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How we test fabric conditioners

By Patrick Gallagher

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How we test fabric conditioners

Discover how we test fabric conditioners to find the ones that leave your laundry soft and fresh. Only the finest earn our Best Buy award.

Many fabric conditioners make bold claims about promised softness, freshness and long-lasting fragrance, but can they be believed?

To find out, we've tested big-brand fabric conditioners from Comfort and Lenor, rivals Fairy and Ecover, plus supermarket own-brands from Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose and discount stores Aldi and Lidl.

Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about fabric conditioners. 

  • Will it really make your laundry huggably soft?
  • Will the scent in the bottle actually transfer to your washing?
  • Will your laundry keep the fabric conditioner smell for as long as claimed?

Check out our full fabric conditioner results to see which work best. 

Will it really make your laundry huggably soft?

We asked 1,325 Which? members in July 2015 what they thought the most important factor was when buying fabric conditioner. Softness was top of the list. 

To test how soft each fabric conditioner will really make your washing, we got 20 assessors to judge the washing after one wash and then again after five washes. They graded each one on a five-point scale - from no softness at all to very soft. 

Will the scent in the bottle actually transfer to your washing?

If you like the smell of a fabric conditioner, you're going to want it to burst through your laundry. 

To test whether a conditioner's smell will actually infuse into your washing, our 20 assessors rated the strength of a conditioner's smell several times: neat in the bottle, when the laundry was wet and again when it was dry. 

With all of the fabric conditioners we tested, the scent was most intense in the bottle. So you'll need to use our results to find out which ones will carry that smell through to your clothes. The top scorer earned five out of five stars, while the lowest got just two stars.

Now head to our full fabric conditioner results page to find out which ones are Best Buys. 

Will your laundry keep the fabric conditioner smell for as long as claimed?

The labels of fabric conditioner bottles often make claims of long-lasting fragrance. We set out to see if these were true - and we found some real variations. 

Some fabric conditioners kept their smell seven days after washing. For others the perfume was very slight or non-existent. 

70%the score a fabric conditioner needs to be a Best Buy

Should I buy it?

Based on what Which? members told us is important, we've given each element of the testing a different weighting to make up the overall score:

  • 60% softness
  • 25% strength of smell
  • 15% long-lasting smell

To become a Best Buy, a fabric conditioner needs to score 70% or more in our tests. Fabric conditioners that score 45% or less are highlighted as Don't Buy fabric conditioners to avoid.

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