Money Saving Tip – DIY Fabric Softener

fabric softener supplies

Several months ago, I started making my own fabric softener.  I wanted to really try it before I reviewed it here.  The verdict?  It. Is. Awesome.  I was worried I wouldn’t like it as much as store-bought, but I LOVE it, it works better and it’s cheaper.

It takes about 5 minutes to make and yields a gallon of fabric softener.  Use it as you would store bought fabric softener, or soak a washcloth in a bowl of the softener and let it dry out completely {the drying-out will take days}.  Then toss it in as you would a dryer sheet.  One wash cloth will last for many, many loads of laundry.

Here’s my favorite recipe:

  • 2 Cups Hair Conditioner {any brand works fine, I used the one in the picture because a neighbor hated the way it made her hair feel, and was going to toss it.  Can you say FREE?}
  • 3 Cups Distilled White Vinegar {Don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar, and you’ll be cleaning your washer at the same time}
  • 6 Cups Water

Put the conditioner and vinegar in a microwave save bowl.  Microwave for 2 minutes {this makes it waaay easier to mix}.  Stir the conditioner and vinegar with a whisk {don’t shake, you’ll have a bubbly mess–or at least I’ve heard, ahem} until smooth and creamy.  Pour mixture into storage container.  Slowly add water.  I use an empty vinegar container for my excess and put some in my saved store-bought fabric softener container, for easy use with a built-in measuring cup.

*Note: You cannot use bleach with vinegar, it creates toxic chlorine gas fumes! {Thanks Jamie}

Do YOU make your own fabric softener?

Or is this one of those, Mavis you are a total nerd things?


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  1. Angela says

    Great idea. I often make my own laundry detergent, but I’ve not tried fabric softener. I’ll give it a try.


    • stacey miller says

      I made the softener with great smelling conditioner from dollar store I dipped 4white wash clothes rang out then put then each on a pants hanger to dry I live in Phoenix so by end of morning they should be dry I made the laundry soap too it works great !!

    • Bina says

      I make my own laundry detergent too…and I LOVE IT! I haven’t tried softener yet but knowing how much I save on laundry detergent it’s on my list to try. I now spend around $30 a YEAR on laundry detergent. Ahh….life IS good :)

  2. Jamie says

    I make my own as well, but with baking soda and vinegar. It takes a few minutes to mix it all together (chemical reaction), but it works great! Also note you cant use bleach with vinegar, it creates toxic chlorine gas fumes! Yikes! I also am currently making my own shampoo and conditioner and it is totally awesome! Shampoo = 1tbsp baking soda with warm water mixed. Conditioner is 1tbsp apple cider vinegar with water. Cheap, non-toxic and works with your bodies chemistry to produce great hair that doesn’t smell like vinegar!

    • cptacek says

      If you mix baking soda and vinegar together, after the chemical reaction you get water and carbon dioxide. You probably have vinegar left over after the chemical reaction, and that is what is making your clothes soft.

    • Lisa says

      I’ve heard of making your own shampoo and conditioner and I really want to try it. I heard it does wonders to your hair. How much water do you add the baking soda or vinegar? Can you make an entire bottle at one time?

      • Jamie says

        Oh yea, that would help, 1 tbsp baking soda to 8oz water for the shampoo and massage into scalp only. Rinse and use the conditioner or 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and 8 oz of water and rinse. This only goes on the ends or for short hair, lightly on ends. I have read that it takes about 2 weeks for your hair to adjust and begin to produce its own oils but I have horribly oily hair normal and it balanced after day one. I am hooked! I make 8 ounces at a time and it lasts about a week. I am growing my hair out for locks of love and it is very long so depending on length you can adjust your qtys.

    • Bina says

      How does the homemade conditioner/shampoo work on colored hair? Miss Clairol and I are BFF’s to keep the grey away!

  3. Lynn says

    I’ve done this for years now and LOVE the money we have saved by doing so. It even works well in my HE machine. I also add essential oil drops to make it smell SO good! But it’s not necessary. Some of those hair conditioners already have a great smell to them. But adding a few drops of essential oils to the mixer also just rids the clothes of unwanted bugs and germs all that much more. Just another option.

    • Angela says

      What types of oils do you add? I’ve always wanted to work with essential oils, but I don’t have a clue what I am doing with them.

      • Lynn says

        Lavender, Lemon, anything that is light smelling for energy or calming and soothing. Just do a search on essential oils to find out more about the best ones. There are so many articles on them. But if you are just looking for a scented oil to put in your laundry…there are also hundreds of places on line that sell that too. Places like soap making sites…for people that make their own soaps and candles. The coconut fragrance oil or the Lime fragrance oils are good ones. Even combined together! And then there is also the Ocean fragrance. It smells so laundry fresh!

  4. says

    So glad I stumbled on this! I have wanted to make my own, but had only seen ideas for soaking a washcloth in actual fabric softener, which I am loathe to buy since it’s so darn spendy. Conditioner is cheap, especially the cheap kind. :)

  5. Angela says

    I have been making my own laundry soap for a while and have just started making my own liquid handsoap. This is my next “recipe” to try. My husband rolls his eyes every time he sees my five gallon buckets of soap in the garage. I’m afraid his eyes will stick that way when I tell him I’m going to make my own fabric softener too.

    • Mari says

      Me too. I buy white vinegar in bulk for fabric softener, cleaning, weed killing. My laundry is mostly line dried and vinegar works fine. I make my own laundry soap too and use home made dryer balls if I need to use the dryer in winter.

  6. Nicole says

    My biggest issue with fabric softener is the residue it leaves in the machine, particularly in the fabric softener dispenser…yucko! Do you find that your conditioner/vinegar recipe leaves a residue?

  7. becky says

    So many great ideas. I’m definitely trying the fabric softener recipe, and I am curious about just adding vinegar by itself. Who knew?!! Also tempted to try the homemade shampoo and conditioner recipes. I love it that all these good tips are coming when we are low on both fabric softener and shampoo.

  8. Carol says

    Thank you all for the great ideas! Mavis, thanks for your blog…you give us a place to “meet” like-minded people….hugs!

  9. Jenn says

    I make my own laundry detergent and fabric softner as well as my own cleaning products. It is so much better for you and you know what is going in them and don’t have those nasty chemicals floating around. My homemade stuff works better than any of the store bought stuff anyday.

      • Jenn says

        Sure do. These two cleaners I use all the time.

        Tub and Shower Cleaner

        12 oz Dawn Dishwashing Liquid
        12 oz White Vinegar

        Mix together in a spray bottle and shake gently. This stuff is awesome and works better than anything I have ever bought.

        All Purpose Cleaner
        3 tbs Castile Soap
        2 cups Distilled or Boiled Water

        Mix together in a spray bottle and have at it. I am currently using lavender castile soap, but you can use whatever kind you want. I plan to buy some unscented castile soap when I run out and then use essential oils for more of a disinfectant. Lemon and Tea Tree essential oils are very good disinfectants.

  10. Olga Merela says

    Here’s a recipe I use to make my own oxiclean to spot treat clothes before they go in the washer: mix equal parts dawn dishwashing detergent, ammonia and water. I have a large clear vinegar bottle marked out so that it is easy to put in the same mounts of the ingrediets and then transfer it to spray bottles from oxiclean. Put the ingredients in the above listed order and add the water slowly so you don’t end up with allot of bubbles. It works great as a presoak or right into the regular wash.

    However, like oxiclean, you cannot treat the clothes and then leave them as the color may be affected. So spray and then right into the soaking tub or washer.

  11. Monica says

    You can also use balls of aluminium foil in your dryer as softener! My towels have never been fluffier and there is ZERO static, even with microfiber items.

    • mildred lane says

      I buy my teen take out food that has the burgers wrapped in thick aluminium foil which I wipe off and reuse.Today I lined my cooking stove drip pans and saved the left over to use in the dryer.. It was a good day..

  12. Heidi says

    Anyone have any ideas about a bleach substitute when using this recipe? Maybe old fashioned bluing? Or does the vinegar in the fabric softner act as a whitner as well as a disinfectant? I am a bit of a germaphobe and undies MUST be bleached.

  13. stefanie says

    i make my own fabric softener but i couldnt stand the shampoo one!! so i make mine with baking soda, vinegar, water and purex crystals and it is AWESOME!!!!!

    • jessica says

      Stefanie – what are the measurements of the baking soda, vinegar, water, and crystals? I think I might like this one better than the one with conditioner.

  14. says

    Does the kind of vinegar matter? I have been line drying our clothes outside this summer and LOVE it, but the family complains of their undies and towels being scratchy (big babies!).
    I only have apple cider vinegar at the house, do I need to get distilled white or will what I have work?

  15. Wendi says

    So…are you doing this to save money – or to be ecologically friendly. If it is the latter – have you considered what is in the commercial conditioner?

    • Evelyn says

      Trina,, I had granite counter tops in my kitchen before I had a house fire!! ;/ anyways, I was told ammonia, vinegar, and lemon all contain more acid than is safe for granite. I cut oranges etc. on mine, never noticed a problem but just thought I’d share my info. 😉

  16. Dierdre says

    Can you add the softner into the rinse cycle? If so, how much? I don’t use dryer sheets. Thanks! I just made my first batch of laundry detergent and am going to switch over to home made products where ever I can!

  17. Debi says

    I made your recipe, but I cut it in half. I added 1/4 cap of some Gain original crystals I had into the mix to add the “nice smell” to the clothes. I heated the vinegar and conditioner in the microwave, then added the crystals, whisked, then added very warm water and whisked again to make sure the crystals were dissolved. Thanks for this!!

  18. So says

    If you have a wool sweater that bites you skin, you can use a quarter to a half cup of hair conditioner diluted in about 1 or 2 gallon of water (or as much water as it takes to cover your sweater). You leave there one night, you rinse it with clean water and then you leave it flat to dry as normal. The fiber will soften. It works the same with wool as acrylic … :-)

  19. Katrina says

    I mix white vinegar and downy 50/50 for my softener…I just really like the smell of Downy, but it can be $$$. I only dry each laundry load for about 30 minutes, then hang.

  20. Debbi Atkinson says

    I use the same recipe; I absolutely love it. I make a huge batch a couple times a year when I can get some store brand or White Rain conditioner (usually Green Apple) for about $.79 a bottle. I save the large white vinegar bottle to store the majority and save the squeeze top bottles of conditioner to keep in the laundry room.

  21. Sad8e says

    I have a question. Could one use lotion instead of conditioner? I have so much lotion and would love to use it up!!

    • Mavis says

      Hmmm, I wouldn’t and here’s why: most lotion is about 25% oil or emulsifiers and 75% water. Most conditioner is less than 10% oils and emulsifiers {normally around 5%} and 90% or more water. I would probably just stick to conditioner!

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