Homemade Fabric Softener Recipes

Fabric softener is great for keeping your clothes soft and fresh when the come out of the laundry. However, it can get expensive to purchase on a regular basis. Making it at home is a great way to save some money. This page contains homemade fabric softener recipes.


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August 19, 2005

I save an old fabric softener or detergent bottled (rinsed well). Using a funnel I carefully pour the following into the bottle:

Be careful when adding the baking soda, do so very slowly as it will foam up. Cap and shake gently from side to side, opening the cap to allow air to escape (you may need to do this several times). Add about 20 drops of essential oil. I love lavender but you can use cedarwood, rose, eucalyptus, whatever you love.

Shake side to side before each use as the baking soda will settle. Pour just past the line in a Downyball (I find this method works better than the machines fabric softener dispenser). Toss the ball in and that's it.


It costs a mere pennies to make. Buy the huge boxes of baking soda now available and gallons of white vinegar.

There is no static cling whatsoever and it leaves a lovely scent on your clothing. For extra fragrance, put some in a spray bottle and spray your load of laundry as it goes into the dryer.

The serviceman where we bought our Whirlpool washer and dryer combo said NEVER to use any type of dryer sheets in a dryer. They leave a residue on the lint screen. Take your screen and hold it under a running faucet. If the water beads and doesn't run thru freely, it's clogged by use of dryer sheets.

Try this cheap, environmentally friendly version instead. It's safe to use on children's sleepwear and doesn't diminish the absorbency of towels or clothes as it does not coat the fabric.



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You can make your own fabric softener out of your favorite conditioner for your hair. Put all this together in a container you can easily stir, but do not shake.

  • 2 cups of your favorite scented conditioner
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 6 cups of hot water

    Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir. Then pour into a container. Use 1/4 cup per load of wash. It works great and smells great too!

  • Comment Was this helpful? 14

    I might be on to something, here.

    An article in Wikipedia states that ethanoic acid (or acetic acid, the 'active' ingredient in vinegar), has a pungent smell. It doesn't say whether this 'smell' is the same as vinegar. I would like to know, and here's why:


    I've read many accounts at ThriftyFun of vinegar being a cheaper and safer alternative to fabric softeners. Most also state that the vinegar leaves the clothes nice and fresh smelling. Against my better judgement, I gave it a try.

    I found that vinegar 'softens' fabrics as well as any commercial fabric softener I've ever used. It goes further and gives fabrics a 'hand' or finish you won't usually find on a garment after it's first laundering.

    So now, I use vinegar, instead. Right? In a word, No! As it turns out, that nice, fresh smell, smells just like the vinegar it is. I refuse to 'go around' with my clothes smelling like a jar of Del Monte gherkins. I tried diluting the vinegar with the same amount of my regular fabric softener. My duds still smelled like a kosher deli. My closet and drawers took on a 'pickle power' pungency. This 'fresh' smell hangs around for a while. It does not readily dissipate.

    You can buy a quart of food grade ethanoic acid online for ten dollars. When diluted to the 'table strength' of vinegar, it should go a long way. There's just one hitch. Is that 'smell' the Wikipedia article describes as 'pungent', the same as vinegar? If not, food grade ethanoic acid may just be the perfect fabric softener. If 'yes', then I've wasted ten dollars plus shipping.

    I just may take a chance and order a bottle of the 'E' acid. The scent can't be much worse than my own clothes after the 'perfume' in my fabric softener fades. In the meantime, I'm sitting here wondering, 'How many of those people who think the lingering scent of vinegar is 'nice and fresh', have been tempted to gussy up and go 'round sporting a sprig of dill weed in their hair' ?

    Comment Was this helpful? 5

    September 23, 2009

    Use it in the laundry wash cycle to take the place of clothes softener. I used it once to get the white socks cleaner and noticed that when I took the clothes from the dryer, they were softer and no clinging was present.

    Comment Was this helpful? 5

    August 29, 2013

    I was using the commercial liquid softener or dryer sheets and decided I wanted something more ecologically friendly. So I researched what would work in the dryer.

    Comment Was this helpful? Yes


    Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

    September 27, 2007

    Does anyone know if there are any household products that can be used to make "Fabric Softener"? I am on a very low fixed income and I try to make anything I can that will save me money.


    Thanks for any suggestions one might have.

    Diane from Miami, FL


    September 27, 20070 found this helpful

    My friend buys fabric softener sheets from the dollar store and cuts them in half. She says you don't need the whole sheet. Maybe this would be cheaper than making them.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    September 27, 20070 found this helpful

    Add white vinegar to the last rinse. Everything comes out soft and NO! you will not smell like vinegar! The same amount of vinegar that you would have used of liquid fabric softener will be fine.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    September 28, 20070 found this helpful

    As soon as I buy a box of dryer sheets, I cut all of them in 4ths and they last me for a very long time.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    By Becki in Indiana (Guest Post)
    September 28, 20070 found this helpful

    I use white vinegar (as suggested by a previous poster). I buy it by the gallon jug, and stock up during canning/pickling season when it goes on special!

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    September 28, 20070 found this helpful

    Use white vinegar. Vinegar is one the most used products in my home.


    Check out the Heinz vinegar website for more practical uses.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    By terri0905 (Guest Post)
    September 28, 20070 found this helpful

    Instead of using fabric softener in the washer I put fabric softener on an old wash cloth and throw it in the dryer with the clothes. It can be used several times and works as well as a dryer sheet and the fabric softener lasts a lot longer.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    September 28, 20070 found this helpful

    According to the Queen of Clean (Google her, she is Linda something or other from Arizona) in a pinch, a cap of conditioner (cheaper the better) works.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    September 28, 20070 found this helpful

    Hi, I use white household vinegar. 3/4-1cup in the final rinse. In the dryer there are no leftover smell. The towels are fluffier and no residue like dryer sheets. If I do have dryer sheets cutting them in half works just as well.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    Read More Answers

    Does anyone have any new ideas on making your own fabric softeners? I am tired of spending a fortune on the products available in the store. Also, I would like to have a very good recipe for laundry detergent and something to remove spots from clothes (those that appear after you wash them in regular detergent or from other things fading on them). Thanks for any suggestions.

    Read More Answers

    I need to know about substitutes for fabric softener. I've heard that vinegar may be used, but what about ammonia? I also need information on the amounts.

    Thank you!


    By carla bledsoe (Guest Post)
    August 11, 20060 found this helpful

    you use about 1/4 cup per washload. if you have really hard water you might use 1/2 cup.
    if i was going to use anything else it would probably be baking soda. about 1/4 cup per load.
    i know ammonia helps to cut grease in the wash but i've never heard of it as a softener.
    the more soap and residue you can get out of the clothes the softer they'll be.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    By sylvia segel (Guest Post)
    August 11, 20060 found this helpful

    buy 1 large carton fabric softener-1pastic container sprayer. fill sprayer with about 1/4 of softener plus the rest water. shake well. when drying load place a thin rag i n dryer spray rag with about 8-10 times the softener mixture & START DRYER. The clothes come out soft. This concotion lasts until the fabric softener is gone.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    By Linda (Guest Post)
    August 11, 20060 found this helpful

    One way to save with fabric softeners is using the softener sheets. One sheet can be used up to four times. When you have used it once, snip off a corner. second time, snip a second corner. Once all four corners are snipped, it's time to get rid of it. I buy generic, that helps too. I only have one or two loads of laundry a week, because I live alone. This tip would help a lot if you do lots of laundry.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    August 11, 20060 found this helpful

    Ammonia is rather dangerous. Even though it's a common houselhold item. Or used to be. I would avoid it if possible. I never keep it in my house any more.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    August 12, 20060 found this helpful

    Can't really attest to any of these but here goes ...

    If you've run out of liquid fabric softener, what can
    you use instead to get you through the rest of the
    wash day? Here's a quick alternative: Go to your bathroom and get your hair conditioner
    (creme rinse) and add 2 capfuls of it to the rinse
    cycle. This will do the trick until you can get to
    the store for a new supply of softener.

    Homemade Fabric Softener Recipe

    1 cup glycerin
    1 gallon water
    essential oil for fragrance, optional

    Laundry Softener

    Recipe #1

    2 Cups White Vinegar
    2 Cups Baking Soda
    4 Cups Water

    Combine slowly and carefully over sink. The baking soda and vinegar will fizz.
    Pour into plastic bottle, cover, and shake.
    *Hint - Reuse your "Downy" bottle.

    Use 1/4 cup in the final rinse or in a "Downy Ball".

    Recipe #2

    2-3 Cups Water
    1 Cup Liquid Fabric Softener
    Large Sponge

    Combine water and liquid softener. Cut sponge in 1/2 and keep in liquid. When drying clothes, remove sponge, squeeze out excess liquid and place in dryer with clothes. When dry, just place sponge back in liquid to be used for next load.

    Homemade fabric softener

    You can also use these products alone to soften:

    Plain White Vinegar - Add 1/2 cup to final rinse.
    Baking Soda - Add 1/4 cup to final rinse.
    Regular Fabric Softener - Dilute and use normally.
    Hair Conditioner or Cream Rinse - Pour 1 tablespoon into damp washcloth and toss in with clothes.

    Also some here:


    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    August 12, 20061 found this helpful

    Ammonia is toxic! And if you have bleach in the water (or in most common detergents...) watch out! Better to go with vinegar and/or baking soda. But it will not help with the static electricity...I am still trying to find that help, with out the toxins!

    Reply Was this helpful? 1
    Answer this Question...

    April 6, 2014

    Where can I find the oil (such as lavender) to add to the fabric softener?

    By Lana

    Read More Answers

    Does anyone have a recipe for homemade liquid fabric softener?

    By Annette

    Read More Answers

    January 6, 2011

    I have seen many people post about the Dugger's fabric softener and say they love it. Can someone post the recipe please? I would love to try it.

    By Kevin from Kansas City, MO

    Read More Answers

    January 11, 2014

    How can I make a nice aroma conditioner for a dark clothes?

    By Yolanda A. from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    Answer this Question...

    May 29, 2019
    Read More... Pin it! Was this helpful? Yes

    June 20, 2016

    This is a page about using vinegar as a fabric softener. Vinegar is a good alternative to fabric softener products when doing your laundry.

    Vinegar being poured into fabric softener compartment on a top load washer

    Read More... Pin it! Was this helpful? Yes


    ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

    January 6, 2011

    Recently there was a recipe for laundry fabric softener on the site. I lost it. I also wanted to know how much to use per load. Thanks.

    Bonnie from Lawrence, KS


    Recipe for Fabric Softener

    If you look over to the right of your posted request, there are related links. Click on them and you should find what you are looking for.


    By LuvMyGingerKids

    Comment Was this helpful? Yes

    June 25, 2008

    I do about 3 loads of laundry a day and I go through a 60-load bottle of Snuggle fabric softener in about 8 to 10 days. I always clip coupons to save money, too. And I don't like the cheap fabric softeners... I can't even smell them. Is there a way to save money on this by making your own? It's breaking me!



    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    Vinegar in the rinse cycle works wonders for softening clothes. But 3 loads a day? It might be time to start culling clothing - I have a family of 6 (child # 5 on the way), and I only do one load every 2 days. And my children and husband are messy! I make my children wear play clothes as long as possible before cleaning - and my own wardrobe is very simplified - and I wear everything 2-3 times ('cept underwear, of course!)before washing as my clothes don't get that dirty. If your children are old enough to work - make them do, and pay for the care of their own laundry - it will get them to really think about changing their clothes more than once a day! (02/02/2005)

    By Shari

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    Using an old washcloth soak it in fabric softener. Let dry. Use in dryer instead of using liquid in the wash just as you would a dryer sheet. I have used one for About 30 to 40 loads of clothes and it is still working!! At this rate my bottle of fabric softener will last for years! (02/02/2005)

    By Sonya Yoder

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I too do several loads of clothes for day for a family of 5. Not sure if you are concerned with softness or static, but someone already mentioned vinegar in the rinse load. I also know that a ball of foil in the dryer helps prevent static!~ (02/02/2005)

    By Kayla

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I have stretched my fabric softener by purchasing a very good brand of softener and diluting it with equal amounts of water. The more expensive brands tend to be thicker, therefore you are able to dilute the product a bit. This doesn't work well with the cheaper brands. Although, I should tell you that I have found a "cheaper" brand, that is very thick and I have had success with it. I purchase it at Dollar General and it is their name brand. It cost $1.50 for 40 loads, but if you dilute it, it should be around 80 loads. Vinegar is also a very good alternative. If you do use vinegar, you should just the "white" vinegar...not "apple" cider vinegar. (02/17/2005)

    By Lorie Herman

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I use dryer sheets, cut them in 1/4 or 1/3 and use 1 per load. (05/20/2005)


    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    Instead of fabric softener or dry sheets, add 1/2 (one-half) to 1-cup vinegar to last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which cause fabrics to stiffen.

    Dryer sheets. The same dryer sheet will work just fine for two, often three loads of laundry. Or cut a dryer sheet into four pieces, using 1/4 sheet instead of a full sheet, per load.

    Extend liquid softener. Mix equal portions of regular (not concentrate) liquid fabric softener with hot water in a spray bottle. When adding clothes to the dryer follow with several spritzes onto a washcloth and toss it in the dryer. Works equally well as dryer sheets but for much less money.

    Soften with vinegar. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. Clothes will come out softer without liquid or sheet softeners.
    In future columns I'll be telling you how to make your own laundry detergent and how to keep your dark colors (even blacks) from fading. Stay tuned! (06/07/2005)

    By G. Parker

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I know this is an older post, but thought I would add my 2 cents. There are only 3 of us and I do 4-5 loads every 2 days. (work clothes, lights, darks and blacks) and i was using A LOT of fabric softener. i tried the straight vinegar but missed the smell of the softener. So I started mixing the vinegar with my softener. Makes it last longer and I still get the faint smell of the softener. (02/16/2006)

    By kimberly

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I found the recipe a few days ago, I have not had a chance to try it -- have to buy some hair conditioner.


    • 6 cups of water
    • 3 cups of vinegar
    • 2 cups of any hair conditioner
    Mix this in a gallon container and stir. Do not shake, this will cause foaming. Pour a small amount into the rinse cycle or spray on wash cloth and throw into the dryer


    By it's.only.me

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I went back to using liquid fabric softener instead of dryer sheets. A good online friend told me that was what she used. I like to line dry quite a few things and I think this way clothes are getting softened and and coming out much smoother out of the washer. I am NOT an ironer! Anyway, lately I've been using one from Wal-Mart under their Great Value brand. You get 60 loads per jug. It is thick so altho I do not put less than recommended amt, I do add some water to thin it out. I like the results with this softener and think the clothes come out of the washer pretty darn smooth. The scent is more subtle, not real strong. This bottle of softener is under $3 so I think is a good deal.

    My kids usually dirty their clothes ea day but I look them over to see if they could be worn a 2nd time. I definitely wear my clothes more than once unless obviously soiled. I think it's foolish to put clothes worn once in the dirty clothes, if they are not really dirty. I just have too much work to do! (02/17/2006)

    By Debbie Dzurilla

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I don't know about homemade but I use liquid, pour it into spray bottle and spray my clothes a couple of squirts in the dryer. I have used a cup of vinegar in my rinse water for drying on line. I use a Downy ball for the vinegar. (02/17/2006)

    By Nancy Wall

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I use a cup of vinegar in the rinse and a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the wash with detergent. It makes the clothes soft and more absorbent . Fabric softener prevents water being absorbed. You will be surprised how much more your towels will soak up.

    By Susan from Hamilton

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I haven't used fabric softener in years, the cheapest and fast way is to use hair conditioner, just the cheap stuff and put it on a rag or old sock, you only need a little squirt and throw it in with the clothes. It takes away the static, makes clothes soft and smells good too! (02/20/2006)

    By liruax

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    One to 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar is the most effective natural non-polluting fabric softener available. It works by neutralizing the alkaline (base) pH of detergents and soaps which contributes to the static cling factor when drying, and more effectively rinsing the detergent and soap residue away. This works on hair and fur as well. Vinegar rinses and evaporates completely from laundry. Mixing vinegar and soda does nothing but neutralize each other - a fun science experiment for kids, but not effective for a fabric rinse.

    Commercial fabric softeners, dryer sheets and hair conditioners (to a lesser extent) contain emulsified wax, usually petroleum based, that coat the fibers of the fabric the create the soft feeling and reduction in wrinkles. This was also smooths then surface of the fibers (much as it does the cuticle on hair shafts) so that there is less surface area to hold moisture. After many washings and dryings, this coating builds up and eventually makes the fiber non-absorbent - hence the "stain resistance" advertised by some softeners. Dryer sheets are the most insidious version of fabric softener since the wax is aerosolized by melting and being spread by the humidity in the dryer. Commercial driers and laundry mats often ban the use of dryer sheets since the wax can build up on the drum surface and coat the exhaust system causing a potential fire hazard, not to mention a form of air pollution. This aerosolized wax can also coat the lungs of animals and humans causing allergic and other health responses. (06/10/2006)

    By Loren

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I have a recipe for homemade fabric softener that uses essential oils for scent. In a recycled gallon sized vinegar Jug add 2 cups baking soda and 2 cups distilled white vinegar. When mixture finishes foaming add 4 cups of hot water and essential oils to desired strength. I use 20 drops each of lavender and lemon. Shake before each use and add about 1 cup for large loads in the rinse cycle. Essential oils can be found at health food stores locally and of course on the internet. They are a bit expensive but last a very long time. Hope this was helpful to you. (07/09/2006)

    By Dawn

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    I buy a bottle of white vinegar add 24 drops of essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, frankinsense and my clothes come out smelling nice. Also there is a large bottle of natural laundry liquid by lillies at about £4 - you don't need any fabric softener with this and you can buy it from simply soaps.com (08/24/2006)

    By San

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    If you really like the smell of Downey / Snuggle and still want to save money then try this... Use the super concentrated version of your favorite fabric softener and mix it with equal parts water and distilled white vinegar (1/3 each). I put this in an older / smaller FS bottle and mark it. Add this to the rinse cycle and adjust as needed (Harder or softer water may need different amounts of vinegar or softener). When using the concentrated FS, I never go over 1/3 FS though. Always add more water or vinegar.

    The best part about this is you get rid of any soap in your clothes during the rinse cycle like you are supposed to.

    You know those rings that sometimes form on your clothes when you sweat? No the rings AREN'T from your sweat, they are the soap that is STILL in the clothes after they are run through a washer (without the vinegar). This ends those soap / sweat rings!

    I also keep the FS in the mix because some people can still smell a little vinegar if you only use vinegar.

    By Chip

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    try making a few balls of aluminum foil put in dryer with clothes and it will remove static cling, also adding some vinegar to rinse cycle helps, clothes do not smell like vinegar. Try the foil trick it really works. (11/01/2007)

    By Alice

    Is there a way to make homemade fabric softener?

    Punch in DANGERS OF FABRIC SOFTENERS AND DRYER SHEETS. You will never use them again; especially if you have children. Use 6 cups of water, 3 cups of vinegar and 2 cups of hair conditioner. Mix and store. Use the same amount you would normally use. (01/22/2008)

    By Sue Anne Ward

    Comment Was this helpful? Yes

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