When you buy a quality fabric softener, they do much more than help your clothes smell fresh. You should expect better products to be able to protect your clothes, ensuring they last longer before the colors fade or a jumper starts to bobble. By softening them, they also prevent stretching the item so there are plenty of reasons to make sure you buy a quality fabric softener.
The worst brands can have the opposite effect but it can be hard to tell the best from the rest. This is why we have created the following list of the best fabric softeners on the market. Each one has a pleasant scent that lasts and protects your clothes. Of course, every softener out there makes these promises, but these are the ones that deliver.
- Editor’s Choice
Bounce Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets, Outdoor Fresh, 240 Count (Amazon) – Review
- Best Hypoallergenic
Downy Ultra Fabric Softener Free and Gentle Liquid 150 Loads, 129-Ounce (Amazon) – Review
- Best Natural
Vaska Exceptional Fabric Softener, 42 Ounce (Amazon) – Review
- Best Scentless
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Fabric Softener Bottle, Honeysuckle Scent, 32 Fluid Ounce (Amazon) – Review
- Best Value
Gain Liquid Fabric Softener, Original (Amazon) – Review
- Best Scent Booster Beads
Downy in-wash Scent Booster Beads, Cool Cotton (Amazon) – Review
- Also Consider (Best Value)
Method Fabric Softener, Beach Sage, 53.5 Ounce, 45 Loads (4 Count) (Amazon) – Review
Editor’s Choice: Bounce Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets, Outdoor Fresh, 240 Count
The best fabric softener comes in the form of the quality fabric softener sheets and most people are no stranger to this. product. They can be used in the dryer to add a pleasant scent to your freshly dried clothes and help to reduce static cling in fabrics.
You get 240 in a box which is plenty for many loads and most of the time, you will only need to use one sheet although you can double up if you are drying a lot in one go. They freshen and soften clothes at the same time whilst reducing wrinkles. Anyone with pets might find these useful since they also repel pet hair, leaving you with soft clothes and a clean scent.
- Easy to use
- 240 sheets in a pack
- Reduces static cling
- Repels pet hair
Best Hypoallergenic: Downy Ultra Fabric Softener Free and Gentle Liquid 150 Loads, 129-Ounce
This long-lasting fabric softener is great for families as not only is there enough for a massive 150 loads, but it is hypoallergenic and kinder on the skin than a lot of their other products. There are no dyes or perfumes to worry about in this formula making it gentler on clothes. Because of this, it infuses clothing with softness to make them feel better when you wear them.
It works against static cling and is even known to reduce wrinkles so you will have an easier job of making your work clothes look in top shape. Anyone with sensitive skin will be glad to know that it has been dermatologist tested and does a good job of lightly scenting your clothes without being overbearing.
- Dermatologist tested for sensitive skin
- Good value
- No dyes or perfumes
- Reduces static cling
- Sometimes needs to be shaken due to the thickness
Best Natural: Vaska Exceptional Fabric Softener, 42 Ounce
If natural ingredients are important to you then this is the pick of the fabric softener bunch. It leaves no chemical residue as it softens clothes and as you might expect, it is not tested on animals. The pleasant lavender scent is on the subtle side which will suit a lot of tastes and it is fine to use with colors.
They use a blend of herbs and botanicals to naturally soften clothes meaning your skin and the materials will not be left with any damaging chemicals. It is a hypoallergenic option that seems to be fine on sensitive skin although everyone reacts differently. A quality product that works well in high-efficiency washing machines as well as standard washers.
- No chemical residue
- All-natural product
- Pleasant lavender scent
- Scent is not strong enough for some people
Best Scentless: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Fabric Softener Bottle, Honeysuckle Scent, 32 Fluid Ounce
The honeysuckle scent of this product makes it the best smelling fabric softener. It refreshes clothes whilst leaving them feeling soft on your skin but what also impresses is what it does not do. Mr. Meyer does not use phthalates, parabens, or ingredients derived from animals in this product and it is biodegradable.
Clothes have that fluffy feel when on after they have taken a spin with this fabric softener and you get a decent amount of uses from it in the 32 washes. It reduces static cling and the honeysuckle gives clothes that fruity, floral scent. The softening agents are derived from plant sources and it even includes essential oils.
- No parabens or other nasties
- Not tested on animals
- Pleasant honeysuckle scent
- No static cling
- Scent is not as long lasting
Best Value: Gain Liquid Fabric Softener, Original
For anyone on a budget, this fabric softener represents great value. The 4 x bottles will have your clothes smelling fresh for a long time, especially since each wash leaves the pleasant freshness for several weeks before you wear them. It is compatible with both standard washers and high-efficiency machines and softens clothes to leave them feeling great on your skin.
The scent is stronger than some of the other brands but there is significantly less static cling. Their description of the scent is lengthier than we might like with woody amber, orange blossom, and white floral jasmine mentioned among others but it certainly reminds us of springtime.
- 4 x bottles is great value
- Softens clothes with less static cling
- Pleasant scent
- Not as natural as other products
Best Scent Booster Beads: Downy in-wash Scent Booster Beads, Cool Cotton
The pleasant cool cotton smell of these scent booster beads stays with clothes for up to 12 weeks before wearing and although this product is not as useful for making clothes feel soft, it is still a useful way of making sure your clothes smell good. The beads disappear in the wash and are fine to use with any machine.
They come in a variety of scents and are best when combined with a softener or conditioner. The convenience of being able to throw a capful of beads in the wash to freshen things up is great and you can add more than usual for a bigger load.
- Smells great
- Easy to use
- Fine to use with any washing machine
- Not strictly a softener
Also Consider (Best Value): Method Fabric Softener, Beach Sage, 53.5 Ounce, 45 Loads (4 Count)
Because the ingredients are naturally derived, expect this product to be fine for most people with sensitive skin. Although it is not marketed this way, a lot of customers comment on how it did not irritate. The hypoallergenic formula is fine to use on both high-efficiency washers and the standard types and leaves laundry with a fresh scent and a soft feel.
It makes the thankless task of ironing easier so you can speed through a load and there is reduced static cling when washing your clothes with this naturally derived fabric softener. Its 100% recycled plastic bottle and never tested on animals promise sweetens the deal.
- Good value in the 4 pack
- Naturally derived ingredients
- 100% recycled plastic bottle
- Liquid is a bit thin so you might end up using a lot
Most of us just buy the best smelling fabric softener, pour it in and hope for this best. This may have worked for you so far but you might be missing out on some useful features and be using too many chemicals in your household chores when you don’t need to. Also, you may have noticed that your clothes wear faster with certain brands, this is a good time to switch to a new fabric softener.
Before you purchase, it is important to understand the ins and outs of what makes the better products so good. This is why we have created the following guide.
We’ll start here, even though it might not be as important as some of the other traits. We all like our fabric softener to make our clothes smell good but some products leave their mark better than others.
A nice smell means nothing if it fades within a few days. The best fabric softeners smell great but will stay with your clothes for weeks before you wear them. That way, when you put on that jumper it will still have that pleasant fresh, floral, fruity, or whatever your preferred scent is.
Fine For All Types of Machines
Some products are better suited to different types of washing machines but you will find that most are fine for both standard and high-efficiency machines. Because the suds are different from, brand to brand, it is always best to check before you buy.
Although some of the better brands cost a little more, the value products can save you a trip to the store and means you won’t have to think about restocking anytime soon.
Some of the leading brands create multipacks and large bottles, with some even producing double concentrate formulas.
It’s pretty mad that some fabric softeners might be the reason you are picking up static shocks from time to time. This isn’t the biggest annoyance in the world but it is easily prevented.
A quality brand of fabric softener will use ingredients to reduce the likelihood of static cling so look for these. Otherwise, you can wet your hand and running it along with your clothing or use a dryer sheet and rub it over the common area that provides the shock.
Some brands are better at this than others but it is going to be important to anyone with sensitive skin. Look for brands that use plant-based ingredients or are free-from parabens and other nasties.
Hypoallergenic formula is always good and if it has been tested by a dermatologist then even better.
No Animal Testing
Although it can be hard to find reasonably priced products that do not test on animals, there are some good options available. Check the back of the label if this is important to you so you can make an informed decision.
A washing detergent often leaves your clothes with a chemical smell that is thinly disguised as something more floral. This is because of the other ingredients used but by pouring a little fabric softener in there you can leave your clothes with a pleasant, lasting scent.
This is just one benefit of using fabric softener and better products are also good for your clothes. They can help to ensure clothing is soft, feels good on your skin, and does not stretch.
Fabric softeners can also reduce static cling, particularly dryer sheets which is an area that often causes static to build up and stay on your clothes. Some brands are anti-wrinkling which makes your ironing more efficient.
Although dryer sheets are not going to cause any permanent damage to your machine, they can make it less efficient over time. It will take many cycles for this to start to happen and it is not always the case.
This might cause a slight increase in your bills and is caused by a residue that is left by the sheets. As a result, it might start to clog the lint filter which can make it have to work harder when it comes to pushing air where it needs to.
A quick fix is easy as you only have to clean the filter as you would normally. Once a month should keep everything in good working order.
There are benefits to both but one of the reasons why we chose Bounce Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets as our top pick is that they are easy to use and last a long time.
In general, dryer sheets are good for reducing static cling but this is more likely to occur after putting your clothes through a dryer cycle so if you don’t use one, don’t, worry, the liquid washer versions are also useful.
The liquid types are good for ensuring clothes don’t stretch and reduce fading.
As long as it softens clothes, has a pleasant scent and is good value, either type of product will work.
If you buy a reputable brand then the product should not ruin clothes if used correctly. Some types of clothes do not wash so well which is why it is important to pay attention to what you are washing.
Any water-resistant clothing or activewear should not be put through a cycle with fabric softener as it can reduce their effectiveness over time. Towels might become less absorbent when washed with fabric softener so keep an eye on how long they take to dry after they have been washed.