fabrics. Made from plant-based and mineral ingredients (with no palm oil), this fabric softener cares for your skin, your clothes and the environment. 

Pros

  • Bottle can be recycled
  • Made from plant-based and mineral ingredients only
  • Lasts up to 166 washes

Cons

  • Fragrance doesn’t last that long

7. Best scented fabric softener: Lenor Gold Orchid Fabric Conditioner

Lenor Gold Orchid Fabric Conditioner

Price: £3 | Buy now from Tesco

“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

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. 

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.  

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • May produce an allergic reaction

8. Best fabric softener for babies: Attitude Fabric Softener

Attitude Fabric Softener

Price: £10.14 | Buy now from Amazon

“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

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.

Pros

  • Safe for babies and those with sensitive skin
  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested
  • Vegan-friendly

Cons

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

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

Method Tropical Coconut Fabric Conditioner

Price: £3.33 | Buy now from Amazon

“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

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. 

Made from 100% natural ingredients, this fabric softener is also kind to your family’s skin and the environment, as well as being cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. Every bottle is 100% recycled and can last up to 45 washes. And, as a bonus, you can also try other gorgeously scented softeners in the Method range.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Only offers a subtle scent on fabrics

10. Best hypoallergenic fabric softener: Pure Comfort Fabric Conditioner

Pure Comfort Fabric Conditioner

Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon

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

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. 

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. 

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested
  • Lasts up to 166 washes
  • Suitable for the whole family, including babies

Cons

  • Contains benzisothiazolone, which may produce an allergic reaction

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 that are used interchangeably, they do have different functions and purposes. 

Fabric softeners soften your clothes, improve the way they 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.

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 their advantages and disadvantages, and it comes down to personal preference when choosing the right for you. 

Natural fabric softeners are gentle on fabrics, better for the environment and are 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. Those with sensitive skin should opt for hypoallergenic products. Families with sensitive skin should also buy 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 and scents to choose from, including apple blossom, coconut or vanilla. When choosing a softener, think about your favourite scents and then find a fabric softener with those ingredients. Alternatively, you might prefer a fragrance-free option.
  • Price: As already mentioned, price is another important consideration, and you might save money when buying larger bottles or when buying in bulk. Often natural fabric softeners are more expensive than ones that contain chemicals, but harsh chemicals could irritate the skin.

Which fabric softener scent lasts the longest?

If you’re all about the scent and want a strong-smelling fabric softener, then we recommend getting a chemical-based 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 should be followed to ensure you get the most from your fabric softener. These instructions are often on the bottle. 

Remember that towels can lose their absorbency, and sweat-resistant sportswear can lose its absorbing qualities, after being washed with too much fabric softener, so you may want to consider putting these garments in a wash without fabric softener.

What happens when you use too much fabric softener?

Using too much fabric softener can damage your clothes and fabrics. It can leave residue on your clothes 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 to it. 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.

How we chose our 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 are rated by Mumsnet users, which is why you can be sure that these products actually work.

As well as visiting the Mumsnet forums, we also researched the best fabric softeners using trusted consumer websites and review sites to find the very best clothing conditioners for most families.

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Why you should trust us 

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