Homemade Fabric Softener

There is no need to spend a bunch of money at the store on regular fabric softener. All you need is a bit of baking soda and vinegar. In fact, vinegar is the perfect homemade fabric softener.

Use plain white vinegar and add 1/4 cup to the final rinse of your laundry. By the time your clothes are dry the vinegar smell will be gone.

To make everything even softer, add about 2 tbsp of baking soda to your laundry when you first put it in the washer, then use the vinegar in the rinse as mentioned above.

If you are a little worried about the smell, use this simple recipe instead:

Homemade Fabric Softener

  • 2 cups cheap hair conditioner
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 6 cups warm water

Pour everything into an old fabric softener bottle or other container and mix well. If you are using a bottle, just give it a few good shakes.

Recipe for inexpensive homemade fabric softener

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joyce lothert - July 24, 2010

i made this fabic softener it looks like its really water down to much, what should i do but i like will make more again

    Sabrina - August 4, 2012

    I like my softener to be a little thicker so I use the big family size bottle and add this to it.

    6-cups hot water
    1 1/2 – cups white vinegar
    1-family size bottle of conditioner

    put all this in the bottle and shake untill mixed

Andrea England - September 4, 2010

Will the vinegar overpower the conditioner in smell? I would hate my clothes to smell like vinegar.

    debby minton - August 18, 2013

    no. when clothes are dry they are soft and no smell of vinegar. love this stuff. been using for over a year.

    Pat hege - December 8, 2015

    No, it does not, I always use white vinegar for softening my towels. Before I got my High energy machine, I used my regular downy ball add the vinegar to it. Now that I have my HE washer I just add it to the softener place,

Jesse Cordle - September 28, 2010

I’ve used just straight vinegar on my clothes. The clothes don’t smell like vinegar at all!! I’m trying to get my mom to convert to homemade laundry detergent, it saves so much money.

Tawana - October 1, 2010

I love this fabric softener! I am on my second batch. glad that i found this recipe. thank you!

Anne - October 12, 2010

If you put vinegar in at the beginning of the wash, it will lock in the colors. It is wonderful when you have a new item that you are sure the color will run. Also, in a pinch you can wash dark and light cloths together.

Jeff - November 26, 2010

How well will this work in HE washers?

    Maria - April 16, 2013

    My sister uses the new HE washer and dryer and has no problem with hers. She is a mom of two kids and two twins, so cheap is always great 😀

kandace - December 15, 2010

i have also been using this recipe, i am pretty happy with it.

Maggie - January 13, 2011

I too am wondering how this will work in an HE washer. Anyone tryed it?

Annie - January 16, 2011

I buy my conditioner by the gallon at Sally Beauty Supply, its like $9-10 for a gallon of the Salon Care brand (I get it for the cheaper ammount because I pay $5 a year to be a member and I print a 15% off coupon once a month) and I funnel it into a pumper container. I heard that cheap conditioner can save a shrunken sweater.

Kellie - January 23, 2011

How much vinegar do you use? or how much of the homemade do you use?

Rebecca - January 27, 2011

I just add some conditioner to a large bottle of white vinegar and I add it to my front load machine where the fabric softener is supposed to go. The vinegar reduces the static electricity, I can obtain a scent by adding essential oils but I like no scent at all.

tawana johnson - January 28, 2011

I use the conditioner one but use 2 cups of vinegar and 2 1/2 cups of conditioner and it smells great and clothes soft even when I hang them on the line ..

tawana johnson - January 28, 2011

Oh and don’t forget to add the 6 cups of water lol ..

Christina - April 9, 2011

What about if you line dry your cloths…does it still smell of vinegar or does it have to be used with a dryer?

Janice Hartenhoff - January 1, 2012

The vinegar smell will not stay in the washed items. And don’t worry about the mixture looking weak or too thin, as it is very effective just the same. And you do not have to use brand name conditioners either. The cheap bottles work just as well.

meg - March 17, 2012

Thanks for the recipe. I will be trying it.

P2 - March 25, 2012

Just finished making my first batch of fabric softener. Will make again. So easy and cost effective. I am soaking my sponges getting ready to do my laundry, all I can think is “no more dryer sheets”. Thank you, from my family and friends

WorlWnd - April 20, 2012

Love this recipe! Thank you so much!! :) Made my second batch tonight!

KelliSue - June 21, 2012

It’s just not good to put conditioner or softener on your clothes. It coats the fibers. Just straight vinegar or with essential oils for fragrance is much better. Otherwise you’re coating your fibers with chemicals which then lay on your skin all day long. The vinegar is a terrific tip, it really works. Adding other chemicals like cheapy conditioner — you’re not doing your skin, your clothing, your washing machine, nor the environment any favors. If it’s not rinsing fully out (which means you would no longer smell it either) then… you’re coating the fibers.

Kellie - August 6, 2012

I have used plain vinegar in my rinse cycle on top of my homemade laundry soap and to be honest, I missed my laundry having that “fabric softner” smell. They do come out smelling just “clean” which is still ok. I tried the conditoner recipe today and actually I halfed everything because I was unsure of how I was gonna like it. To be honest, it smells very strong of vinegar before the wash and after, I just dont smell the conditoner I put in it. I am sad and wondering if I should tweek it a bit. If vinegar is used to get the smelll out of things, wouldn’t it be a “wash” (no pun intended) to be putting both in the laundry? I am so confused LOL

Susan - January 2, 2013

I have used the vinegar in my washer too. My son use to work for a gentleman who put in furnaces. My son would come home reeking of furnace oil and have greasy clothes. I would put in about a cup of vinegar in the washer when it was filling and it would take, not just the smell out, but also help clean the grease off the jeans and work pants. I also use homemade laundry detergent. What a life saver and money saver. Also, better for the environment.

Jane - January 4, 2013

When my son was a baby – about 43 years ago (wow – that’s been a while, huh?) I used only cloth diapers because disposables were really new and they were awful – you still had to use diaper pins with them back then and they didn’t have elastic around the legs – ewwww. Anyway, he was prone to diaper rash and I had read an article that said to put 1 C. vinegar in the rinse water when doing diapers. I did this religiously everytime I washed diapers and he never got diaper rash after that. The vinegar helps to neutralize the ammonia in the urine. I had an old top loader back then and his diapers never smelled like vinegar after they were dry – they just smelled like clean cotton.

This is off topic but I was painting a room not long ago and I found another tip that said if you want to reuse the rollers to rinse some of the paint out of them then get a pail of warm water and put in about a cup of fabric softner (any brand) and soak the rollers in it for about a hour or two and the paint residue just slid right out of the rollers. It worked really well.

Angelia Phillips - March 13, 2013

i just made some of this fabric softener and i really hope this stuff works good i can still smell the vinegar in it but that wont hurt my clothes or make them smell like it will it? and will this be safe to use on nursing uniforms? i work at a nursing home and i have to keep my clothes looking professional and stain free so will this make any stains on them?

Veronica - March 17, 2013

I’m hearing so many things, this blog/post is a little overwhelming!! I personally like having some fragrance in my laundry, but I use Young Living EOs. I’m not going to spend a fortune on good quality oils only to have them washed down the drain. I get the point that fragrances & chemicals are bad, so has anyone tried using a natural or ‘Eco friendly’ hair conditioner? Does it leave a pleasant scent & reduce static? I’ve used straight vinegar & it does not reduce the static, I’ve also tried Seventh Generation fabric softener which smelled nice in the bottle but left no scent on the laundry. Any suggestions, failed attempts, ideas? Thanks!

Patti Crawford - March 24, 2013

Iove any recipes using vinegar. Ever since I found a great recipe for ridding pet urine smells out of carpet and concrete using vinegar I am a firm believer in its universal uses. I just happened to have run out of softner while washing my work clothes and hate static cling. So I am giving this recipe a try. I never thought of adding a cheap conditioner for aroma. What a great idea. Hope it works!!!!

Melissa - April 21, 2013

can this be put in a downy ball? As a mom of twins, I don’t have time to babysit the washing machine (which is in my basement) to put in at spin cycle.


Cynthia - April 27, 2013

We have horribly hard water. I have read on several boards and websites about remedies for hard water and several have stated that using vinegar in hard water can backfire leaving clothes smelling worse. My daughter proved this out when trying to get her cloth diapers smelling good and was told to try vinegar in the rinse. Yuck! What a mistake! So, I am wondering about this homemade fabric softener with vinegar in our hard water. Has anyone with really hard water tried this softener? I love homemade stuff and make my own laundry soap all the time. Please let me know because I would really like to try the homemade softener. Thanks.

Nanette - May 14, 2013

Have been making no cook/no grate liquid laundry detergent for a couple of months now…very pleased with results in he machine. Ur not going to get the fragrance, but the clean is great. Fabric softener is another story. The good stuff is expensive and i do A LOT of laundry, some not so dirty, some funky(dogs). I don’t like plain vinegar as a rinse, but I’ll use on dog blankets. Works fine, diluted with water. After trying the homemade softener using hair conditioner, i still was not real happy with results. i just don’t like the vinegar smell no matter how much essential oil I use. I came up with a revised version which works somewhat better for me.

Wide mouth container for mixing 1 gallon(i use a 1 gallon pitcher)

1 gallon container(milk jug)


2 cups really cheap hair conditioner (dollar gen’l balsam) 1.00 for 32 oz bottle or a more scented conditioner(suave)

6 cups hot, hot water and then more hot water to fill 1g jug

Essential or fragrance oil of ur choice and eye dropper(optional)

1/2 cup white vinegar

Rubning alcohol(optional)

In a wide mouth container, mix the conditioner and hot water to thoroughly dissolve conditioner in water. Add vinegar, mix again. Add 2-3 dropperfuls of EO(easy does it, u can always add more later). Mix again. Add hot water to fill container. Mix again, watch for foaming.

This was the part I did not like was the foaming, in the container and in my dispenser. Was leaving a slight foam in the dispenser after laundry was done. After doing some research, a woman from Australia suggested a touch of rubbing alcohol added to the mixture to cut the foam. That worked. Add the alcohol and leave bottle open for a few minutes to allow alcohol to dissipate. Close container, shake it some more and pour into milk jug. Always shake gently before using. Adjust EO to ur taste. No matter what recipe I use, the mix always smells slightly astringent, not “downy fresh.”

U will not get the fragrance or the extreme softness offered by downy or gain. My mixture and other recipes i’ve followed never smell or have the same end result of the commercial products. The homemade mix does cut the static amd does provide softness, just not what u r used to. BUT, it is economical and it does work. My clothes have a very slight scent( based on how much and what EO i use)and my towels are much more absorbent since there is no coating on them. The homemade seems to works better on natural fabrics such as cotton versus synthetics, but i use on everything. It takes some getting used to since we have been taught that fragrance and extreme softness equates with clean. I’m learning to rethink that.

I don’t see any reason u could not use this in a downy ball. Just another way of dispensing. Oh, and I have decent water, not soft, but not horribly hard either. Sudsing of any soap/detergent is good. I add nothing to soften water, even in my dishwasher.

Good luck and have fun with this. Next project, homemade scent crystals which, by the way, are sodium chloride(salt) with scent added. Ok…I still like great smelling laundry even if I can’t get it with homemade softener. Gonna try a recipe seen on a blog. Sounds likeit can double as an air freshener, too.

Ali - May 22, 2013

I am pretty new to the homemade world and have just made my second batch of this softener. I don’t find it makes my clothes “shop-bought softener soft” but it does the job. I live in a hard water area too and it doesn’t leave a smell on any of my clothes. I am a little confused though, as the conditioner never dissolves? I have a carton of water with bits of conditioner floating in it, do I need to do something differently or is this ok? Because as I said, it’s my second batch and it happened to both batches so…I’m confused?!

    Tricia - March 21, 2014

    Ali, we have hard water where we are, a lot of lime and other minerals. I had read once it helps to use really hot water and mix thoroughly with the conditioner before adding the vinegar. Hope this will help. I recently started using the conditioner, it seems to equal the storebought softener we were using, Also I air-fluff (no heat) about 10 min. before hanging out.

Janis - March 25, 2014

I don’t get how hair condition is a better product, safer, more natural, you name it than premade laundry softener. Makes no sense to me. Willing to be enlightened!

    cdubau - January 15, 2015

    If you find a natural or organic hair conditioner from a health food store…its going to be healthier on your skin then anything in the laundry aisle unless you are buying something natural in that aisle already.

    Most smells in hair conditioner from health food stores come from essential oils and what not. I would only use this recipe with a downy ball because I don’t think putting it in with the initial fill would be of any benefit.

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