Don't you just love the fresh smell and soft feel of your clothes when you use fabric softener? It would interest you to know that keeping your laundry soft comes at a steep price to the environment. With an eco-friendly fabric softener, you can keep your environmental impact low and still enjoy soft, static-free laundry.
Traditional fabric softeners can contain harmful chemicals and come in plastic bottles that endanger wildlife and humans and add to our ever-growing mountain of plastic pollution. This article shares 11 of the best fabric softeners for eco-friendly living.
As clothes spin and twist in a washer, clothes rub against one another, creating static. Fabric softener helps soften clothes, reduce static cling, and prevent color fading. Without fabric softeners, the clothes may come out wrinkled, overstretched, and with distressed fibers. And when you put it out to dry, it can harden rather uncomfortably.
A fabric softener may be great for your laundry routine but not so much for the environment. Traditional fabric softeners and dryer sheets release chemicals that pollute the environment and endanger our health. Those chemicals include parabens, toluene, phthalates, galaxolide, and quats.
Preservatives like methylisothiazolinone, glutaral, and artificial colors like D&C violet 2 can trigger allergies and are toxic to marine life. Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats), in particular, can trigger asthma and cause eye and skin irritations. Research at the UIC School of Public Health recommends that we should not use products containing quats around children1.
If fabric softeners are so bad, shouldn't we just stop using them altogether? We don’t need to avoid fabric softeners altogether when we switch to eco-friendly fabric softeners that use organic ingredients for use in your wash. We’ve also included a few of the best zero-waste dryer balls and sheets that also work as great fabric softeners for drying.
There are so many greenwashed fabric softeners in the market, making vague claims of being environmentally sustainable. We have combed through all the noise to bring you the best eco-friendly and natural fabric softeners.
For the perfect zero-waste laundry routine, fabric softeners are only part of the picture. Also, check out our options for refillable and eco-friendly laundry detergents, and for the all-natural wash, have a read-up on soap nuts - nature’s natural detergent for clean clothes.
Quick links to our recommendations for eco-friendly and sustainable fabric softeners
Product range: 1.5 L bottle, 5 L refill container
Sustainable values: Plant-based ingredients, recycled plastic, and plant-based bottle, biodegradable, Palm oil Free
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide from the UK
ECOVER is one of the more popular eco-friendly fabric softeners. It prevents static clinging, makes clothes soft, and adds a fresh scent. They create the liquid fabric softener with a nontoxic formula with ingredients from plants only. The active ingredient is rapeseed oil which is sourced from around Europe.
You can get the fabric softener in a natural scents combination; Gardenia-vanilla, Apple blossom-almond, and Rose-bergamot. They make ECOVER bottles using post-consumer recycled plastic, and they are recyclable. Each one-liter bottle should give you about 50 washes, and then you can buy the 5-liter refill.
Palm oil is one of the most unsustainable and popularly used ingredients in cleaning and cosmetics. ECOVER uses no palm oil at all, and the product biodegrades completely. The sustainable production of ECOVER fabric softener happens in a zero-waste factory that stands against animal testing. Even better, If you live in the UK, ECOVER has over 600 refill stations, and you can visit their website to find one near you.
Product range: 32 pods per pack
Sustainable values: Mineral-based ingredients, plastic-free, ocean conservation, cruelty-free, biodegradable
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide
Dropp's fabric softener is a unique formula created with natural minerals and zero plastic. The softener comes in the form of pods, and all you need is one pod for a full wash load. Surprisingly, the plastic-like pod covers are completely water-soluble and biodegradable. They have laundry detergent pods too.
The pods contain no dyes or synthetic fragrances. They have unscented and scented varieties with lavender eucalyptus, orange blossom, and a few others. Dropps come packaged in plastic-free compostable cardboard packaging that you can later recycle or compost.
Dropps is partnering with Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization. Their goal is to prevent habitat destruction, overfishing, and threats to natural marine life. You could be a partner too while using this natural fabric softener.
Product range: 1 Liter bottles
Sustainable values: Plant-based ingredients, recyclable, biodegradable fabric softener, dye-free
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide from the United Kingdom
This brand is one of the best eco-friendly alternatives for people who like strong-smelling fabric conditioners. ECOZONE liquid fabric softeners feature a variety of scents, varying from lavender, rose, lily, and jasmine-based scents.
Each bottle of the liquid fabric softener provides you with about 37 full load washes. To offer up great softening power, the fabric softener uses only plant-derived ingredients to offer great softening power. When you choose ECOZONE products, you won’t be selecting synthetic dyes, artificial colors, harsh fragrances, or petrochemical ingredients.
No animal derivatives
ECOZONE is tallow free and contains no other animal-derived ingredients. So you can keep your laundry wrinkle-free, fresh smelling, and soft without hurting your vegan stance.
Product range: 16oz bottle, 40 dryer sheets
Sustainable values: B corporation, PETA certified, concentrated for less packaging.
Store location and shipping: Ships internationally from the US.
The FREY brand offers liquid fabric conditioner and dryer sheets. Both products are made with natural ingredients and blended with essential oil. They come in sandalwood and rose/jasmine scents.
FREY's 16oz fabric conditioner is highly concentrated and will give you about 50 full load washes. The dryer sheet pack has 40 sheets in it. You can use the fabric conditioner and dryer sheets with cold water.
FREY contains no sulfates, synthetic dyes, or parabens. It isn't tested on animals either, but there's more. For every product you buy, the brand will plant a tree for every product you purchase and make our planet greener.
Product range: 1.05-liter bottle, 3-liter container
Sustainable values: plant-based ingredients, Certified by EcoLogo, locally produced
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide from Canada
Eco-Max is made with top-quality plant-sourced ingredients. It is biodegradable and won't release any pollutants into the environment. The eco-friendly fabric softener is hypoallergenic and perfect for folks with sensitive skin. It has a lavender scent and non-fragrant varieties.
This fabric softener is manufactured in Ontario with sustainable botanical resources. They do not test it on animals, and it has no animal ingredients. It comes in packaging that you can recycle.
A traditional liquid fabric softener would leave chemical residue on clothes which affect breathability. Eco-Max fabric softener leaves no residue and won't interfere with the moisture-wicking abilities of your clothes. That makes it suitable for all kinds of clothing.
Product range: 500ml bottle, 5-liter container, 20-liter container
Sustainable values: Refillable, Palm Oil Free, approved by The Soil Association, compostable packaging
Store location and shipping: Ships internationally from the UK.
Greenscents fabric conditioner is available in citrus, mint, lavender, and scentless variants. The genuinely natural fabric softener has ingredients like aloe vera and essential oils. It has no artificial dyes or toxic contents.
It is approved by The Soil Association, The Vegan Society, and Cruelty-Free International. So you can be sure that it meets very high environmental safety standards.
The product comes in a 500 ml glass bottle with 17 washes and a 5-liter refill container with 220 washes. There's also a mega 20-liter container that will give you 880 washes. They make all the plastic containers from sugarcane waste and are biodegradable. You can even send the containers back to Greenscents for a refill.
Product range: 1-liter bottle, 1.5 refill pack.
Sustainable values: Vegan, Leaping Bunny Certified, recycled plastic.
Store location and shipping: Ships from Australia.
Soganics was founded by a small group of friends with a common problem; easily-irritated skin. They came up with a fabric softener perfect for their sensitive skin and the skin of people like them.
The plant-based eco-friendly fabric softener uses certified natural ingredients sourced from plants. It contains no ingredients from animals or artificial colors and preservatives. It reduces static cling and makes clothes soft and wrinkle-free. It helps you keep your clothes smelling fresh without harmful synthetic fragrances.
Soganics eco-friendly fabric softener comes in a recycled plastic bottle and refills pouches. You can save 90% on plastic, water, and energy. The fabric softener comes in a concentrated form, giving an average of 42 loads of laundry done per bottle. Just a few drops are enough for a wash cycle.
Product range: 1.58 liters
Sustainable values: Recycled plastic, natural ingredients, no synthetic fragrances
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide from Belgium
This fabric softener is popular in the UK as an eco-friendly choice. It is made with plant and mineral ingredients that are fully biodegradable. It comes in three fragrances; Tropical coconut, Pink freesia, and Ocean Violet.
You will get about 45 washes from each bottle of Method fabric softener; half a cup is enough for the whole family's laundry day. Note that the softener is unsuitable for silk or sports fabrics because it could affect breathability.
Method fabric softeners come packaged in a 100% recycled bottle that is easily recyclable. Also, the product is dermatologically tested on humans and not on animals.
Product range: One bag of 4 dryer balls
Sustainable values: Leaping Bunny-certified, handmade, sustainable fabric softener
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide from New Zealand
They make Friendsheep dryer balls using cruelty-free New Zealand wool certified by Leaping Bunny. The wool balls have no synthetic chemicals or additives, so they’re 100% biodegradable. Also, as a completely natural fabric softener, it is suitable for people with sensitive skin.
You can get Friendsheep eco dryer balls in plain white or animal-themed designs. The brand employs physically challenged Nepalese women, providing them a chance to earn a living wage. They are also a top contributing member of 1% for the Planet.
Adding Friendsheep dryer balls to the drying cycle is a zero-waste solution to make clothes feel softer. All it takes is sheep's wool, which can be reused for a long time. Also, the packaging is a cotton bag that is both recyclable and compostable.
Product range: 80 rayon sheets
Sustainable values: No fragrance, plant-based, no toxins
Store location and shipping: Ships internationally from Wisconsin
Get static-free and soft clothes the natural way with Public Goods Our fabric softener sheets. The dryer sheet is made from plants and has no toxic ingredients. The sheet is free from phosphate, gluten, phthalates, and parabens. It won't release any toxins into your laundry or the air.
If you have fragrance allergies, Public Goods is a really great choice. The dryer sheets have no fragrance at all; they just smell clean and fresh. The product is tested on humans and found to be hypoallergenic.
Product range: bag of 6 xl balls
Sustainable values: Handmade, reusable, Leaping Bunny Certified
Store location and shipping: Ships worldwide from the US.
If you are concerned about eliminating plastic waste from your life, wool dryer balls are a better option than liquid fabric softeners. Molly Suds wool dryer balls are made with New Zealand wool that is cruelty-free and mulesing-free. Molly Suds has an eco-friendly laundry detergent line as well.
They get their wool from registered farms only. They have a Leaping Bunny certification for their animal-friendly wool. The balls are safe to use on all types of clothing and won't leave lint or any kind of residue. What's more, they will last for at least three years.
Molly Suds is made to help users avoid harsh chemicals. It has both black and white dryer balls. The white balls are unbleached, and black wool balls are colored with azo-free dye. The wool balls do not contain any fragrance either.
Is fabric softener bad? Yes, a traditional fabric softener contains toxic chemicals, but you can choose an eco-friendly alternative. For sustainable living, use eco-friendly laundry detergents and fabric softeners. You can make fabric softeners at home with ingredients like baking soda and essential oils, but if you don't have the time.
Susan Kaplan, J.D. 2021. Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants: Even During the Pandemic, “Quats” Should Not Be Used Around Children.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.