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Make Your Own Fabric Softener

Store bought fabric softeners are designed to reduce static in synthetic fabrics. They serve no purpose with natural fabrics. Fabric softeners work by leaving a residue on the fabric which never completely washes out. It can cause allergic reactions through skin contact and inhalation. Fabric softeners may also contain carcinogenic coal-tar dyes, ammonia and very strong scents. When fabric softeners are exposed to hot water, heat from dryers or ironing, vapors may be emitted which can be deeply inhaled, increasing their impact.- Guide to Less Toxic Products

When I stopped using fabric softener, this strange rash I used to get on my leg went away, and Sexy’s nighttime nosebleeds subsided. I tell anyone with excema or asthma to stop using store brand fabric softener immediately, since it’s known to aggravate both ailments. It’s incredibly easy to make your own fabric softener, and much healthier too! Here’s few versions that I’ve tried.

Basic DIY Fabric Softener

  • add 1/2 cup of white vinegar at the START of the rinse cycle when washing clothes

Lavender Fresh Fabric Softener

  1. add 20 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 gallon of white vinegar
  2. add 1/2 cup at the START of the rinse cycle when washing clothes

Lemony Fabric Softener* (this one makes your clothes really soft)

  • 6 cups of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 drops of lemongrass essential oil (optional)
  • bottle or container with screw top to hold mixture
  1. Get a large pot or mixing bowl and pour the vinegar and water in.
  2. Next add the baking soda a little at a time, (because it’s going to bubble up like a 5th grade paper-maché volcano).
  3. When all of the baking soda is added to the vinegar and has settled, stir it a bit so that the majority of the baking soda dissolves.
  4. Then pour the vinegar into the container and add the essential oil
  5. Shake before use
  6. Add 1/2 cup at the START of the rinse cycle when washing clothes

DO NOT use Apple cider Vinegar in any of the above recipes, it will stain your clothes! (save it for your hair, I’ll explain in another post)

Note: The clothes will smell really lemony when they come out of the washer, but after they dry, either in the dryer or on the line, the scent fades a bit.

*This recipe is from The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier

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29 thoughts on “Make Your Own Fabric Softener

  1. Lowbudget

    This is the best idea and cheap option to use. I have been making my own fabric softner for a year now. Boy… is it a money saver. I have used the Lavender as well as Green Apple to scent my vinegar rinse. Smells so good and the clothes do come out really soft. Go Green!

  2. Thinice

    thank you this was right on time. I made my own laundry detergent following your previous post. Definitely trying this

  3. Angela

    For the last 2 months, I have stopped using dryer sheets or anything else for that matter. All I use is a ball of aluminum foil. I have used the same one the whole time. I do about 15-20 loads/week.

  4. LisaT

    I believe the foil ball works to eliminate static cling only. If you often forget to add your fabric softener to the wash load in time, a great solution is to pour a tiny bit on an old washcloth and toss it into the dryer with your clothes. It’s a homemade dryer sheet!

  5. Blossom

    Hi Savvy,

    What alternatives would you suggest for someone who lives in a high-rise building where the machines have no knob that indicates when the rinse cycle is about to begin? It’s a front-loader with a section at the top where you put in your detergent, bleach and softener. Can I just put the home-made softener where I would normally put the store-bought one? Thks in adv :)

  6. Savvy

    @Blossom. Hi! Yes. You can just add it to where you would add the regular fabric softener. (I tried this at the laundromat once, when my washer broke). What I would do, however, is wait 10-15mins into the wash cycle before adding it.

  7. SisterBoyd

    I’ve been doing my research on natural fabric softeners and I just read that you can pour your softner in one of those softener balls. So if you already have a ball you don’t have to go through the work of waiting for the rinse cycle or cutting clothes. I’m going to find my balls now! hahahaha

    Savvy, out of the recipes you gave; which one do you like the most?

  8. SisterBoyd

    I just mixed up a batch using the vinegar, baking soda and mix of myrrh and lavendar. Let’s see how this works.

  9. SisterBoyd

    I used my softener today and I’m quite impressed. I think I didn’t use enough on one load because I had static cling, but it was really bad. Most of my clothes were soft, fresh smelling and void of static (expect that one load). This is a keeper and I’ve already told my friend about it because her kids have really sensitive skin.

    Now I need to find the right bleach alternative. I’m going greener every day!

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  11. Aubyn

    AND they come in plastic containers, which may or may not end up floating in the ocean when you’re done with them.

  12. nikki

    Hi,

    Hopefully i’m asking a question that has already been asked, but did you say it is possible for me to put the homemade fabric softener in the the spot on the washer when you usually would put store bought? Are the only two oils you recommend lavender and lemongrass? How come adding the oils doesn’t stain the clothing?

    Thanks! =)

  13. Savvy

    @nikki Hi there! Great questions, and nope, no one’s asked them. Yes, I put mine right in the same place I would put the store bought softener. I happene to like lavender and lemongrass and how they smell. You can use any other essential oils of your choosing. Just be sure to use essential oils otherwise, yes the oil would stain your clothing. I’m not sure why it doesn’t harm them. I think it has something to do with the chemical mxiture of the baking soda and vinegar. But if you’re stil skeptical. Make abatch without the oils and see how you like it first. HTH!

  14. Cindy

    Savvy, could you use skin safe fragrances? I make homemade soap and on occasion I will use skin safe fragrances that I like when I’m not using essential oils. There are some scents I just love and can’t live without. I’m just curious if I could use these in my homemade fabric softener in the washer or on homemade dryer sheets?

  15. amy

    silly question probably but what aisle do you find essential oils in? Are they in superstores (aka Wally World) or do I need to try a drug store like CVS?

  16. Jenn

    For those of you trying to figure our where to buy essential oils, they are only availabe at natural health food stores or online. I am not aware of any retail chain carrying them. Also the oils you do find at the walmart etc…are NOT essential oils, they are for making your own diffusers and they will stain.

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  19. Lalaine

    Hi Savvy! Hope you have a wonderful day today! I am just passing by checking on how to make a homemade fabric conditioner for commercial purposes. Because I have a business, Laundry services, and I am not happy with my expenses. Anyway, before trying this stuff I just wanted to ask about the vinegar that supposed to be mix in. Is that the vinegar we usually used in cooking? Or there’s a special vinegar for that? I don’t know, I’m kinda confused. And where should I find the oil essentials. that’s for the scent right? And how many liters or ml should I make out of that ingredients?
    Thank you! I am really glad to find this website.

  20. Annabelle

    I’ve tried several fabric softeners, including Downy, Bounce, and Seventh Generation, and it seems that the liquid versions of Downy and Seventh Generation give me a rash, as well as the dryer sheet versions of Downy and Bounce. However, the Seventh Generation dryer sheets don’t give me a rash. I want to try the vinegar and baking soda combination in the washing machine when I wash my bedding, but I also want to make my bedding smell like something nice, like lavender, eucalyptus, or even an ocean breeze. The problem is, how can I make these scents, without risking a rash?

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