Homemade Fabric Softener

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You may already be making Homemade Laundry Detergent and other DIY Cleaners… but if you’ve been wanting to cut costs on Fabric Softener… you’re going to love this Homemade Fabric Softener!



What You’ll Need:

What You’ll Do:

  • Mix conditioner & hot water well, until conditioner is dissolved completely.
  • Add the vinegar, and mix well.
  • Store in a large container {empty fabric softener container, empty large vinegar bottle, etc}
  • Pour into a downy ball… or use approx. 2 tbsp. in the fabric softener spot in your laundry machine… then wash!

Thanks to frugal friend Holly for sharing this great recipe on The Frugal Girls Facebook page!  Thanks for supporting The Frugal Girls!

I’ve been using it for awhile now, and absolutely love it!!

Got a Thrifty Tip or Favorite Homemade Cleaner Recipe??

Leave a comment & share!

See Also:
Homemade Cleaners

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240 Responses to Homemade Fabric Softener

  1. Julie says:

    Wow, a whole new way to use those free bottles of shampoo! It’s relatively easy to match up great coupons and drug store deals to get them for free, I’ll have to start watching for more now. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Crystal D says:

    Hmm. This doesn’t have any issues with the dye from the conditioner? Does the laundry retain the scent? How is it on controlling the static? What a fabulous idea! I’m tired of spending almost $7 on a bottle of fabric softener every 2 weeks.

    • Cristie Van Gorden says:

      It works great, no dye issues at all. I think it smells less strong than the store brand, but it also makes me wonder what chemical they put int theirs to retain the smell…and it’s great to eliminate static. Overall, I love this stuff and I used to spend a ton on Snuggle fabric softener but no more! :-D

      • Nichole says:

        I absolutely love the fabric softener. I am not sure what it is with my water that gives my clothes a dingy smell, but the vinegar takes the smell out and the conditioner gives it a nice, light scent.

        • Sharen Lyttle says:

          I recently used AFFRESH tabs in my washing machine. It removes all of the mold build up in the machine and it makes your machine smell wonderful! I bought mine at Menard’s, similar to Home Depot or Lowes. If you google AFFRESH it will give you a list of the stores in your zip code that sell it. Hope this helps!

        • Diane says:

          Do you have a front loader? if so that could be the reason your cloths are smelling musty!! I know it happened to me

          • Alleen says:

            I HATE my front-loading washer! I will never buy another one. It’s hard to clean, gets white spots on my dark clothes, and spots on my white ones, and I don’t think the clothes are as clean as they were in my old washer.

        • Barbara says:

          Nichole, could the smell be coming from your washer itself? I would do an empty wash with vinegar.. to freshen up the insides of your washing machine…

        • Kim Ridgway says:

          On the washer smell. We have a HE one and we had to take the back off and clean it out. Washed a stuffed animal…yeah, not pretty. When we took the hose out of the back and the a plug..OMYWORD the plug and hose..ACHACH was so full of stuff, hair, lint, dog hair. We decided we need to clean that out about 1 every year or maybe 6 months. We have indoor dogs too so their hair was a big part of it. Just an idea if your clothes smell dingy.

        • Susan says:

          I have an he washer and I found that I was using way too much detergent. That caused my clothes to smell funny. Because the washer doesn’t use a lot of water so if you use too much detergent it builds up in the clothes. And also I read in the instructions that you have to run a cleaning cycle on it, on a regular basis. Some people use just vinegar, some use cleaning tabs from the store, but if you don’t do it, your clothes will smell bad after a while.

      • ~Julie says:

        A more expensive brand of conditioner may retain scent longer??? And it still wouldn’t be as expensive as having to buy actual softener. I can’t wait to try this!

        • Nicole says:

          You could add essential oil to make the sent more pronounced. I am thinking lavender! Yummy!

        • Yvonne says:

          I use Herbal Essence the Featherweight (it’s clearenced @Rite Aid all time & get it for $1.39 after q)& it smells amazing plus lasts a long time. Also, you can use this is HE washers. My receipe before said you can wet a soft rag with this & put in for a dryer sheet, then just reuse. I didn’t like that as well. Also, VO5 works ok & any expensive brand works even better! (I’d some that I didn’t like for my hair & used it up this way! :)

          • jennifer says:

            i heard you spray a piece of flannel until its almost ready to drip and put it in the dryer for a dryer sheet

      • Lorie says:

        You can use just white vinegar and works great

    • Maddie says:

      I actually buy a bottle of Purex laundry crystals. It’s about $6 a large bottle. I make my own laundry detergent, but I use it as powder, not liquid. I add one cup per recipe (I will often triple the recipe). Using the Purex does increase the cost of the laundry detergent a bit, but I like that even using just 1.5 tablespoons of detergent per wash that my clothes retain that “laundry” smell we have come to love and adore. I’m considering dissolving some crystals into the hot water when I finally get around to making the softener and hoping that it will boost the smell up some.

      Also, I don’t know how much laundry you do, but I buy a four month Bounce bar for my dryer and it lasts closer to six months. Last year I had to buy just two of them. I find that using the bar really controls the static and my clothes get a small boost of fragrance from the bar.

      • br says:

        Just use a tennis ball in your dryer and that takes care of the static.

        • suz says:

          True story about the tennis ball. Things dry faster, and it keeps blankets and towels from balling up so much!

          • Michelle says:

            Multiple tennis balls in the dryer with a down comforter works great!! Fluffs it up very nicely!!!

        • amanda says:

          Putting a tennis ball in a dryer with pillows will make them not bunch up! Having 6 kids and 4 pets, you can assume I have to wash pillows frequently! Tennis balls are a money saver in my house!

      • Heather says:

        The only issue with a bounce bar (although totally effective) leaves a white residue on darker clothes for many washes and is hard to get out.

      • Leane Hix says:

        I would LOVE to have the recipe you are referring to using the purex crystals. Do you think you can use it in the HE washers as well?

        • Stacey says:

          Hi Leane, I use a homemade laundry soap that is a powder recipe. I use it in my HE machines and I LOVE it! I found a bottle of those purex crystals on clearance at Walmart and used a coupon so I got it for super cheap. I added it to my homemade soap and it smells even better. Ohhh, and the smell that an HE machine gets is gone since using my detergent. I found my recipe on Pintrest. Best thing I found to do though, is I put the powder in my machine with my clothes not in the dispensers–just in case any clogging might happen.

      • Rachel says:

        Do you like your laundry detergent that you use!? Going to try to make my own but a little nervous

    • Lissa says:

      The vinegar controls the static, and the conditioner smells amazing. If it is not strong enough, you can use the same recipe and add essential oils instead, although that will not be as cost effective. :)

      • Tammy says:

        I have to disagree. Vinegar does not control static, neither does aluminum foil balls when you’re drying polyester or fleece. Trust me. I speak from experience! I love it in final rinse for all other loads though.

  3. Great post! A more natural option would be to just use the white vinegar and forgo the conditioner. About a half a cup in the rinse cycle is all you need and it won’t leave a vinegar smell on your clothes.

    Take care!
    Frugally Natural

    • Shelly Kidd says:

      Another natural option.

      Warm 2 cups vinegar and 1/2 cup water in microwave for 45 seconds.

      Slowly add 1/2 cup baking soda, mix well

      If you want a scent add 8 drops of your favorite essential oil, I like peppermint.

      • Angel says:

        Do you use this for one load? It seems like it would be a lot. About how much does this make and how much do you use per load? can you use this in the Downy balls or will it not work?

        • Heather says:

          I made this “recipe” and it filled my large downy bottle. You use the same amount of this softener as you did the Downy

    • Heather T. says:

      I only use vinegar as well, and just buy it a canning time so its always on sale, it works great and leaves no smell. After reading about softener leaving so much residue, I prefer not to use it.

      • Sue H says:

        I started using only 1/4 cup vinegar per washload for rinsing my clothes. I have found I need less detergent also than the manufacturer recommends. My clothes are brighter because the vinegar helps remove soap any residue. Sometimes I will add a dryer sheet when drying clothes, but I continue to use them until there is no scent left. This helps eliminate static on anything with nylon in it. I don’t do this on towels etc., because they come out of the dryer nice and soft since the soap is all rinsed out. Vinegar at warehouse clubs is cheap! And reusing dryer sheets cuts the cost significantly! Vinegar is also good for hardwood floors and windows!

        • Clean Floor says:

          When using vinegar to clean floors you only want to put a few capsful into the gallon of warm water. If you use more than that…you will find your polyurthene protective finish on your wood floors will break down and you will need to refinish your floors. I cleaned homes for a living and found the homes that insisted I use vinegar had floors that wore the finish off quicker. Plain water is best. I prefer myself to wash them with vinegar sparingly.

    • cheryl says:

      or add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to the vinegar, forget the conditioner…

    • Patti says:

      I also use the homemade laundry detergent in the dry form and use just plain white vinegar as a softener. I was amazed at how well the vinegar worked to soften my clothes … with no vinegar smell.

  4. Jen Lowman says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing. I already make my own laundry soap and love it, this will be great to try!

  5. Heidi says:

    Hi Crystal,

    I haven’t had any issues with the conditioner leaving a residue. And yes… you can also just use straight vinegar as well! I like the extra scent of the conditioner, but vinegar alone can do the trick, too! ;)

    To control static, I use dryer sheets {cut in half} + there are more tips you can read about that here:

    http://thefrugalgirls.com/2010/01/save-money-on-laundry-cut-dryer-sheets-in-half.html

    Hope that helps!

    ~ Heidi

    • Andrea Sayers says:

      Don’t want to mess with any good ideas but if you are sensitive, dryer sheets cling to elastic of undies etc and will possibly cause rash and discomfort. Great if it works for you.

  6. Tanya says:

    I just use plain vinegar as well during the rinse cycle. :))

    • Liz says:

      I use plain vinegar in my Downy ball as well.

    • Michelle Vaughan says:

      I have found that when you forget a load of laundry, and it gets that mildewy smell you can start a rinse cycle, add one cup white vinegar, and run the cycle. Afterwards rewash the cloths as usual. This one is from my grandma.

  7. Jennifer Gann says:

    I buy the fabric softener refills in the cardboard milk-style cartons, when I bring it home I pour half into my empty bottle and fill with water. I close up the remainder until needed then repeat the process.

  8. carrie says:

    I dilute regular fabric softener 2x so end up with 3x the amount and use that as a liquid or leave it all in a bucket and throw sponges in. wring out the sponge and throw 1 or 2 in the dryer as dryer sheets

  9. Sounds GREAT! I’m a little leery of the home-made stuff though because I own a high efficiency machine and the instructions were very particular about what I could use. This doesn’t sound harmful – do you think I could use it in my front load HE machine? I would LOVE to cut out the cost of fab softener that stuff is $$$

    • Terra says:

      HE machine can not handle soap suds. Normal detergent has additives that make it bubble up. The HE detergent have very little. If you make your own laundry soap you can use that in your HE machine. I don’t think there would be a problem with conditioner since it is does not bubble like shampoo.

    • kim says:

      I have an HE washer and dryer. I have been using this homemade fabric softener for about 6 months now and I could not be happier. It works great. Sometimes my laundry used to smell after washing and drying it but not anymore. I also starting leaving my washer machine door open a little. Again, this homemade fabric softener is great and I have definitely saved money. I use Suave or V05 and try to keep the scent something like a breeze or fruity scent.

      • Terry says:

        When I wash in evening I leave my washer door open over night just a crack, it helps keep the washer dry & from smelling!!!!!!!!

    • jodi says:

      Yes you can . I have a frontloader as well. I have been using frontload machines for 14 yrs now. The vinegar is great as an additive for the frontload machines as it cleans the machine as well. Run the mixture through the dispenser :). i also use 3 cups white vinegar & hot water through my machine regularly as a cleaner. use the tray dispenser to dispere 1 cup & dump the other 2 cups on the inside add a white towel & hot water cycle it all the way through . It keep it fresh & clean isnde no midlew or build up :)

    • BeBe says:

      I have been usingmy home made laundry powder in my HE machine for years and it actually works better than the stuff the mfg recommended! I have not had to use the drum cleaner since I started using the powder I make…it just does not build up that funky smell anymore!

      My powder is:
      2 bars IVORY soap (microwaved and cooled to room temp)
      1 box 20 Mule Team Borax
      1 box Washing Soda
      1 bottle Puryex Crystals
      1 large container Oxi-clean OR Biz
      1 large box Baking Soda

      I put everything into a 13gallon trash bag(doubled in case it tears!)
      Tie up the top and work it all together until all the Ivor
      y has flaked and there are no soap lumps. I store it in old Oxi-Clean tubs (makes about 5 large tubs full!!) I only use about a tablespoonn per normal load 2 if the clothes are really very dirty.Works great, smells good

  10. Becky Tormohlen says:

    I have an high efficiency washer… does this work?…. One is suppose to use special kind of soap and softner…

  11. Lisa says:

    I have a high efficiency washing machine and I do not use the “specially formulated” HE products. I simply use considerably less detergent, and Oxi-Clean. I use the homemade detergent and haven’t had any issues with washer performance or clothes not getting clean. I have soft water so that is another reason that I use any laundry products sparingly. PS I love this site, thanks!!

  12. April says:

    I dilute my fabric softner with vinegar 1/2 and 1/2. I buy the large bottles when on sale and have a coupon to get better savings. I usually get 3-4 bottles out of it.

  13. Suzanne says:

    For those of you who use straight vinegar, you say you add it to the rinse cycle. I have a machine that has a place to add fabric softener. Can I add the vinegar there, or do I have to try and catch the rinse cycle?

    • Ann says:

      I just put the straight vinegar in my softener dispenser of my HE machine. But I am going to try this softener for the scent.

    • Sue H says:

      I also have a place to add fabric softener. Just put it in there. 1/4 cup of white vineger is more than enough.

  14. Tonda says:

    Tip: which I am sure u all know. I use equal parts dish detergent and combine with equal parts ++ of borax. Actually I add a bunch more borax. I was told to use 2 Tablespoons, but one is perfect for a full load (for me anyhow) Saves a ton of money and lasts a very long time. Store in airtight container. :-)

    • Trisha says:

      I’m assuming that this recipe with the dish soap is for laundry detergent not fabric softener, right? (since the post is for fabric softener). So, do you mean powdered dish soap? I had never heard of that before. Has anyone else tried this? What kind do you use?

  15. tish says:

    To the women who has a HE washer I just had a repairman here to fixa problem I had with my washer he seen my bottle
    of oxi clean and told me to stop using it it damages the motor.Just thought I let you know

    • Nancy says:

      How does it damage the motor? Think about that for just a minute. The water from the washer can’t touch the motor.
      The motor runs a belt or chain that agitates the drum that holds the water, clothing and soap. Some people like to make us think they know what they are talking about. Do a little research on your personal machine and see if I am right.

    • tish says:

      Well a friend of mine had the same problem and her repairman told her the same thing. I prefer to listen to the repair people who sees these problems everyday. Rather be safe than sorry and end of with repairs that i may have caused my self.

      • Patricia says:

        That’s absolutely absurd that Oxiclean would damage the motor. Free will and all that but it’s a load of rubbish. (my husband is an engineer- I asked him and he laughed.)

      • Lori says:

        @Tish I had a repair man come to my house to see why my washer keeps putting holes in my clothes. He said that I was stuffing it too full, which is funny since in the manual it says that you can stuff it as long as the door will shut. My fiance’s mom has the same washer and she stuffs hers too and hers is fine…I think a good majority of the repair men don’t know what they are talking about half the time, but that’s just my opinion.

        • Kathy Griffin says:

          My HE machine has instructions about how to use OXY.

        • Carol LaBella says:

          Lori did you ever find out why you were getting holes in your clothes? My daughter is starting to notice the same thing happening.

        • Tricia says:

          Lori – Did you figure out what is causing the holes? I am having this problem and wondered if it was the homemade laundry detergent or fabric softener since this never happened until I started making my own laundry supplies.

        • Elaine S says:

          As I understand it:
          For maximum efficiency:
          Top loading washers should not be stuffed full.
          Front loaders may be filled up.

    • cory guisler says:

      My friend’s front load HE machine just died for that same reason. They can’t handle the amount of suds produced by the regular detergents.

  16. Kara says:

    My tweaked Fabric Softner recipie. My son complained that his towels smelled like vingar when he got them we so.
    6 cups hot water
    1 cup baking soda
    6 cups vinegar
    2 cups suave

    I always use a 5 gallo bucket
    1 cup bakind soda and 1 cup hot water. you dont have to mix because the next step will.
    slowly add 6 cups vinegar. It will bubble and foam. Allow this for a few minutes to get the baking soda to dissolve. next add the other 5 cups hot water and 2 cups suave conditioner. Stir stir stir. I use 1/2 to 1 whole cup in rinse cycle. Also, for a fab sheet dip a white wash cloth in the liquid and ring out. toss in the dryer. Now prior to all this home made laundry stuff, I purcased a mister steamy. I liked it well enough but if you add 4 oz liquid fab soft you made instead of water, you can skip th wash cloth and have clean, great smelling wrinkle free clothing! Good luck and happy laundering https://www.mistersteamy.com/.
    I found my Mister Steamy at CVS for 14.99

  17. Aurelia says:

    Hi, I made the fabric softener and I am finding that it has a vinegary smell to that. Is this the normal smell or is it just my super sensitive pregnant nose picking out the vinegar???? I’m not smelling it on the clothes after they are washed and dried just when I open the bottle.

  18. Heidi says:

    Hi Aurelia ~ yes… you’ll still be able to smell the vinegar when you use it, but the scent will vanish in the wash. ;)

    ~ Heidi

  19. Nan says:

    Suzanne, Yes you can put the vinegar in the same dispenser area. I have been doing that for months. It works great. A couple years ago, I also had a repairman tell me never to use any laundry products with Oxi ingredients. He said it literally will eat the metal. The metal base that my washer tub sat on was literally disintegrating under the tub area.

    • Becca says:

      Now THAT makes sense to me. My washer was under warranty and I had used Oxy products at intervals over the last year or so. Washer had other problems and in addition, they had to replace the base mechanism of the tub d/t the metal was disintegrating. The repair guy asked me about Oxy products, which I wasn’t using at the time. Interesting…

  20. Jaala says:

    Do you have to use suave conditioner? or can you use another kind? My mother gave my a big bottle of herbal essence conditioner which I LOVE the smell of and would like to use that instead.

    • shoan says:

      i used suave cause i got it on clearance for 33 cents but i don’t see where you couldn’t use any name brand this stuff is great and if you get your conditioner free or cheap it is very reasonably priced my next step is to try it with the sponge in the dryer and see how that works

    • Terry says:

      it says in the comments that U can use any kind!!!!

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