7 Eco-Friendly Fabric Softeners For Oh-So Organic & Soft Laundry
It’s time to wash away the misinformation about fabric softeners and whether the necessary laundry product we’ve been led to believe they are.
Most natural laundry detergents and conventional dryers are already made to soften clothes.
But this multi-billion dollar industry has many duped in the name of “extra laundry care” and faux fragrances.
But why are fabric softeners so popular? Aren’t they bad for the environment?
Unfortunately, modern marketing has sold us a laundry routine most don’t realize is damaging their health, the planet’s, and their clothing.
While you may decide to ditch the softener altogether, if not, we’ve rounded up the best eco-friendly fabric softeners that are also a little softer on the planet.
Everything we recommend to you on Sustainable Jungle is independently researched and we ask all brands to confirm their claims. To avoid waste, we test products on an as needed basis. This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission. Learn more about why we do this here.
The Best Non-Toxic Fabric Softeners For Sustainably Soft Clothes
What is a natural alternative to fabric softener?
Dropps’ all-natural eco-friendly fabric softeners come in biodegradable all-natural pods and isn’t filled with ingredients that will harm your skin or your septic system.
To go really pure, try our organic fabric softener recipe to go soft on your wallet, your skin, and the Earth.
But before you start your pre-wash with any of these eco-friendly fabric softeners, rinse your way to the bottom of the article to see if you even need it and why you might not.
*Note: Dropps’ laundry pods contain RSPO palm oil, but their eco fabric softener pods do not.
About Dropps Eco-Friendly Laundry Softener
Drop with ease into the softest laundry thanks to Dropps’ pre-measured eco-friendly fabric softener pods.
It ticks all the boxes: vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic and thoughtfully packaged with compostable and plastic-free packaging.
While biodegradable and septic safe, they’re not technically plastic-free fabric softeners because the pods are made of dissolvable polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH/PVA) pods
Choose between six different scents for their best eco-friendly fabric softener: unscented, orange blossom, eucalyptus lavender, clean and crisp, home for the holidays, and ocean.
Dropps’ softener formula is bentonite and quartz-based, which are natural minerals that help keep laundry soft, maintain the wicking performance of athletic wear, and keep towels absorbent.
One of the OG zero waste laundry detergent brands, Dropps is well known for their plant-based laundry pods.
The rest of their eco-friendly cleaning products for household cleaning are similarly lauded for helping us dodge toxic and synthetic chemicals.
Dropps has carbon-neutral shipping through Clearloop, meaning they offset 100% of their shipping carbon footprint.
To give back, they hope to rehabilitate every drop of the ocean through their support of Oceana for ocean clean-ups and conservation.
2. Public Goods
*Note: Public Goods’ eco-friendly fabric softener sheets are palm oil-free, but other products are not.
About Public Goods’ Eco-Friendly Fabric Softener Sheets
With a rayon fabric base and natural softening enzymes, the fully plant-based ingredients come together to form non-bioaccumulative and biodegradable fabric softener dryer sheets.
Public Goods suggests they can also be composted, but since they’re not certified home compostable, we do NOT suggest composting. We’ll be touching base to clarify this point with Public Goods.
Fragrance-free, gluten-free, and phosphate these dermatologist-tested hypoallergenic sheets are suitable to use as baby safe fabric softener.
They’re also made in the USA, in Wisconsin.
About Public Goods
As far as alternatives to Amazon are concerned, Public Goods are on-point for their vegan, cruelty-free, organic, minimalist approach to product ingredients and packaging.
Everything is shipped carbon-neutral in glass jars, recycled paper, or compostable packaging.
*Note: We are confirming policies directly with this brand.
About Jialiving’s Biodegradable Fabric Softeners
Jialiving offers plant-based laundry detergent that double as sensitive skin-friendly organic softener.
All of their products are handcrafted, plastic-free, all-natural, and non-toxic. Items come packaged in whimsical but no less thoughtful, recyclable, and reusable packaging.
Their detergent-softener is available in peppermint, lavender, unscented, and also as tablets for a mess-free laundry routine. They also sell zero waste refills.
Just one tablespoon is all that’s needed to get your regular-sized load of laundry fresh and eco-consciously sparkling.
LA-based Etsy shop Jialiving provides handmade non-toxic and zero waste home cleaning products for an affordable price.
It was the founders’ love of the planet and its oceans that inspired them to create high quality products that can give back to the Earth.
For every purchase, Jialiving plants a tree through One Tree Planted.
4. Guinea Hill Soap
*Note: Guinea Hill Soap’s soaps contain goat’s milk, but their organic fabric softener is vegan.
About Guinea Hill Soap’s Organic Plant-Based Fabric Softeners
You don’t need to be a guinea pig for toxic chemicals and harmful synthetic fragrances thanks to Etsy shop Guinea Hill Soap’s all-natural softener concentrate.
Made of four simple ingredients—vinegar, emulsifying coconut, sunflower oil, and phthalate free essential oil fragrances—it’s designed to be an additive to an ingredient you probably already own: vinegar.
Simply dilute with home vinegar, add to your wash cycle, and discover how simple and soft laundry can be with this non-toxic fabric softener.
It comes in a 4 oz or 8 oz plastic bottle, which we’ll let slide since it’s long-lasting, all-natural, homemade, ethically sourced, vegan, palm-oil free, and cruelty-free. Just try to recycle it when empty.
About Guinea Hill Soap
Laundry is a sacred ritual that doesn’t have to be so industrialized.
That’s why we love Guinea Hill Soap for its authentically farm fresh approach to liquid fabric softeners.
Operated by farmer Mary out of her permaculture-focused family farm in Michigan, just about every ingredient is grown fresh on the property, or by neighboring local farmers. They even grow their own luffah gourds! In her words:
If a bit of pampering from these farm fresh ingredients can make someone feel nurtured and loved, well, that’s what I’m hoping for, too.”
Those that can’t be found locally are sourced from ethical, global channels, like her butters which come from women-owned companies in Africa.
One month a year, they give a percentage of income to Type One Diabetes research, a concern near and dear to them.
5. Viren Apothecary
*Note: Some products contain beeswax melts, but their eco-friendly fabric softener is vegan.
About Viren Apothecary’s Non-Toxic Fabric Softeners
Using reusable wool dryer balls but still stuck with static electricity?
Viren Apothecary offers a Wash & Wear dryer ball spray that helps you reap the eco and softening benefits of dryer balls—with the added fresh scent of blue agave and aloe, cucumber and cotton, white tea and pear, or almond and amber.
You can also opt for an unscented eco fabric softener.
Simply mist your dryer balls with the spray and add them to the dryer with wet clothes. You can also “spot soften” certain clothes by spraying directly.
Believing “the best way to cut down on packaging is to help you use less of our products“, they offer a highly concentrated and long-lasting product.
It comes packaged in a reusable glass spray bottle, and refills come in reusable, recyclable aluminum bottles.
About Viren Apothecary
Viren Apothecary began with a pounding headache, a dirty kitchen, and a gallon of vinegar.
Realizing how smelly the vinegar was, but still wanting a green cleaning routine, Viren’s founder Morgan Finley got to work to develop the best all-natural cleaning formulas.
In Morgan’s own words, “Our product formulas were born from a personal refusal to compromise between eco-friendly ingredients, fine fragrances & sparkling surfaces.”
Everything is free of palm oil, parabens, phthalates, phosphates, gluten, bleach, ammonia and more.
All ingredients are sourced from either small, local businesses (which also avoid shipping emissions) or directly from manufacturers instead of supply warehouses to maintain greater traceability of ingredients.
Their whole partners operate using closed-loop bulk packaging, and they strive to fill empty holes in the market by designing new and original product, rather than make something that already exists.
Every Mother’s Day, they donate to the Hope House of Milwaukee, a community centered organization providing help to families experiencing homelessness and in need of both short-term and permanent housing.
6. Elisa & Millie
*Note: We are confirming policies directly with this brand.
About Elisa & Millie’s Best Eco-Friendly Liquid Fabric Softener
Free from sulfates, phosphates, parabens, and BPA, Elisa & Millie’s handmade natural fabric softeners are made for sensitive skin.
It also contains no colors, allergens, artificial chemicals, or surfactants.
Simply dollop 1-2oz into your washing machine, and you’ll be wowed at how clothes feel softer and static free.
This product works in all water temperatures and washers, including High Efficiency eco-friendly washing machines.
While this natural fabric softener liquid comes in a not-so-eco-friendly plastic pouch, as with all Etsy sellers, items are shipped carbon-neutral and in recyclable packaging.
About Elisa & Millie
North Carolina-based owner Chelsey is mom to three children and three cats, and has put extensive time, research, effort, and love into her handcrafted organic fabric softeners.
Everything made and sold is vegan and cruelty-free.
7. Non-Toxic DIY Fabric Softeners
What is the most natural fabric softener?
The answer likely resides in the cupboards of your zero waste kitchen pantry.
There are some simple household products that can make for a safe and powerful non-toxic fabric softener recipe.
Not only is the DIY approach easy on the environment, your skin, and your health, but it also makes for the most affordable sustainable fabric softener.
Vinegar is used for almost every DIY zero waste cleaning hack, and liquid fabric softener is no different.
To make your own fabric softener, all you need is water, baking soda, vinegar, and optional essential oils.
- Mix two parts warm water to one-part baking soda in a bowl.
- Stir until mixed and add in one-part vinegar.
- Add in 2-5 drops of essential oils, or until your mixture is scented as desired.
- Use ¼ cup of your mixture in the washer per laundry load.
If you still want your clothing even softer and more static-free, some recipes call for vegetable glycerin which will make your clothes more slippery.
Did you know we Have a Newsletter?
We cover the latest in sustainable living, fashion, zero waste, beauty, travel, finance and more…
Do You Need To Use Fabric Softeners?
The short answer is, no. You do not need to use fabric softener, eco-friendly or otherwise.
Traditional fabric softeners are not only bad for your skin, your health, and the environment, but it’s also bad for your clothing.
Back in the 1950s, when laundry detergents left clothes scratchy and stiff, fabric softeners were marketed as the soft clothes solution and took households by storm.
Today, however, modern detergents (including eco-friendly ones) are formulated already to soften your clothing.
What is fabric softener?
To better understand, let’s talk about how they work.
Brand name fabric softener works by covering the fabric in a chemical lubricant film.
The thin film of coating stops static by making clothes slippery to lessen friction. Through the basics of chemistry, the softener adds a positive charge to neutralize the clothes’ negative static charge.
Softeners can also help to split apart the fibers in fabrics to make items like towels more fluffy.
Plus, many fabric softeners are heavily scented with chemicals specifically designed so that the scent stays in the fabric fibers.
However, “needing” to use fabric softeners is essentially a modern myth that it helps wash clothing better, but when it comes to brand name fabric softeners, the exact opposite is true.
This is because the fabric softeners build up over time and “clog” the fabric, making water or detergent tough to wash through.
If elastane or nylon get too coated with the waxy film, it also stops the garment from its ability to release moisture. This is why fabric softener is such a no-no for sustainable activewear, which needs to remain breathable.
Fabric softener inhibits this and can cause a host of issues like bad smells and bacteria, which can ultimately lead to skin infections.
Is fabric softener non-toxic?
According to the Environmental Working Group, fabric softener has synthetic fragrances and phthalates that can disrupt endocrine receptors.
Beyond that, there’s a whole laundry list of common chemicals and reasons to avoid them, including:
- Benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer)
- Chloroform (a neurotoxin and known carcinogen)
- Glutaraldehyde (a skin and respiratory irritant)
- Hexylene Glycol (a skin, eye, and lung irritant and central nervous system suppressant)
- Hydrochloric Acid (Do we even need to cite the potential dangers on this one?)
More than that, many fabric softeners contain palm oil and animal byproducts, such as dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride derived from animal fat.
Are fabric softeners bad for the environment?
Not only are the contents inside the bottle bad for the environment, but the plastic jug itself is a huge environmental issue.
Half of the plastic made on earth is intended for single use, and we know that earth is already choking in plastic waste.
A shocking 1 billion laundry jugs are used in North America annually, and more than half end up in landfills.
As for the ubiquitous bright blue liquid inside the bottle, it’s an environmental catastrophe, too.
Fabric softeners carry a host of toxic and synthetic chemicals, including quaternary ammonium or “quats,” which are non-biodegradable and toxic to natural marine life.
Once these chemicals are washed down the drain, they instantly flood waterways, disrupt biodiversity, and destroy the environment.
If all that has you wondering, “What can I use instead of softener?”, there are numerous fabric softener alternatives to try instead.
How We Found The Best Eco-Friendly Fabric Softeners
To provide you with the best non-toxic and safest fabric softener options out there, we followed a set of criteria to source the healthiest we could find.
For fabrics, softener is sort of like sustainable moisturizers that coat and soften your skin, so it only seemed natural to use our ethical and sustainable beauty criteria to wash our way through the most natural and non-toxic ingredients.
- Non-toxic: In the world of safe fabric softeners, that means using real botanical-derived scents or essential oils and other natural, plant-based ingredients instead of synthetic formulas, plastics, artificial dyes, or colorants that can irritate sensitive skin.
- Vegan: While wool dryer balls are not vegan, if they’re ethically sourced then we are in favor. Most of our options by way of fabric softener liquids or powders are 100% vegan.
- Cruelty-free: Conventional cleaning products are notorious for testing on animals. As a blanket rule, we do not include any brands that test their products on animals.
- Palm oil-free: Its monoculture kills biodiversity and endangered species. If brands do use it, it should be from RSPO certified sustainable sources.
- Ethically sourced ingredients
- Thoughtful packaging: We ideally looked for zero waste fabric softener, but it wasn’t plastic-free fabric softener, we wanted it to be recyclable, at the very least.
Final Thoughts On Eco-Friendly & Organic Fabric Softener
Conventional liquid fabric softener is awash with some dirty and toxic truths: it’s bad for your clothes, bad for your machines, bad for your skin and health, bad for the environment, and far from necessary because of newfangled detergents and dryers.
One of the best ways you can start to green your cleaning routine is to ditch the traditional laundry soap and liquid fabric softener and opt for dryer balls or thoughtfully packaged, eco-friendly solutions.
After all, you can still get soft and fluffy clothing without the hazardous chemicals–even with ingredients you already own.
We’ve overloaded the planet with plastic and toxic chemicals to the point that our clean homes have dirtied the planet.
Let’s all do our part to take a (laundry) load off the planet (and our health) by opting for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional fabric softener.
Clean clothes should also mean a clean planet, so let your friends and family know where to buy eco-friendly fabric softener.