8 of the best fabric softeners and conditioners for luxuriously soft laundry
Not keen on cardboard-stiff towels? Want lovely soft and fluffy laundry? Take a look at our top pick of fabric conditioners and softeners, including ones specially formulated for babies and those that can be happily used by vegans
If you want luxuriously soft laundry then a fabric conditioner or softener is essential. They keep your clothes soft and give your clothes a lovely lasting fragrance.
It may not be your top priority, compared to washing powder and the essential stain removers, but if you have a baby or young child then you want their clothes and blankets to be as soft as possible for maximum comfort – and it's quite nice for your clothes and bedding too.
There are lots of different fabric conditioners and softeners to choose from, including options for babies, vegans and those you can get on subscription. To help you decide, we asked parents in our Top Testers Club which ones they use and recommend. We particularly looked at effectiveness, quantity, scent and value for money. We also asked Lisa Williams, Executive Housekeeper at one of the top hotels in York to tell us her top tips when choosing a fabric softener.
Best fabric softeners and conditioner at a glance
- Best fabric softener for babies: Nimble Cuddle Lover Baby Fabric Softener, £5.50
- Best fabric conditioner for lasting freshness: Comfort Sunshiny Days (All-Day-Odour Defence), £6.50
- Best fabric softener for vegans: Ecover Fabric Softener Apple Blossom & Almond, £3.50
- Best budget fabric conditioner: Tesco Fabric Conditioner – Spring Fresh, £1.19
- Best fabric conditioner for sensitive skin: Comfort Pure Sensitive Gentle for Skin Fabric Conditioner, £6.50
- Best sustainable fabric softener: Ecoegg Laundry Egg, £7.50
- Best subscription fabric conditioner: Smol Fabric Conditioner, £10 for 2 bottles – with a free trial
- Best fabric conditioner for protecting your clothes: Comfort Ultimate Care Tropical Lily Fabric Conditioner, £3.50
What to consider when choosing a fabric softener
Sensitive skin –If you have a baby or you or someone else in your family has sensitive skin, then it's important that you choose a softener or conditioner that won't irritate skin. There are many formulated specifically for sensitive skin, usually without chemicals and fragrance that could be irritants. Executive housekeeper Lisa Williams said, "People with sensitive skin may find traditional fabric softeners cause irritation. If that's the case for you, try to look for one that is free from colourings, enzymes, parabens and most importantly, fragrance."
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Usage – Your choice of fabric softener may depend on your intended use. Lisa Williams gave this advice: "Almost all fabric softeners will be available in different scents, but some benefit from the ability to reduce wrinkling and static cling."
Quantity – You can get some very large bottles of fabric conditioner or softener that should last you a very long time, making them great value for money. They also tell you roughly how many washes a bottle should last so you can really assess the value for money.
Scent – Most fabric conditioners and softeners have lovely scents to keep your clothes smelling fresh for longer. There are many scents to choose from so you should be able to find one that you and your family love. Lisa Williams recommends choosing a major brand for a longer lasting smell. If you're just looking for the extra soft feel than own-brand products are absolutely fine.
Sustainability/vegan friendly – Surprisingly, a lot of conditioners and softeners contain animal fats and are not vegan friendly. However, there are also lots of options available that do not include animal fats, just make sure you check the ingredients. If you're eco-conscious you can find lots of environmentally-friendly options too.
Our pick of the best fabric softeners to keep your family's clothes feeling great
1. Nimble Cuddle Lover Baby Fabric Softener, £5.50
– Best for babies
Quantity: 1L | Number of washes: 70
When it comes to washing your baby's clothes you have to be careful as their skin can be quite sensitive and delicate. This fabric softener is specially formulated for use on baby's clothing.
It is fragrance-free and contains no chemicals so should not irritate your baby's skin but it will ensure their blankets and clothes are silky soft.
Pros: No chemicals and fragrance, ideal for babies
Cons: No scent
2. Comfort Sunshiny Days (All-Day Odour Defence), £7
– Best for lasting freshness
Quantity: 5L | Number of washes: 166
Lots of parents in our Top Testers Club said they use Comfort, with parent tester Lana stating, "We use Comfort and really notice the difference if we don't."
This 5L Sunshiny Days Comfort will last for approximately 166 washes. It has a gorgeous mandarin, jasmine and cedarwood scent and provides all-day odour protection against unwanted smells to keep your clothes smelling fresh for longer.
This fabric conditioner will smooth all the fibres of your clothes, reduce wrinkles and make everything you wash feel super soft.
Pros: Long-lasting freshness and odour defence, lovely scent, large bottle so should last a long time, good value for money, reduces wrinkles
Cons: Quite large to store
3. Ecover Fabric Softener Apple Blossom & Almond, £3.50
– Best for vegans
Quantity: 1.5L | Number of washes: 50
Lots of fabric softeners and conditioners include animal fats and are not actually vegan friendly so vegans should double check the ingredients of their chosen softener.
This Ecover fabric softener is 100% vegan friendly, made only with plant-based ingredients. Parent tester Chiara said, "I use Ecover Fabric Softener as it's gentler on the skin and the environment."
Not only is the contents vegan friendly but the bottle is also made from recycled plastic and is widely recyclable and the product is made in a zero-waste factory.
The fabric softener has a lovely apple blossom and almond scent and the 1.5 litre bottle will last up to 50 washes.
Pros: Vegan friendly, environmentally friendly, lovely scent
4. Tesco Fabric Conditioner – Spring Fresh, £1.19
– Best budget buy
Quantity: 1.26L | Number of washes: 42
Fabric conditioners and softeners can be quite expensive, which can put some people off. However, there are cheaper alternatives that will soften and take care of your clothes without adding too much to your monthly shopping bill.
Tesco have a lovely range of fabric conditioners. Parent tester Kellie-Marie said, "With times being tougher financially, we have had to swap from premium brand to the supermarket own. However, these so far have done a great job at keeping our laundry soft. Our current softener is Tesco's own."
This affordable Spring Fresh option has a lovely scent which claims to last for up to 2 weeks. The 1.26 litre bottle should last approximately 42 washes, making it excellent value for money.
Pros: Affordable, lovely fresh scent
Available from: Tesco
5. Comfort Pure Sensitive Gentle for Skin Fabric Conditioner, £6.50
– Best for sensitive skin
Quantity: 5L | Number of washes: 166
For those of you with sensitive skin or if you want an alternative to the Nimble fabric softener recommended for babies then this is ideal.
Many parents from the Top Testers Club use and recommend Comfort Pure with parent tester Bina saying, "We love Comfort Pure."
Similar to the other Comfort fabric conditioners, this 5 litre bottle will last up to 166 washes.
Although gentle, this fabric conditioner is very effective. It's also hypoallergenic and has been dermatologically tested and recognised by the British Skin Foundation as suitable for the whole family and it's the number 1 fabric conditioner for sensitive skin in the UK.
It not only softens the fibres in your clothing but it also makes ironing easier as it prevents wrinkles. It does have a fragrance but it's a very subtle, soft and delicate one.
Pros: Ideal for sensitive skin, good value for money, prevents wrinkles
Cons: Has a very subtle scent, some may want a bit stronger
6. Ecoegg Laundry Egg, £7.50
– Best for sustainability
Quantity: 1 egg | Number of washes: 70
If you want a more sustainable alternative to liquid fabric conditioners and softeners then this Ecoegg Laundry Egg is a brilliant option.
The egg replaces both laundry detergent and fabric conditioner. It has pellets that do the cleaning and dark grey tourmaline pellets which soften your laundry. They naturally ionise the water, making it slightly more alkaline as this helps to lift dirt and soften the fibres of the clothes.
The Laundry Egg lasts around 70 washes and you can buy refillable pellets once you run out.
Pros: Washes and softens, sustainable option, saves money as replaces softener/conditioner and detergent
7. Smol Fabric Conditioner, £10 for 2 bottles
– Best for subscription service
Quantity: 2 x 500ml (sent whenever you need) | Number of washes: 64 per bottle
This 100% animal fat-free fabric conditioner is sustainably packaged and gets delivered straight to your door when you need it.
Smol will ask you how often you use fabric conditioner and how many washes you do a week to try and determine how often you need it sent. This saves you having to go to the shops and carry back a heavy bottle of fabric conditioner, as well as ensuring you always have it at hand when needed.
It costs £10 for 2 bottles which is slightly more expensive than some other options but it does include delivery. Also, to test out the fabric conditioner, you can try their free trial.
Pros: Delivered to your door, works out how much you need, no animal fat, sustainable, free trial
Cons: Slightly more expensive option
Available from: Smol – Get free trial now
8. Comfort Ultimate Care Tropical Lily Fabric Conditioner, £3.50
– Best for protecting your clothes
Quantity: 870ml | Number of washes: 58
This Comfort fabric conditioner not only softens clothes but it also has ProFibre technology to lock in colours and help clothes retain their shape.
The conditioner has a gorgeous tropical, flowery scent. The bottle is made of 100% recycled plastic and should last approximately 58 washes.
Pros: Protects clothes, keeps colour and shape, has a lovely scent, 100% recycled plastic bottle
Cons: More expensive option
How did we choose our 8 of the Best?
When testing and selecting the best fabric softerners and conditioners, we considered effectiveness, quantity, scent and value for money.
Our Best of lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don't just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.
About our expert
Lisa Williams is the Executive Housekeeper at The Grand, York and knows everything there is to know about laundry and cleaning.
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.
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