- High-quality fabric softeners leave your clothes soft, free of wrinkles, and they have a pleasant scent.
- Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets are our top pick because they are inexpensive, fight static, and produce a classic fresh scent that has become synonymous with laundry day.
I like my clothes to be static-free, comfortable, and relatively fresh-smelling, so I turn to fabric softener every time I do my laundry. From the liquid stuff you add to your washing machine’s dispenser to all-natural dryer balls that fluff up your clothes while removing static cling, there are lots of ways to keep your laundry soft and fresh.
What type of fabric softener should I buy?
Liquid fabric softener: Liquid is your most expensive option per load, but it is also the most effective at eliminating odors and softening clothes. Though it may seem counter-intuitive since it is added in the washing machine, liquid reduces the amount of static in your clothing. Liquid fabric softeners also have a surprising array of alternative uses, including removing hard-water stains, keeping paintbrushes pliable, and getting rid of the static shock produced by your carpeting.
Dryer sheets: The best dryer sheets are much more affordable than liquid, fight static cling, and leave your clothes soft and smelling nice. And, if you clean your clothes at a laundromat, it’s much easier to transport a few sheets in your back pocket or purse than to lug around balls or liquid.
Dryer balls: These are your eco-friendliest option. They are typically made of wool or heat-resistant BPA-free plastic – some people even argue that standard tennis balls work as dryer balls. Though they are good for the environment, inexpensive, help clothes dry faster, and are effective at fighting static, dryer balls tend to leave clothes scratchier than liquids and sheets. And, they do not eliminate odors.
Our guide features softeners that help fight static, leave clothes with a fresh smell, and make your fabrics feel comfortable.
Here are our picks for the best fabric softeners:
Prices and links are current as of 5/15/20. We trimmed the length of this article to make it easier to read, bringing you the most useful information quickly. We also added a selection of related buying guides.
The best overall
BounceBounce Fabric Softener Sheets are an affordable way to get rid of static, avoid scratchy fabrics, and enjoy fresh-smelling clothes.
Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets are what I use when doing laundry. I have a high-efficiency dryer and only use half a sheet per load along with two dryer balls (when they aren’t lost in previous loads of laundry). What I like about Bounce is that I never have to deal with static, it effectively gets rid of the many stinky odors in my athletic gear and my sons’ clothes, and the sheets just produce a wholesome scent.
It softens cotton clothing well, reduces cling and static, and provides the fresh laundry smell that you might expect from clothes drying on a line outside.
Pros: Effectively softens fabrics, affordable, pleasant scent
Cons: Not hypoallergenic
The best dryer balls
Friendsheep If you are looking for an environmentally-friendly fabric softener that you can reuse over-and-over again, consider the Friendsheep Organic Eco Wool Dryer Balls.
The Friendsheep Organic Eco Wool Dryer Balls are unique because they can be reused for more than 1,000 dryer loads. That works out to less than 2.4 cents per load over the course of the balls’ life, which makes this product the least expensive on our list.
The balls of 100% pure New Zealand wool are needle felted by Nepalese women in underprivileged communities working under ethical conditions. They are hypoallergenic, and Friendsheep claims they can reduce drying times by up to 40%. The balls come with an organic gift bag and guide featuring eco-friendly tips.
Though these dryer balls won’t add any scent to your clothes, that’s good news for those with sensitive skin. In fact, there are no chemical additives of any kind ensuring you won’t have an adverse reaction to your clean laundry.
Pros: Eco-friendly, reusable, shortens the drying process, no added chemicals
Cons: Isn’t effective for all fabrics, unscented
The best liquid fabric softener
AmazonDowny Infusions Liquid Fabric Conditioner adds a long-lasting pleasant scent to your clothes while protecting against fading and preventing wrinkles.
Downy Infusions Liquid Fabric Conditioner is more expensive than our previous two picks, but the price is reasonable for liquid fabric softeners. The floral lavender and vanilla bean scent is long-lasting.
Downy Infusions protects fabrics from fuzz, fading, wrinkles, and stretching, and it’s compatible with most of today’s high-efficiency washing machines. The liquid doesn’t leave any residue, but be careful to add it to the dedicated fabric softener dispenser in your machine or at the proper time in your wash cycle. If applied directly to clothing, it could stain.
Pros: Pleasant scent, doesn’t leave a residue, protects against stretching and fading
Cons: Can stain if applied directly to clothes
The best eco-friendly liquid fabric softener
Amazon About 99% of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Fabric Softener is made from naturally derived ingredients, including softening agents from plant sources.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Fabric Softener gets its softening powers from cotton extract and other plant sources, and essential oils give it a garden-fresh fragrance. This product is safe to use in high-efficiency washing machines for reducing static cling, simplifying or even removing the need for ironing, and adding a fresh, lavender scent to your clothes.
One 32-ounce bottle is enough for 32 loads. This formula is a bit thicker than other fabric softeners on the market, and as a result, you may find that it doesn’t dispense as easily. If you’re finding leftover fabric softener still clinging to your dispenser after your wash load, try diluting it with a bit of water to get it to flow a bit more easily.
Pros: Only a little liquid is needed for each load, excellent softening abilities, made from plant sources
Cons: May need to dilute it to ensure it dispenses properly
The best odor-eliminating fabric softener
Snuggle The Snuggle Plus Super Fresh Liquid Fabric Softener is terrific for people who typically have trouble removing odors from their clothes and other fabrics.
Per load, the Snuggle Plus Super Fresh Liquid Fabric Softener is significantly more expensive than any of the other options on our list. But, it’s specifically designed to fight tough odors from pets, perspiration, accidents, and more. If your clothes consistently hold onto odors even after multiple washes, you might want to invest in something heavy-duty like Snuggle Plus.
As with the other products on our list, the Snuggle liquid leaves your clothes soft and with less static and wrinkles. It is also good for use in standard and high-efficiency washers.
Because it’s formulated to knock out odors, it is a bit harsher on the skin than other fabric softeners and could cause a reaction in people with sensitive skin. We’d recommend only using this product on clothes with tough lingering odors. Once you extinguish the stink, switch back to a gentler fabric softener until it’s time to break out the big guns again.
Pros: Excellent at removing odors, produces a fresh but not floral scent
Cons: Could cause reactions on sensitive skin
Check out our other laundry buying guides
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