Last updated: August 9, 2021

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Welcome to our big fabric softener test 2021. Here we present all the fabric softeners we have tested. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best fabric softener for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a fabric softener.




Summary

  • There are mainly three types of fabric softeners. Conventional fabric softener, eco fabric softener and 2 in 1 detergent+softener. All types are best suited for the care of your laundry. The choice of fabric softener depends on personal taste and lifestyle.
  • Fabric softeners care for your clothes and give them a long-lasting freshness. However, not every fabric should be washed with fabric softener. Many fabrics can lose their specific functions.
  • Fabric softeners are bad for the environment because of their chemical composition and can endanger health. Mindful consumption and switching to more natural ingredients is recommended in the long run.

The Best Fabric Softener: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should deal with before buying a fishing tent

What are fabric softeners?

Fabric softeners are, in short, washing aids. They help your clothes dry faster, make them supple and give them a fresh scent. For synthetic clothing, fabric softener also reduces electrostatic charge.

Softening" your clothes with fabric softener also makes ironing easier because you don't have to spend as much time and energy getting out the wrinkles.

Fabric softener is not a substitute for detergent!

The fabric softener is added to the detergent in the compartment of your washing machine. Watch this video for an overview of which detergent goes in which compartment:

What is the composition of fabric softeners?

Today, there are roughly 2 subdivisions among fabric softeners:

  • The "chemical" fabric softeners (conventional)
  • The "natural" fabric softeners (eco or organic/vegan)

Chemical fabric softeners

Conventional fabric softeners use many different chemicals to smooth the fibres of clothes and envelop them in a fresh scent.

A fabric softener consists largely of fragrances. Mostly synthetic fragrances are used, such as amylcinnamal, benzyl alcohol, cinnamal and eugenol (just to name a few).

The next main ingredient is cationic surfactants. These bind with the fibres and prevent your clothes from becoming stiff as they dry. Conventional fabric softeners also contain animal fats. These are responsible for the cuddly soft feel.

Often preservatives and disinfectants are also used, for example formaldehyde.

There are far more ingredients, such as optical brighteners, that can be found in fabric softeners. Here we have only mentioned the main ingredients.

Natural fabric softeners

For a few years now, the choice of natural, or eco-friendly, fabric softeners has been increasing. These are clearly marked on the packaging with organic, eco or vegan labels.

Such fabric softeners use fewer chemicals and usually have no preservatives or dyes. Synthetic ingredients are replaced with plant-based substances.

Furthermore, these fabric softeners rely on natural thirst-quenching ingredients such as essential oils. They also avoid animal fats and use vegetable fats instead.

Many of the eco fabric softeners are also dermatologically tested. This is rarely the case with conventional fabric softeners.

Why do I need a fabric softener?

Fabric softeners are especially helpful against the so-called dry rigidity that happens when laundry dries. The fabrics, whether clothes or bed linen, feel rougher on the skin without fabric softener. The use of fabric softeners is particularly useful for people with sensitive skin, as the clothes cause less friction on the skin.

If you have a lot of synthetic clothing, a fabric softener is especially helpful here. It noticeably reduces the electrostatic charge on your clothes.

Fabric softener makes your laundry soft and fresh. (Image source: unsplash.com / Erik Witsoe)

The wonderful scent of freshly washed laundry usually comes from the use of a fabric softener. The scents are more long-lasting and intense than those of detergent.

In general, however, it is a difficult question, because here opinions differ. While some can no longer imagine their laundry routine without fabric softener, others consider it unnecessary.

It depends a lot on your own values and needs. But don't panic, that's why you're here. We'll help you make the right choice!

Are fabric softeners harmful?

To put it succinctly: yes. Unfortunately, conventional fabric softeners in particular are harmful to the environment and to your own health. However, it should be noted that this is not a one-time use, but rather long-term consequences.

Below we have provided brief information on the possible risks...

  • ...for humans
  • ...for clothes
  • ...for the machine
  • ...for the environment

For humans

The many chemicals in conventional fabric softeners can cause many health problems.

People with allergies and sensitive skin should pay close attention to the ingredients used in fabric softeners. Caution is also advised for babies and small children.

The function of the skin can be disturbed and skin irritations and diseases can occur. Some fragrances are known to have a negative effect on the nervous system. Other chemicals can even penetrate the body through the skin and settle in fatty tissue, or even in breast milk in pregnant women.

There are now many studies that raise major concerns about many of the chemicals used in fabric softeners. These concerns range from potential liver damage to carcinogens.

For clothes

Generally, fabric softeners are not dangerous for your clothes. However, you should pay attention to the dosage and the material of your laundry.

If you wash your clothes too often with too much fabric softener, the fibres of your clothes will close up. This means that the washing water can no longer penetrate the fabric during the next wash. This means that your clothes can no longer get clean and this in turn gives bacteria the opportunity to settle in the fibres and spread.

After some time, you will notice that your clothes start to smell and this does not get better even after washing.

Jeans auf Wäscheleine

With jeans, the robustness of the fabric can suffer after a while if you use fabric softener. (Image source: unsplash.com / Ricardo Gomez Angel)

There are fabrics that are better suited to fabric softener than others. Fabric softeners can reduce the absorbency of some fabrics or clothes. It can cause stretchy fabrics to become misshapen after repeated use. For jeans, the fabric may lose its sturdiness.

You can also check the label on your clothes to see if they are fabric softenersafe or not.

Some of the latest fabric softeners have been improved so that they can be used on many fabrics. You can find out more about this on the packaging.

Here we have compiled a table for you with an overview of which fabrics/clothes are generally suitable for fabric softeners and which are not.

Suitable for fabric softener Not suitable for fabric softener
Curtains, shirts and blouses, polyester
Bed linen, mixed fabrics, viscose
Towels, jeans, sportswear, natural wool and silk, windproof/waterproof fabrics, elastane, microfibre, fleece, down, nylon

For machine

Fabric softeners provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria in the lint filter and encourage them to multiply. Therefore, it should be cleaned regularly. You should also leave the small drawer where the detergent and fabric softener are put open when the washing machine is not in use. The same applies to the washing machine door. This allows the inside of the washing machine to dry and prevents mould from forming.

Care must also be taken with the dryer! If you load it with laundry that was previously washed with fabric softener, it can rapidly shorten the life of your dryer.

Many fabric softeners contain silicones and these can gum up the dryer's sensors.

The amount of laundry almost doesn't matter. So even one item of clothing that has been exposed to fabric softener can cause damage to the dryer.

For the environment

It is no longer a secret that conventional fabric softeners do not have a positive impact on the environment. We are talking about the environmental impact that occurs when fabric softener is discharged down the drain into the groundwater. Fabric softener is difficult to break down and it can destroy aquatic organisms.

How much does fabric softener cost?

Fabric softeners are available in all price ranges. Here, if a fabric softener is dirt cheap, it is also likely to be full of low-cost chemicals. But too expensive fabric softeners don't necessarily say anything about quality. You will find many good fabric softeners in the mid-price segment.

Type Price range
Conventional fabric softener approx. 0.04 - 0.60 euros/WL
Eco fabric softener approx. 0.04 - 0.20 euros/WL
2-in-1 detergent and fabric softener approx. 0.17 - 0.80 euros/WL

What are the alternatives to a fabric softener?

We have found the following alternatives to a fabric softener for you:

  • DIY
  • Dryer/ironing
  • Dryer balls

DIY

You can easily make your own fabric softener. It's very inexpensive and safe for your health and the environment. In addition, these DIY fabric softeners also care for your washing machine.

Dryer/ironing

The dryer not only dries your clothes but also softens them. Ironing also smoothes the fibres of your clothes. The combination of the two, i.e. putting your clothes in the dryer first and then ironing them straight away, makes your clothes even smoother.

Dryer balls

Dryer balls are probably the most environmentally friendly commercial alternative to traditional liquid fabric softeners. These balls come in a variety of materials. However, wool dryer balls are the most popular among consumers. They are often handmade and consist of pure sheep's wool.

These balls are simply placed in the tumble dryer with your washed clothes. There, the balls loosen your laundry during the drying process, making it softer. Thanks to the high water-absorbing power of sheep's wool, the drying time is even reduced.

Decision: What types of fabric softeners are there and which one is right for you?

There are three types of fabric softeners to choose from:

  • Conventional fabric softener
  • Eco fabric softener
  • Fabric softeners integrated in the detergent

Conventional fabric softeners and vegan/organic fabric softeners are the same. You put them in the designated compartment (with the flower sign) of the washing machine drawer.

There are also detergents that contain fabric softener. With this 2 in 1 option, you add this detergent to the detergent compartment as usual and start the washing machine as usual.

What are the characteristics of a conventional fabric softener and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Traditional fabric softeners smooth and condition the fibres of your laundry. This reduces wrinkles and makes your laundry pleasantly soft. Many fabric softeners also counteract the formation of lint and keep your laundry looking like new for a long time.

Advantages
  • Colour protection
  • Reduces linting
  • Long-lasting fresh scent
  • Soft laundry
  • Reduces wrinkles
  • Antistatic effect
Disadvantages
  • Environmentally harmful
  • Major health risk
  • Unsuitable for many fabrics
  • Can damage washing machine
  • Can damage dryer
  • Provides breeding ground for bacteria

In addition, conventional fabric softeners come in a variety of fragrances. From natural to soapy to extravagantly exotic scents, they have it all. They also tend to last the longest and fill the whole room.

What distinguishes an eco (or also vegan/organic) fabric softener and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The eco-version of fabric softeners is above all more environmentally friendly and less harmful to health, as these fabric softeners use fewer chemical substances.

Advantages
  • No dyes
  • No preservatives
  • No animal products
  • Natural fragrances
  • Suitable for allergy sufferers
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Colour protection
  • Soft laundry
Disadvantages
  • Little choice of fragrance
  • Fragrance does not last long
  • Not entirely chemical-free
  • Unsuitable for many fabrics
  • Can damage washing machine
  • Can damage dryer
  • Provides breeding ground for bacteria

Another difference is also that many vegan/organic fabric softeners are dermatologically tested. This is especially helpful for people with sensitive skin.

What distinguishes a fabric softener integrated in the detergent and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Detergents that already contain fabric softener offer a simple and quick solution. You don't have to buy two products and put them in the washing machine separately. With one product you have both: a detergent that cleans and a fabric softener that cares for your laundry and makes it soft.

In this case, it can be a conventional brand that has the same pros and cons as a conventional fabric softener. Or it can be an eco brand that has the same pros and cons as an eco fabric softener.

Advantages
  • Practical
  • Simple
  • Uncomplicated
Disadvantages
  • Often more expensive
  • Not suitable for all fabrics

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate fabric softeners

In the following, we will show you which criteria you can use to decide between the many possible fabric softeners. The criteria you should look for are:

  • Application for different groups of people
  • Price-performance/content
  • Environmental friendliness

Application for different groups of people

There are three main groups of people to consider when choosing a fabric softener:

  • Allergy sufferers
  • Babies and children
  • Sensitive skin

Here you should pay attention to the ingredients. However, specific instructions on the packaging will help you to find your way around. It will explicitly state whether the fabric softener is suitable for baby clothes, dermatologically tested and allergy-friendly.

Environmental friendliness

If you want to be environmentally conscious or follow a certain lifestyle, then you should pay attention to the environmental friendliness of the fabric softener.

Wald

There are many environmentally friendly alternatives among fabric softeners. Looking for them is worthwhile for all of us! (Image source: pixabay.com / bertvthul)

Here you can draw your attention to natural ingredients and the material of the packaging. Dosage also plays a role, because the less fabric softener you have to use, the better it is for the environment (and your wallet).

Interesting facts about fabric softener

Can fabric softener go bad?

As long as you store fabric softener fairly, it can last a very long time.

  1. You should close the lid tightly after each use.
  2. The fabric softener should be kept at temperatures of at least 5 degrees up to a maximum of 25 degrees.

How do I dispose of fabric softener fairly?

Fabric softener should be disposed of in hazardous waste. Because there are so many chemicals in a fabric softener, you should never just dump it down the toilet or sink.

Of course, if the fabric softener is still "functional", it is best to give it away. Or you can use it for other purposes, which we have listed for you further down the page.

Are fabric softeners and fabric conditioners the same thing?

No. Fabric softeners soften and condition laundry. Fabric softeners are used to disinfect laundry that should only be washed at low temperatures.

Many ways to use fabric softener: Useful tips and tricks

There are many ways to use a fabric softener. You can do the following with it:

  • Room fragrance
  • Cleaning products
  • Leather care
  • Removing pet hair
  • Conditioner for hair

Room fragrance

All you need for this are

  • 2 tablespoons fabric softener
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 cups hot water

Mix it all together in a spray bottle and it's ready to use. You can then spray it on carpets, curtains and upholstered furniture. The baking soda neutralises the odours and the fabric softener provides the fine scent.

Detergent

With a little fabric softener and water, you can clean almost all smooth surfaces (doors, furniture, etc.), floors (wood, laminate, tiles, etc.), windows and mirrors. The dirt is collected and a streak-free shine is created throughout the house. It also smells like your favourite fabric softener.

The fabric softener acts like a protective layer, so the surfaces get dirty more slowly. Thanks to the antistatic effect of the fabric softener, less dust accumulates.

Leather care

You can also clean leather and imitation leather with a little fabric softener and water. The fabric will shine and feel soft. Your leather will stay clean longer thanks to the protective layer of fabric softener.

Removing pet hair

Cat and dog hair on furniture and carpets can be easily vacuumed after treatment with fabric softener.

Here you mix fabric softener and water 1 to 1 and spray it on the hairy area. As it dries, the fibres of the fabric are smoothed and the hair comes off the fabric faster when vacuuming.

Conditioner for hair

Due to all the chemicals, we would advise against using it on your own hair. This is because of the possible health risks of contact with the scalp, skin and eyes.

However, it is definitely recommended for dolls and Barbies!

Image source: pixabay.com / JillWellington

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