The 7 Best Fabric Softeners
No matter what kind of fabric softener you prefer, from the traditional liquid kind to the more eco-friendly dryer balls, the best fabric softeners will leave your clothes feeling soft and smelling fantastic. They’ll also help fight static and keep your duds (mostly) wrinkle-free. Below, I’ve rounded up fabric softeners to suit a variety of preferences and budgets.
But, before you start shopping, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each method, since there are some nuances:
- Liquid fabric softeners: If you want your clothes to be permeated with scent and protected from stretching or fading, a liquid fabric softener is the way to go. However, some liquid softeners contain chemicals that have been linked to some serious health issues, so it's worth it to read the labels. Plus, liquid softeners may require that you clean your washing machine's dispenser often to prevent build-up.
- Dryer sheets: Dryer sheets offer simplicity and portability, and they’re particularly handy for anyone who uses laundromats. They’re also inexpensive and more effective at eliminating static cling than dryer balls — but similar to liquid softeners, some brands coat their sheets in harsh chemicals that have been linked to a number of illnesses.
- Dryer balls: If the ease, eco-friendliness, and economics of reusable dryer balls appeals to you, consider investing in this option, but note that they can be noisy and don’t add fragrance to your clothes unless you get one that can be infused with a fabric-safe essential oil. That said, dryer balls are a nontoxic alternative to dryer sheets, and they can even reduce drying time.
- Dryer cloths: Reusable dryer cloths are nontoxic and relatively eco-friendly. They’re quieter than dryer balls, easier on your machine than dryer balls or liquid softener, and many are also hypoallergenic. The only downside is that they don’t provide scent unless you sprinkle them with a few drops of essential oil.
Whatever your preferences, there’s a fabric softener below to fit your needs.
1. The Best Liquid Fabric Softeners
- The Best Natural Liquid Softener
Mrs. Meyer’s Fabric Softener is packed with essential oils for a natural scent, and it reduces static and softens clothes without the aid of harsh ingredients. It’s also compatible with high-efficiency washers, and Amazon shoppers give it a 4.2-star rating. Plus, it promises to last for 32 loads. If you prefer liquid softeners but want to avoid questionable chemicals, this is a smart choice.
What fans are saying: “Basil is my favorite scent for Mrs. Meyers, very clean and crisp but with a sweet edge. My clothes smell divine when I use this in conjunction with the Basil detergent."
- A Budget-Friendly Pick
With each bottle promising up to 60 loads of use, the Downy Ultra Cool Cotton Liquid Fabric Conditioner helps reduce stretching, fading, and fuzz while fighting static and providing softness and scent. It’s compatible with high-efficiency washers, and Amazon shoppers give it an impressive 4.6-star rating. And since it's available in a convenient two-pack for just $9, it's as easy on your wallet as it is on your clothes.
What fans are saying: “Leaves clothing super-fluffy and soft. I buy a lot of clothing used and it spruces it up or keeps my new clothing in good condition.”
- One With Odor-Eliminating Technology
The Snuggle Plus Super Fresh Liquid Fabric Conditioner with odor-eliminating technology is specially formulated to attack tough odors, like stinky gym socks. It also delivers softness while fighting static, and it’s compatible with high-efficiency washing machines. This pick promises to last for 30 loads, and Amazon shoppers give it a 4.6-star rating.
What fans are saying: “Best smelling fabric softener ever, and the smell lasts for a long time!”
The Best Dryer Sheets
- A Fresh-Scented One With More Than 2,000 Reviews
Bounce Fabric Softener & Dryer Sheets fight static and reduce wrinkles while repelling lint and delivering a fresh scent. This pick should make your clothes feel softer, it’s compatible with high-efficiency dryers, and Amazon shoppers give it a whopping 4.8-star rating after more than 2,000 reviews. A natural dryer sheet this is one is not, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a higher-rated dryer sheet. Plus, with 240 sheets in a box, you'll get a lot of loads of one box.
What fans are saying: “I have been using Bounce for as long as I have been drying my own clothes. The few times I dry clothes without one, I can really feel the difference. I also leave these things around the house. They can give off a pleasant scent for weeks.”
- The Best Fabric Softener For Sensitive Skin
All Free & Clear Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets is hypoallergenic and 100% free of dyes and perfumes, making it the number one-recommended brand by dermatologists. This pick comes with 120 dryer sheets specially treated to leave your clothes soft and static-free, and Amazon shoppers give it a 4.4-star rating.
What fans are saying: “My granddaughter has very sensitive skin. Her dermatologist recommended the All product line. Since we have been using the All products, detergent, booster, bleach, and dryer sheets, she has had no problems.”
The Best Dryer Balls
- A Quiet, All-Natural Dryer Ball
These wool dryer balls by Smart Sheep boast more than 17,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.4-star rating. They’re made from 100% premium New Zealand wool, making them the most natural option featured in this list. The wool contains natural anti-static qualities and zero chemicals, which means the balls are also completely nontoxic. You’ll have to add a few drops of essential oil to the balls if scent is important to you, but they should last for more than 1,000 loads and can reduce your drying time. They achieve this by creating separation between clothing items and allowing the hot air to circulate more easily. Also, this pick prides itself on being softer than many dryer balls, and thus, quieter.
What fans are saying: “I've had my wool dryer balls for nearly four years. I purchased them because I was attempting to go fragrance-free with my products (and I was sick of always running out of dryer sheets). These work great and I'm amazed at how long they've held up! [...] When they pill up, I just trim around the surface with scissors and they look like new. I highly recommend these!”
The Best Dryer Cloth
- Reusable Sheets That Reduce Static Naturally
These tumbler sheets are 100% hypoallergenic and reusable for more than 500 loads. This pick is ideal for anyone looking to avoid harsh ingredients, since they soften your clothes without the use of chemicals. These sheets are engineered to fight static cling when they brush up on your clothes, and they're an environmentally-friendly pick that’s gentle on both traditional and high-efficiency dryers. They’re also quieter than dryer balls. The only real con to this option is you’ll have to add a few drops of essential oil to the towels if scent is important to you.
What fans are saying: “I was skeptical that this product would work. After a dozen or more loads of laundry I'm a believer. The package comes with two tumbler sheets made of a thick, tightly woven fabric. Instructions indicate that both sheets should be used together, however, I use only one at a time and my clothes come out of the dryer soft and static-free. I also used organic essential oil spritzer on the tumbler sheets to give a fresh scent to my sheets and towels. [...].”
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