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If you want clean, fresh clothes, a good laundry detergent is part of the equation. But to make them soft, fluffy, free of static, and easier to iron, you may want to reach for a fabric softener.
So, what are the best fabric softeners? There are several standout options on the market, including liquids, pods, sheets, and dryer balls. Some simply soften, while others work on eliminating static, de-wrinkling, cutting down on dry time, and gracing your loads with a pleasant scent.
Here, the best fabric softeners to add to your laundry routine.
Best Overall: Gain Liquid Fabric Softener Original
Gain Liquid Fabric Softener is an all-around great option. The original liquid formula can be used with your regular laundry detergent to not only soften your clothes but also leave them smelling amazing for weeks.
As for the scent, it's light, airy, clean, and reminiscent of being outdoors in the springtime. This fabric softener helps minimize static cling as well, and the price is about the same as your average jug of detergent.
Best Budget: Snuggle Plus SuperFresh Liquid Fabric Softener
Snuggle Plus SuperFresh will only run you a few bucks, which is pretty impressive, considering its powerful formula. Aside from effectively softening your clothes, this liquid fabric softener has special odor-fighting ingredients for blocking and eliminating unpleasant smells. It leaves an invigorating yet not overpowering scent in its wake while preventing static.
Best Smelling: Downy Infusions Liquid Fabric Conditioner
If you want something that smells incredible, we recommend Downy Infusions. This liquid fabric conditioner comes in two scents: Calm (lavender and vanilla bean) and Refresh (birch water and botanicals).
Calm is more relaxing and soothing (perfect for sheets, towels, and PJs), while Refresh is crisp and revitalizing, which would pair well with workout clothes to give you the jumpstart you need. Either way, you'll have softer, fluffier, comfier fabrics that smell just as great as they feel against your skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Noodle & Boo Ultra-Soft Fabric Conditioner for Baby
Noodle & Boo Ultra-Soft Fabric Conditioner is formulated for babies—but even if you don't have a tiny tot at home, it's a great option if you (or anyone else in your household) have sensitive skin.
The gentle, plant-based liquid contains naturally-derived oils, mineral-based cleaning agents, and a light fragrance to soften, refresh, and preserve your loads. It's free of dyes, chlorine, and preservatives, and is concentrated enough to last you 32 loads.
Best Unscented: Dropps Fabric Softener Ultra Concentrated Pods Unscented
Looking for an unscented option? Dropps Fabric Softener Ultra Concentrated Pods contain ingredients that'll leave your clothes luxuriously soft without any sticky or chalky residue. Not only that, but the fragrance-free pods help athletic wear maintain its moisture-wicking ability and ensure towels remain absorbent, which can be an issue with some other fabric softeners over time.
Anyone looking to reduce the amount of plastic they use at home will also like that these pods come packaged in cardboard, which you can recycle or compost when you're finished with it.
Best Natural: Seventh Generation Lavender Fabric Softener
Seventh Generation Fabric Softener is made of naturally derived ingredients without any dyes, fluoride, or synthetic fragrances. The biodegradable formula is septic-safe and leaves laundry soft, fluffy, and free of static cling. The natural lavender scent is calming and refreshing but not too over the top.
Best Organic: Tangent GC Organic Fabric Softener with Kiyomi Perfume
Tangent GC Fabric Softener fluffs, cleans, and de-wrinkles while eliminating lime deposits and detergent residues on your clothes and linens. Though it's a little spendier than other options, the luxurious formula might be worth a splurge.
This organic, vegan, cruelty-free fabric softener contains a natural Japanese kiyomi citrus scent. It's ultra-refreshing and has an organic, vegan formula that's septic-safe.
Best for Babies: ATTITUDE Little Ones Hypoallergenic Baby Fabric Softener
Attitude Little Ones is the best fabric softener for babies. This plant-based formula will make your little one's clothes soft and fluffy without any residues. You can use it for your loads, too!
This fabric softener is free of dyes, preservatives, formaldehyde, and optical brighteners. It's formulated for cold water, high efficiency, and standard washers.
Best Sheets: Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets
Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets give clothes and linens a softer feel while repelling lint, hair, and other debris. They also control static cling, reduce wrinkles, and leave your load with a super-fresh, energizing scent.
One box includes 240 sheets. For smaller loads, one sheet is plenty, though you may need two or three for larger loads. Even with multiple sheets, you can be sure they won't stain your clothes or leave behind a residue.
Best Dryer Balls: Parachute Wool Dryer Balls
If you want a reusable, eco-friendly option, you might consider dryer balls. This set of three 3.5-inch balls from Parachute are made of 100 percent wool from New Zealand. As a natural alternative to dryer sheets, they soften clothes and linens while keeping your laundry fresh.
Parachute Dryer Balls absorb moisture, too, which decreases drying time by as much as 50 percent. This can help you save energy and cut down on utility costs. They prevent static cling and reduce wrinkles as well.
While it's hard to pick just one, our top choice is Gain Liquid Fabric Softener (view at Amazon). In addition to its long-lasting and undoubtedly fresh scent, the effective formula fluffs, softens, and de-wrinkles clothes. With that said, if you have sensitive skin or a baby at home, you can't go wrong with the gentle, hypoallergenic Noodle & Boo Ultra-Soft Fabric Conditioner (view at Amazon).
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This roundup was written by Theresa Holland, a freelance writer, homeowner, and mother with extensive experience researching, testing, and reviewing home goods, cleaning solutions, and baby products. You can find more of her writing on Byrdie, MyDomaine, and Verywell Health.