Homemade Natural Fabric Softener

As I posted earlier this week about line drying your clothes without a line. Well there is one drawback to doing this. Your clothes don’t always come out as soft as they would if you put them in the dryer or hung dry them outside where the wind can blow the around. Well on that note I bring to you 2 recipes for homemade natural fabric softener.

1. You could always use 1/2 cup of vinegar and add it to the washing machine during  the rinse cycle. Lots of bloggers seem to go with this one, but personally it was not my favorite. I don’t think it worked well. But it wouldn’t hurt to try this.

2.  This recipe is all over blog land and I struggled to find one that was natural without toxic ingredients. So I did a little thinking and thought why not just change the condition to a more natural one! So simple. Sure it costs a little more but it is still cheaper then buying fabric softener.

Homemade Fabric Softener
Ingredients: Can double this recipe

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup natural conditioner (you could use non-natural conditioner too to save money)
  • essential oil (optional. I accidentally bought a conditioner that smelled terrible! But with some orange essential oil it smelled fantastic. Just add enough drops till you can smell it)

Direction: Pour all ingredients into a half gallon container and stir. Don’t shake or it will make an extreme mess! Add essential oils if desired and stir again!

To use: Add the same amount you would the store bought kind about 1/4 cup during the rinse cycle.

This was part of the Homestead Barn Hopthe Morris TribeSew ChattySew Can DoCraft-O- ManiacHomemaker on a DimeFrugally SustainableThrifty DecoratingMaster Piece Monday, Homestead Helps Wednesday


  1. says

    Thanks for the helpful post! I’ll usually use the plain vinegar method or nothing at all. I used to have everything on the line end up resembling cardboard. Once I realized that I was using too much soap and it wasn’t rinsing out completely, I made adjustments and almost everything is soft again. My towels are still a bit rough, so I think I want to try this on the towels. Would you link this post to my blog’s homestead hop? http://littlefarminthebigcity.blogspot.com/2012/04/homestead-helps-wednesday-homestead-hop_11.html

    • Anonymous says

      Just a note. Towels don’t absorb water well when they have fabric softener. And two..I have found that the windyer the day…the softer the clothers are that are hung outside. CALM days produce really stiff cloths. Another wives tail proven to be true.

    • Anonymous says

      I agree, when there is a breeze the clothes are softer than on calm days. Here, in FL, you can’t buy a breeze July thru Sept, the jeans and towels are scratchy. We like the scratchy towels; it’s a bit more exfoliation.

      • Erica says

        When I was living in Ireland a couple years ago, everything went out on the line. I discovered if I snapped the towels a couple times before pinning them up, they didn’t get all cardboard-y. We didn’t use softener and I’d forgotten about using vinegar. They were still a little stiff, but shaking them out helps.

        Oh, and we had really windy days. If I didn’t snap the towels, they’d still be pretty stiff.

  2. says

    I make my own laundry detergent and fabric softener using this basic recipe. The conditioner I used smelled very nice so I added no essential oils to it. I use same amount as store bought, I also toss in my dryer a couple of tennis balls which not only aids in knocking out the wrinkles but fluffs the clothes as they dry. My clothes and towels come out with less wrinkles and very very soft. I also toss in a dry towel which cuts the drying time.

  3. says

    just as an FYI, if your clothes are coming out feeling stiff when line dried indoors, it’s most likely caused by using too much soap/detergent. if the detergent can’t completely rinse out, then the clothes are not only stiff feeling, they will wear out faster. almost all commercial laundry products recommend adding way more than needed. why? so you need to buy more sooner. you should not be seeing suds in your washer. a few bubbles, yes. suds, no! way too much soap. i use about a tablespoon per load, as opposed to the half a capful recommended. we live on a farm so we do have pretty dirty clothes. they do get nicely clean with that little soap.

  4. says

    I will definitely try this – thank you! On a few other blogs I have read that towels will lose their absorbancy over time when washed with commercial detergents and dried with commercial dryer sheets. I’ve started using 1/4 c. vinegar with a couple drops of lavender essential oil in my HE washer liquid softener dispenser.

  5. Anonymous says

    I’m gonna try to use the vinegar cleaner recipe (peels from two oranges and 32 oz. of white vinegar in a jar soaked for two weeks) as a fabric softener, since the orange peels kill off the vinegar scent.

    • says

      Anonymous January 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      “I’m gonna try to use the vinegar cleaner recipe (peels from two oranges and 32 oz. of white vinegar in a jar soaked for two weeks) as a fabric softener, since the orange peels kill off the vinegar scent.”

      So, it has been a few months, and I am in the need to know on your orange peals and vinegar solution. Did it work? My hubby is complaining about all of the vinegar smell. If I can tame that beast, then there will be no more commercial cleaning products in our home! I can’t toss them out until he is satisfied with the smell..lol

      • Becci says

        Penny, I use vinegar in my wash…. about a cup….. I put it in the rinse cycle or use my fabric softener dispenser. I just used it again today, when I washed…. it doesn’t have the smell at all. Do you use a top load or front load washer? Mine is top load. I have used vinegar for years and only when I used more than a cup, did the smell linger on. I know that front loads are different and don’t use as much water, so if yours is a front load maybe cut back on the amount you use so it dilutes a little more. The other formula you can use is the one where you add hair conditioner to the load, but I just don’t really like the idea of using something like that because it gunks up the machine. Well, good luck, let me know if you try the orange peel concoction. I like the idea of the fresh orange/citrus smell.

  6. Maryke says

    Hi – would be interested in making this but am at a loss as to what a “natural conditioner” is? Any info? thanks

  7. Becky says

    For your towels use a new tennis ball in the drier with them it works great! I use white vinegar and baking soda for my fabric softener mixed with water…

    • says

      I’ve heard of the tennis balls before but haven’t given it a shot yet! I tried vinegar and didn’t like it but never the combination!

  8. Barbara says

    I use Natures Gate hair conditioner that I get from our local health food store as my DIY solution. I have been making this recipe for more than a year and have wonderful results. I have an HE washer btw.

    • says

      OO thats great to know people have asked that question a lot and I didn’t know the answer but now I do! Thanks for sharing. Glad you love it too!

  9. amalia brotherton says

    I wanted to know if I could use this for my HE washer…I noticed some of the people posted to use more vinegar?? please advise

    • says

      Other people have commented and said that it can be used in an HE washer. Personally I have never tried this myself since I don’t have one

  10. Linda says

    For softer line dried towels just tumble them in your dryer for 2 min with or without heat. They’ll be much softer and lots more absorbant then when you use a fabric softener.

  11. Judy says

    I make the homemade laundry soap that I found at. My merry messy life. And I have been using it for a couple wks now and I am so very happy I tried it. As far as fabric softener I use Mrs. Meyer’s clean day. Is that considered all natural?? As that is way I am using that brand.

    • SebbieDue says

      Judy, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day fabric softener doesn’t get good ratings (it gets a D on an A-F scale) on the Environmental Working Group database: ewg.org. Some of her other products do, but in the case of fabric softener, I would seek out a substitute. That said, neither does borax (It gets an F!), which is used in most DIY laundry detergents. You have to make the decision that’s right for your family, but an informed decision is preferred in my book. Just be aware that “natural” or “organic” does not always mean healthy to wash your babies diapers in. :)

      Thank you, Amy, for all you do to make things easier for us frugal gals!

  12. says

    I’m going to make this I Have conditoner just waiting to be used up since I only use it when I color my hair with Henna. Can I copy this to my notes on Facebook so I can share and write this in my journal I do write whom it’s from and who created this:)

  13. Heather says

    I have been making my own homemade fabric softener to save extra money in my budget. I have my own recipe which works very well. I use a big box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda which can be found in laundry aisle at any stores, pour whole box of it in the empty 5-gallon bucket. I highly suggest to boil the water first so the baking soda can dissolve completely in hot water after you pour the boiling water in the bucket and stir until the baking soda dissolve completely then add any scent of essential oil of choice. It smells so fabulous and even makes clothes including towels so super SOFT.

      • Becci says

        I just use about a 1/2 -1 cup of Baking Soda to the wash water, it softens the clothes, takes out any ‘odors’ on socks and work clothes and makes my homemade laundry soap more efficient. My clothes are softer. I make sure I use the Baking Soda in the towels as we, just to make sure, baking soda is good for all kinds of cleaning, it sanitizes , too.
        Cool site, I wish I had the wherewithal to have a blog site that functions like yours does. Thanks for sharing.

        • says

          I’ve heard you can just use baking soda but haven’t given it a shot yet! Thanks for sharing and thank you for your kind words!

  14. Heather says

    Ops I forgot to add, fill the bucket to full and either essential oil or some organic fabric softener to make extra soft feeling.

  15. says

    I haven’t had a problem using vinegar, although it mostly serves to cut static, not soften clothes. My worry about using a recipe with hair conditioner is that there’d eventually be buildup on the clothes? But maybe that’s just my imagination.

    I’d love if you’d come join my How To Tuesday link party, too.
    Katie B. of HousewifeHowTos.com recently posted…Recipe: Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken BreastsMy Profile

  16. says

    This is a nice alternative. We have a link party called Wednesdays Adorned From Above Blog Hop and would love to have you share this and any other posts with everyone. It runs from Tuesday night through midnight Sunday. Here is the link to the party.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above recently posted…Coupons from Coupons.comMy Profile

  17. Karen P says

    Tin foil rolled up into a hard ball – shiny side out works for about 10 dryer loads. I am very sensitive and this is all I use. No chemicals on me or in my home.

  18. barb says

    I generally put a load of wash in before I head out to work….then when I get home I put it in the dryer. I am never usually there during the rinse cycle. Wonder if there is anything I can add to the wash cycle that will do that same job

  19. D says

    I add baking soda to this and do not use conditioner- I add a few drops of lavender oil-smells good. be careful mixing the soda with vinegar-it will run over. SLOWLY is the word.

  20. martina reed says

    For the DIY fabric softener…what is conditioner? The kind I would use 4 my hair? Thanx in advance!!

  21. Joyce Hendrickson says

    Conditioner…..hair conditioner for the fabric softener? Also Norwex makes rubber balls to put in the dryer as fabric softeners. They work really well.

  22. Dianne says

    Here’s a useful tip for those of you who use a dryer from time to time. To save energy, throw a dry (yep, dry!!) towel into the dryer with your load of freshly washed clothes. The towel helps to absorb some of the moisture and the drying time is reduced by almost 1/2. A member of BC Hydro (our province’s power supplier) told me about this trick, and it works. In the winter, where I live, it rains almost non-stop… so this was very useful info for me!

  23. Heather says

    I don’t know if using vinger in the washing machine is a good idea. I had the Sears appliance man at my house a few weeks ago(just the scheduled maintenance to my machine), and I asked him about using vinger in my front loader(that way I don’t have to buy the monthly washing machine cleaner tabs). He said not use vinger because it’s so acidic it will eat away the seal on the door shorting it’s lifespan. Just wanted to pass this along to all of the DIY ladies out there trying to save a buck(just like me) since this will end up costing you in the long run. It’s still great for lots of other cleaning though!

  24. april says

    Ive been using a homemade conditioner I found I love. 2 cups vinegar 6 cups hot to point of boiling water a large bottle any scented suave conditioner. Mix well I use a large bottle n mix w a wand mixer and then transfer to gal jug adding water to it tip its a few inches fr top lid tight n shake well. It works wonderful. Plus so inexpensive

  25. Becci says

    Yes hair conditioner…. April said to use Suave conditioner… it is for hair. I say forget the conditioner and just use the vinegar. I use it all the time and it works great. 1/2 to one cup in a full load. It really should not be strong enough to “eat away the seal on the door” of your front load washer if you use less than 1/2 cup, because the amount of water should dilute it enough to avoid that. However, to be safe…. do as directed by your repair man.

  26. Christine Barnes says

    what do you mean natural conditioner like a hair conditioner can you please give me an example what type of conditioner you are referring to.
    thank you

  27. Jody says

    I have heard the same thing from repairmen about vinegar -will eat away seals. Beware of this when using in washing machines and dishwashers.

  28. Mary B says

    I would warn about using aluminum foil balls in your dryer. I found out the hard way with a load of whites. The balls leave black marks all over the clothes and dryer drum. Also, the vinegar in the fabric softener faded my darks, so I just use it on my white loads.

  29. says

    Every time I make this, all I smell is the vinegar. I’ve used 2 different conditioners (a suave naturals and a regular suave) and all I smell is the vinegar even when using the essential oils. I’m using white distilled vinegar.

  30. Vanessa says

    I put the fabric softener in larger mason jar and put a wash cloth in the jar. I squeeze the washcloth of extra liquid and place in dryer. Walla a home made dryer sheet. I don’t use in washing machine. This works great. I like the slightly vinegar smell with the smell of the hair conditioner. Better than store bought dryer sheets.


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