3 Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener Recipes

by Jess on October 12, 2011

Homemade Fabric SoftenerLast week I shared with you my recipe for making your own powdered laundry detergent and a few of you asked about homemade fabric softener.

There are a number of different recipes floating around, but my favorite is straight old vinegar. I know what you’re thinking…vinegar? Gross! Won’t that make my clothes stink? Nope, the vinegar completely washes out & leaves your clothes smelling clean. You’ll never go back to traditional fabric softener after you try it – plus vinegar is cheap! A gallon at my local Smart & Final runs about $2 bucks.

Vinegar is excellent for removing soap residue from your clothes and is also a natural softener & whitener. It will make your towels more absorbent, eliminates static cling and is a great alternative for people with skin allergies.

Recipe #1: Vinegar Fabric Softener

I’ve been using this recipe for several months & have had excellent results.


  • 1 Gallon White Distilled Vinegar
  • Optional: 25 -30 drops of Essential Oil for fragrance


Fill a Downy Ball as you regularly would or add 1/4 cup to the rinse cycle. If you like your clothes to have a lingering fragrance like traditional fabric softener, add essential oil to the gallon of vinegar. Be sure to mark your jug so you don’t accidentally grab it for another purpose.

Recipe #2: Vinegar & Baking Soda Fabric Softener

Technically the ingredients below chemically neutralize each other but folks with hard water seem to swear by this recipe so it might be worth a shot if you are in a similar situation.


  • 1 cup White Distilled Vinegar
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 2 cups Hot Water
  • Optional: Essential Oil for fragrance


In a bucket, stir together the hot water and baking soda until mixed (it won’t completely dissolve). Slowly begin to add the vinegar (it will bubble up like a science volcano project) until well mixed. Pour into a storage container & shake before each use. Fill a Downy Ball with the mixture as normal or use 1/4 cup in the rinse cycle.

Recipe #3: Vinegar & Hair Conditioner Fabric Softener

The conditioner in this recipe will leave a slight fragrance after you take your clothes out of the dryer. Save your expensive conditioner for your hair, cheap-o brands like Suave will work just fine.


  • 3 cups White Distilled Vinegar
  • 2 cups Hair Conditioner (this works out to about the size of a full bottle of Suave)
  • 6 cups Hot Water

Mix ingredients together and pour into a storage container. Use about 1/4 cup per load in the rinse cycle or in a Downy Ball.

Heads up…

  • Do NOT substitute Apple Cider Vinegar for any of these recipes. You’ll end up with dingy clothes.
  • Do NOT use your homemade fabric softener on loads using bleach. Mixing bleach with vinegar can produce toxic fumes. Vinegar is a natural whitener so you really don’t need bleach anyway!

Do you use homemade fabric softener? I’d love to hear about your experience with it in the comments below!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather Craig Franklin via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 9:46 am

I love vinegar!


This Frugal Life via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

me too! There are sooooooo many uses for it.


Cheryl Bevan Cardall via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

I have discovered Norwex products and LOVE LOVE their dryer balls. No chemicals whatsoever and NO STATIC!


This Frugal Life via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 10:02 am

Cheryl Bevan Cardall I have a post scheduled for Friday for homemade dryer balls :)


Cheryl Bevan Cardall via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

I have found with downy (and I would imagine the same thing with hair conditioner) that my clothes attract dirt more easily and it is harder to get them clean


Bonnie W October 12, 2011 at 10:09 am

I love vinegar too! I use it to wash windows clean coffee maker and dishwasher etc the list is long/1
I shared this with my FB readers.


Becky, in GA October 12, 2011 at 11:29 am

I too use dryer balls.. they work fine.. I also use vinegar.


Isabel October 12, 2011 at 11:35 am

After u mix the ingredients, hw long would it last nd would this recipe b good for H.E machines?


Isabel Ruiz Dowdy via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

Would this b good for h.e machines nd hw long does the mixture last?


Terra October 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm

We use the hair conditioner recipe and I absolutely LOVE the smell of it. When I used the store brand, I used to use alot in order to get the strong smell of the softner but it would make my clothes feel nasty. With this, I can use a little more to still get the nice smell and it doesn’t make my clothes feel gross. :)


This Frugal Life via Facebook October 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm

@Isabel – Which recipe are you referring to? All of the recipes are safe for HE machines, especially because vinegar will remove any excess soap residue. I used it in my old front loading machine for several months without issue. :)


Isabel October 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Thanx great to know


dolly cohoon February 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm

i prefer to use this recipe (with the conditioner) over the others . it works great and the clothes smell fresh :-)


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