One of the often-overlooked avenues of exposure is our laundry process, where conventional fabric softeners can introduce an array of synthetic chemicals to our clothes—chemicals that come in direct contact with our skin.
Whether you’re looking to prioritize your health, protect the environment, or both, transitioning to natural and non-toxic fabric softeners is an excellent step forward. Here’s our list of 10 remarkable alternatives to soften your fabrics, leaving them comfortable and fragrant without compromising on your well-being or the planet’s health.
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Table of Contents
The Problem With Conventional Fabric Softeners
Conventional fabric softeners, whether they are liquid softeners or dryer sheets, are formulated to deliver multiple effects, such as making clothes feel softer, reducing static cling, and imparting a pleasant fragrance. To achieve these outcomes, they contain a mixture of chemicals, many of which can potentially be harmful. Here’s how conventional softeners can contain allergens and preservatives:
- Fragrance: One of the most notable features of fabric softeners is the scent they leave on clothes. The term “fragrance” on an ingredient label can be a composite of numerous chemicals, many of which are undisclosed due to trade secrets. Some of these chemicals, like phthalates (used to prolong the life of the scent) or synthetic musks, can be allergenic or even toxic. For example, some individuals can develop allergic reactions to specific fragrance components like Limonene, Linalool, and more.
- Quats (Quaternary ammonium compounds): These are used in fabric softeners for their softening properties. They can coat the fabric to make it feel softer. However, some quats are known to be potential allergens and can be harmful to the respiratory and reproductive systems.
- Preservatives: To extend the shelf life of fabric softeners and prevent the growth of bacteria or mold, preservatives are added. Some common preservatives in fabric softeners include isothiazolinones, which are known to be potent skin allergens. These compounds can cause skin reactions in some people, especially with prolonged exposure.
- Colors or Dyes: To make the product visually appealing, some fabric softeners might contain artificial colors. Some of these dyes can be allergenic to certain individuals and might contain impurities linked to health concerns.
- Other ingredients: Depending on the brand and formulation, fabric softeners may contain other chemicals or ingredients that can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Isothiazolinones are known allergens found in many consumer products, including conventional liquid detergents. Notable isothiazolinones to avoid include:
How Can You Make Your Clothes Soft Without Risk?
- Wool Dryer Balls: They are cost-effective, reusable, and help soften clothes by lightly agitating them in the dryer. They can also smooth out clumps in pillow fillings.
- Water Softening Systems: Installing one can alleviate the hardness of the water, which can make clothes feel softer after washing.
- Use Natural & Non-Toxic Fabric Softeners
1. Dropps – Fabric Softener Lavender Eucalyptus
Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softener Made in the USA
Capacity | 32 pods
Features | Plant-based ingredients, plastic-free, no dyes, no added fillers, and no harsh chemicals. Made in the USA and Certified B Corp.
Customer Review | 4.1/5 stars over 2,523 ratings
- Softens and freshens laundry with natural mineral-based ingredients
- Easy-to-use, pre-measured pods work in all machines and water temperatures
- Eco-friendly, recyclable packaging and commitment to sustainability
- Might not dissolve completely in some washers
- Potentially not ideal for washers with automatic dispensing systems
- Scent may not be strong enough for some preferences
Dropps Fabric Softener Pods offer a natural way to soften and freshen your laundry with long-lasting fragrance. Using mineral-based ingredients, this eco-friendly solution is perfect for wrinkle reduction, reducing pilling, maintaining towel absorbency, and preserving the wicking technology of performance fabrics. The pleasant lavender eucalyptus scent will leave your laundry smelling fresh and clean.
Using Dropps pods is simple and convenient, as they are pre-measured, eliminating the need for messy liquids or dryer sheet residue. These fabric softener pods work well with Dropps laundry detergent pods and can be added directly into the washing machine drum. Even in cold water, they dissolve quickly and work with all types of machines, including high-efficiency washers.
Dropps Fabric Softener is made in the USA, ensuring the highest quality and safety standards. As a Certified B Corporation, Dropps meets high standards for social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The vegan formula is cruelty-free and free from dyes, parabens, sulfates, optical brighteners, preservatives, phosphates, and phthalates.
2. Tru Earth – Fabric Softener Strips
Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softener Strips
Capacity | 32 strips for up to 64 loads
Features | Paraben-free, phosphate-free, cruelty-free, plastic-free.
Customer Review | 4.4/5 stars over 626 ratings
- Innovative fabric softener in strip form
- Environmentally friendly and safe for septic systems
- Reduces wrinkles effectively
- Stronger scent compared to detergent
- Compatibility with older washing machine models
Tru Earth Fabric Softener Strips are a pioneering laundry solution designed to replace traditional liquid fabric softeners. Intended for use in the washing machine, these ultra-concentrated strips provide an uncomplicated and mess-free way to add softness to your laundry. Their gentle formula is free from harmful substances like parabens and phosphates.
The strips’ patent-pending formula effectively minimizes wrinkles while imparting a pleasant fresh linen scent to the laundry. However, some users find the scent stronger compared to the detergent counterpart, which might not suit everyone’s preferences. On the plus side, the strips dissolve completely in both hot and cold water, ensuring no residue is left behind.
While the Tru Earth Fabric Softener Strips eliminate the need for cumbersome plastic jugs, they may need to be stored in a sealed bag to prevent them from sticking together. Additionally, as a fairly new product, their compatibility with older washing machine models and agitator wells might vary. That said, these strips have garnered positive reviews for their effectiveness in laundry softness and wrinkle reduction.
3. Mrs. Meyer’s – Fabric Softener Honeysuckle
Best Overall Non-Toxic Fabric Softener
Capacity | Up to 32 loads
Features | Free of parabens, phthalates, Leaping Bunny Certified cruelty-free, essential oils.
Customer Review | 4.7/5 stars over 7,600 ratings
- Lovely honeysuckle fragrance
- Environmentally-friendly and biodegradable formula
- Compatible with high-efficiency and classic washing machines
- Pricier than other fabric softeners
- Scent might be too subtle for some users
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Honeysuckle Fabric Softener provides a unique, sweet scent combining flowers and fruits. The formula contains plant-derived softening agents and essential oils for a gentle yet effective way to soften your clothes.
This fabric softener is safe to use in both high-efficiency and conventional washing machines, catering to a variety of households. It freshens up to 32 loads of laundry per bottle. The product is biodegradable and Leaping Bunny Certified cruelty-free.
The price of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Honeysuckle Fabric Softener might be considered steep for some users. However, its delightful scent and eco-friendliness make it a worthy investment for those seeking an enjoyable laundry experience without harming the environment. It has a large number of positive reviews and a high rating, reflecting happy and satisfied customers.
4. Attitude – Baby Fabric Softener
Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softener for Babies
Capacity | 40 loads
Features | Non-toxic plant-based ingredients, vegan, dermatologically-tested, cruelty-free.
Customer Review | 4.4/5 stars over 412 ratings
- 98% naturally sourced ingredients
- Dermatologically tested
- Advanced deodorizing properties ideal for cold-water washing
- Scent may not be strong enough for some users
- Packaging might be bulkier than expected
The Attitude Baby Fabric Softener, hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and Ecologo Certified, is designed specifically to be gentle on your baby’s skin and clothes. With 98% naturally sourced ingredients, this fabric softener is environmentally friendly and caters to parents concerned about the chemicals used in regular fabric softeners.
Dermatologically tested, this fabric softener is made from plant and mineral-based ingredients, ensuring your baby’s clothes are soft and cozy without harmful additives. The advanced deodorizing properties make it perfect for cold-water washing, providing an efficient and eco-friendly way to freshen up your baby’s garments.
One downside is that some users may find the scent not strong enough. Additionally, the packaging may be larger than expected, posing a potential storage issue. However, the non-toxic and hypoallergenic qualities of this fabric softener are a great choice for parents seeking a gentle and safe option for their baby’s laundry needs.
5. The Good Home – Natural Liquid Laundry Fabric Softener
Best Biodegradable and Non-Toxic Fabric Softener
Capacity | 64 Fl Oz
Features | Biodegradable, cruelty free, 100% vegan, free from Sulfates, Parabens,Phthalates, Triclosan, and Formaldehyde.
Customer Review | 4.3/5 stars over 692 ratings
- Natural and organic ingredients
- Fresh and subtle Hyacinth scent
- Softens and removes stains effectively
- May leak during shaking as per instructions
- Scent might not suit everyone’s preference
The Good Home Natural Liquid Laundry Fabric Softener is a fantastic option for customers who wish to incorporate natural and organic products into their laundry routine. Its plant-derived formula is gentle on clothes and preserves colors.
One of the most appealing features of this fabric softener is its delicate Hyacinth scent that leaves your laundry smelling fresh and clean, without being overpowering. It efficiently removes stains and odors.
However, some users have mentioned issues with the product leaking during shaking, even with the lid on securely. Additionally, while the scent is generally well-liked, it may not appeal to everyone, and the price might be considered a bit higher for some customers. Overall, The Good Home Natural Liquid Laundry Fabric Softener is an excellent choice for those who prioritize non-toxic, environmentally friendly products and love a delicate aroma in their laundry.
6. Tangent GC – Kiyomi Fabric Softener
Best Organic And Non-Toxic Fabric Softener
Capacity | 16 – 25 loads
Features | Organic and vegan. Cruelty and fossil-free. Made in Sweden.
Customer Review | 5/5 stars over 2 ratings
- Organic and vegan
- Cruelty and fossil-free
- Made in Sweden
- Limited washing instructions
- Higher price point
- Smaller product volume
The Tangent GC Kiyomi Fabric Softener is not only organic and vegan but also cruelty and fossil-free. This makes it an excellent option for those who want to be environmentally conscious while taking care of their fabrics. The product is made in Sweden.
The product is suitable for both handwashing and machine use, but the instructions only specify amounts for these methods, without further guidance on different fabric types or machine settings. This Fabric Softener is a bit on the pricier side in comparison to its market counterparts.
The Tangent GC Kiyomi Fabric Softener is an environmentally friendly and ethical option for those with sensitive skin who prioritize using organic products. While it may come with a higher price tag and limited washing instructions, its positive features make it worth considering for your fabric softening needs.
7. Ecover – Fabric Softener
Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softener With Sustainable Packaging
Capacity | 32 Fl Oz
Features | Plant based ingredients, biodegradable, no animal testing, safe for septic tanks, bottle and labels are 100% recyclable and can be recycled
Customer Review | 4.6/5 stars over 270 ratings
- Plant-based ingredients
- Gentle on skin
- Compatible with High Efficiency machines
- Light scent may not be preferred by some users
- Plastic packaging
Ecover Fabric Softener offers a natural, non-toxic alternative for softening your laundry. The product’s plant-based ingredients are biodegradable, meaning it’s gentle on the environment as well as your clothes. The light scent is pleasing and isn’t overpowering.
The compatibility of Ecover Fabric Softener with High Efficiency (HE) machines ensures that you can make use of this eco-friendly option without compromising on performance. Ironing becomes easier, static cling is reduced, and the softener is kind to your skin. This makes it an ideal choice for those with allergies or sensitivities to harsher chemicals in conventional fabric softeners.
The fabric softener is only available in the Morning Fresh scent, which may not be appealing to everyone. Finally, although the bottle and cap are both recyclable, it would be preferred if an alternative to plastic packaging were offered for a truly eco-conscious choice.
8. Caldrea – Pear Blossom Agave Fabric Softener
Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softener Compatible with HE-machines
Capacity | 32 fl oz
Features | Plant-derived, cruelty free, and its formula is HE-machine compatible
Customer Review | 4.1/5 stars over 418 ratings
- Pleasant Pear Blossom Agave scent
- Plant-derived and cruelty-free formula
- HE-machine compatible
- Potential dispenser clogging due to thickness
- Mild scent may not appeal to everyone
Caldrea’s Pear Blossom Agave Fabric Softener offers a combination of ozone, melon, apple, and lemon top notes, as well as lemon and jasmine essential oils. This unique blend provides a harmonious fragrance that is not overwhelmingly floral. Users who appreciate a light scent will likely enjoy this product.
This fabric softener is made using plant-derived, cruelty-free fabric conditioning elements, making it a more environmentally-friendly option compared to traditional fabric softeners. It is also compatible with high-efficiency machines, ensuring that it can be used by a wide range of consumers.
The product’s thickness may lead to clogging in some washing machine dispensers. If you’re unsure whether this product is the right fit for your needs, considering these factors may help inform your decision.
9. Brooklinen – Fabric Softener
Best Hypoallergenic Non-Toxic Fabric Softener
Capacity | 16 fl oz
Features | Hypoallergenic, free from petroleum; artificial dyes; parabens; phthalates or phosphates, Cruelty-free, Plant-based, Biodegradable, Recyclable packaging
Customer Review | 4.7/5 stars over 87 ratings
- Free from harsh chemicals
- Biodegradable and recyclable packaging
- Scent is not long lasting
- No refill option
The plant-based formula softens your clothes without sticky residue or toxic chemicals.
Some customers might find the scent not potent enough. If you’re looking for heavy-duty softening, you might need something else as this fabric softener mainly focuses on eliminating stain and providing a gentle softness to fabrics.
10. Roses Natural Store – Fabric Softener Crystals
Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softener Crystals
Capacity | 1 scoop for a standard load and 2 scoops for larger loads.
Features | Handmade Formula, Free from sulfates and other harmful chemicals.
Customer Review | 5/5 stars overs 448 reviews
- Delivers freshness and softness effectively
- Non-toxic and sulfate-free
- Convenient and straightforward application with included scoop
- Not suitable for liquid dispensers.
These eco-friendly and non-toxic fabric softener crystals are handmade with all-natural ingredients. The softener ensures a gentle touch to your fabrics, leaving them feeling soft and smelling fresh without the use of harmful chemicals.
However, the crystals are not suitable for liquid dispensers.
Fabric Softener Buying Guide
When looking for a natural fabric softener, there are several factors to consider. We’ve broken down the most important aspects to help make your decision easier.
Ingredients: A natural fabric softener should contain eco-friendly, non-toxic ingredients. Look for plant-based ingredients and avoid any products that contain phosphates, chlorine, and synthetic fragrances.
Effectiveness: A good natural fabric softener should effectively soften clothes and reduce static cling. Read reviews to determine the effectiveness of the specific product. Remember, a higher price doesn’t always guarantee a better performance.
Scent: Many natural fabric softeners are scented with essential oils. Choose a scent that you like, but be mindful of people with allergies or sensitivities. Some products also offer unscented options.
Versatility: It’s great to find a fabric softener that works well with various types of fabrics and wash cycles. This includes delicates, heavy-duty items, and even cold-water washes.
Safety: Ensure that the product you choose is safe for sensitive skin and children’s clothes. Look for dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and cruelty-free certifications.
When selecting a natural fabric softener, consider the packaging as well. Environmentally-friendly packaging can reduce your carbon footprint. Materials such as recyclable plastic and cardboard, as well as bulk packaging, can help minimize waste.
Lastly, consider the price of the natural fabric softener. Compare different products and take note of their cost-per-use. Although some natural fabric softeners may be more expensive upfront, they can save you money in the long run if they have a longer-lasting effect on your clothes.
By carefully considering these factors, you can choose the best natural fabric softener for your needs while minimizing its environmental impact. With the right product, you can enjoy soft, static-free clothes that are gentle on your skin and the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I make my own natural fabric softener at home?
To make a natural fabric softener at home, we can combine one part baking soda, two parts white vinegar, and a few drops of essential oil (for scent). Mix the ingredients well and store them in a jug or a jar. When it’s time for the laundry, just add half a cup of your homemade fabric softener during the rinse cycle.
What non-toxic options are available for fabric softeners?
There are several non-toxic options available for fabric softeners. Some popular choices include:
- White vinegar: An effective and affordable natural fabric softener
- Baking soda: Helps balance the pH levels in your washing machine to soften fabrics
- Wool dryer balls: Reduce drying time and static while softening your clothes
- Essential oils: Can be used to add scent to your laundry without harmful chemicals
Can vinegar be used as an alternative to fabric softeners?
Yes, vinegar can be used as an alternative to fabric softeners. White vinegar is an excellent natural option to soften clothes and eliminate odors. Add half a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, and your clothes will come out softer and fresher.
Which natural ingredients are commonly found in eco-friendly fabric softeners?
Eco-friendly fabric softeners often contain natural ingredients like:
- Plant-based surfactants: Derived from coconut or other sustainable sources
- Essential oils: For adding pleasant scents without synthetic fragrances
- Baking soda: To balance pH levels and soften fabrics
- Citric acid: Helps dissolve minerals and soften hard water
How do you soften towels without using harsh chemicals?
To soften towels without using harsh chemicals, consider using white vinegar or baking soda. Add half a cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle, or add a cup of baking soda to your laundry load before starting the wash cycle. As an alternative, you can also use wool dryer balls, which help to soften and fluff your towels in the dryer.
Is it possible to use baking soda as a fabric softener replacement?
Yes, baking soda can be used as a fabric softener replacement. Baking soda helps balance the pH levels in your washing machine, which makes the fabrics feel softer. To replace a commercial fabric softener with baking soda, simply add half a cup of baking soda to your laundry load before the start of the wash cycle.
Pictures credits belong to respective brands.