The feeling of soft, freshly washed clothes is one of life’s simple pleasures. Using the best eco friendly fabric softener will add a lovely softness to your fabrics without sacrificing your low impact lifestyle.
Given how much laundry we do in our lifetime, making the change to a biodegradable fabric softener is an easy and effective way to reduce our environmental impact.
RELATED: 10 Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Options for Fresh Clothes
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How Does Eco Friendly Fabric Softener Work?
When clothes are washed in a machine, a great amount of stress is put on the fabric. The surface fibers become stretched, squashed and frayed, which then harden when the clothes are dried in air.
This happens especially in natural materials like cotton or wool.
A fabric softener helps to smooth out and normalize the distressed fibers so that they return to their original, smoother state. Fabric softeners also help to decrease the static charge caused when clothes rub up against each other during the cleaning and tumble drying process.
Unfortunately, most commercial fabric softeners use harmful chemicals like parabens, plastics, and toluene to make clothes feel softer and smell better.
In contrast, the best eco friendly fabric softeners use natural ingredients and/or physical means to achieve the same effect.
Liquid softeners use plant and mineral-based ingredients during the wash cycle. Dryer sheets slowly release their ingredients with the help of steam created during the drying cycle.
And wool dryer balls physically soften fabrics and reduce static as they tumble around the drum.
What to Look for in an Eco Friendly Fabric Softener
One of the main things to look for in an eco friendly fabric softener is that it is made from natural, organic materials. No plastics, artificial dyes, or colorants should be part of the product.
If you’re checking the ingredients list, you’ll probably come across scary-sounding ingredients like “Triethanolamine Dialkylester Methosulphate”. However, these are simply the scientific names for plant-derived ingredients (this particular one softens fabrics).
Many cleaning products are tested on animals, so using a fabric softener that is 100% animal cruelty free should be high on your list. Products that are recyclable, or that can be fully composted, greatly reduce their impact on the environment, especially if their packaging is also recyclable and made with recycled materials.
And of course, the company that makes the fabric softener should be an environmentally conscious business that supports sustainable practices and initiatives.
Now you see why using sustainable softeners is one of my top eco friendly laundry tips!
Best Eco Friendly Fabric Softeners
Dropps Laundry Scent Booster + Fabric Softener Pods
Dropps eco friendly fabric softener pods use natural minerals instead of plastics in their formula. Despite the plastic-like appearance of the pod covers, they are completely biodegradable.
The pods dissolve completely in your wash and contain no dyes, artificial colors or synthetic fragrances either. They even add a natural lavender eucalyptus scent as they soften your laundry.
Each order is shipped plastic-free in a recycled cardboard box that you can later recycle or compost.
Dropps also partners with Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation organization. Oceana is dedicated to preventing overfishing, habitat destruction, and threats to natural marine life.
Ecover Fabric Softener
Like many companies aiming to make the best eco friendly fabric softener, Ecover’s is made entirely from plant-based ingredients, and contains a mild, fresh plant-based scent as well.
It’s the brand most readily available to me in the UK (their sister company in the US is Method), and one of the most affordable options on this list.
Ecover’s softener is completely biodegradable, which it does in a very short time, and the bottle and cap can both be fully recycled. As it reduces static cling it makes clothes feel gentle on your skin, and even makes ironing easier after the clothes have dried.
Soganics Eco-Friendly Fabric Softener
Soganics‘ eco friendly liquid fabric softener comes from way down under in Australia. The plant-based formula they’ve come up with uses only certified natural ingredients, and is 100% vegan.
With no colorants or preservatives involved–just a natural lavender scent–the formula leaves no harmful residues on clothes, making it perfect for anyone with sensitive skin. This makes sense, seeing as the Soganics company was founded by a small group of people who discovered they all had easily-irritated skin in common.
This certified organic fabric softener comes in a concentrated form, which means you’ll be able to get an average of 42 loads of laundry done per bottle, meaning more longevity in the product’s lifespan.
Method Liquid Fabric Softener
If you live in the US, you’ve probably seen Method’s eco friendly fabric conditioner on the supermarket shelf. It’s also the most affordable natural fabric softener on this list.
That being said, I can’t 100% endorse Method’s fabric softener because of the amount of synthetic ingredients they use. Some of their products use synthetic fragrances (which they only talk about on their UK FAQ and not the US version) due to concerns about allergens, and they aren’t upfront about the preservatives they use.
However, Method’s fabric softener is a far better choice for the environment than Downy or other affordable and readily available brands. So if Method is what’s accessible for you, go for it!
Friendsheep White Eco Dryer Balls
There are a growing number of New Zealand wool dryer balls on the market. But Friendsheep takes their sustainability a step further by employing disabled Nepalese women to hand-make their product in a safe, equitable working environment.
Friendsheep doesn’t use chemicals or additives, so they’re suitable for babies and people with sensitive skin.
The balls use organic, Leaping Bunny-certified crulety free New Zealand wool, which are 100% biodegradable. Plus, everything comes shipped in recyclable and compostable packaging.
Friendsheep Wool is a high-contributing member of 1% for the Planet–they give around 20% of proceeds to environmental and social organizations.
Finally, if you want a touch of cuteness with your laundry, Friendsheep also makes animal-themed dryer balls in addition to the plain white ones.
Ecoigy Handmade Wool Dryer Balls
If you’re looking for a zero waste fabric softener, natural wool dryer balls are an excellent choice.
As I mentioned before, wool dryer balls soften fabrics physically rather than rely on natural agents. That means you won’t have any of the leftover residue that builds up on clothes and in machines like you get with liquid softeners.
Even before I start talking about the actual item, I should say that I love the look and feel of the cotton bag that these come in! Plus, it’s reusable.
Each Ecoigy ball is made from 100% New Zealand wool, and will last you for over 1,000 wash cycles. Their anti-static properties reduce wrinkles and clinging in your clothes, leaving them naturally soft in a way that’s especially good for babies or those with sensitive skin.
Like the other dryer balls on this list, Ecoigy’s are hypoallergenic, fully biodegradable, and fragrance-free.
Wooly Heroes Dryer Balls
These adorable animal-inspired dryer balls will add a touch of joy to your laundry routine.
As they are made from 100% New Zealand wool, with no chemical treatments or synthetics, each one is all-natural material and 100% biodegradable.
The dryer balls are handmade in ethical, fair trade working conditions, are hypoallergenic and safe for babies, toddlers and even pets.
Using this eco friendly alternative to fabric softener also reduces the drying time of your clothes by 20% to 40%. That means less energy being used each time you do your laundry, which lowers your household’s carbon footprint.
Biokleen Laundry Dryer Sheets
One of the best organic fabric softener products on the market, these plant-based dryer sheets are crafted sustainably.
They are made in the USA with renewable energy offsets in place during production, and contain no artificial colors, preservatives or artificial fragrances (though there is a small, natural fragrance in each sheet which, while not overpowering, should be mentioned). Each box can also be recycled once used up.
Following the work ethic of the Biokleen company, the sheets have no negative effect on the environment, and are great for anyone with allergies or chemical sensitivities.
Molly’s Suds All Natural Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets
Molly’s Suds was started by a mom and pediatric nurse in order to make safe, chemical-free fresh clothes more of a possibility for children and babies everywhere.
These eco friendly fabric softener sheets are vegan, plant-based and made from all natural plant essences and essential oils. They’re free of waxes, dyes, harsh fragrances and animal derivatives, and they’re very gentle on sensitive skin, just as intended.
You can choose ones that are lavender scented, or they can be fragrance free, depending on your preference.
Each sheet is fully compostable, or can be put into your recycling. The packaging is also made from recycled cardboard and can be recycled too, making them one of the best eco friendly fabric softener options.
DIY Natural Fabric Softener
For a truly sustainable fabric softener, you can’t beat good old fashioned vinegar.
You can keep it super simple and add ¼ to ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine. Despite what you might think, your clothes won’t come out smelling like vinegar!
If you’d prefer your laundry to have a bit of fragrance, you can step up your game and make DIY eco friendly fabric softener from infused vinegar.
Here’s what you need:
- Large lidded jar
- Distilled white vinegar
- Scented ingredients (herbs, citrus peel, and essential oils all work)
- Start by warming up the vinegar in a pot or microwave.
- While the vinegar is getting warm (not hot!), add your scented ingredients into the jar. If you’re using essential oil, about 20 drops per gallon will do.
- Once the vinegar is warm, pour it into the jar and close the lid.
- Let the vinegar infuse for 1-2 weeks before straining out any solid scented items you added.
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