How to DIY Your Own Fabric Softener With Everyday Pantry Items

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Soft, fresh-scented clothes right out of the dryer are the best. But what's not-so great is what's often being used to achieve it. Liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets contain chemicals that are carcinogenic. Store-bought fabric softeners can also pollute indoor air, resulting in health problems like asthma, hormone disruption, heart disease, cancer, headaches, eye irritation, congestion, and nausea. Yikes.

Considering the harm commercial fabric softener can do to our bodies and the environment, making your own is a healthier option. Whether you prefer dryer sheets or a liquid, we’ve got you covered.

Keep reading to find out how to make your own all-natural fabric softener.


For the easiest method, simply add one-fourth to one-half cup (depending on the size of the load) of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle by using either fabric softener dispenser on your machine or a dispenser ball.

Vinegar has a load of benefits when added to your laundry load. While it doesn't exactly smell like roses, it becomes completely odorless once it dries. Plus, it banishes mildew and mold, so if your washer is at all musty, vinegar will knock the stink out. Oh, and another major bonus: Vinegar will remove armpit odor and stains from clothing and brighten both colors and whites that have grown dingy. It also reduces static cling and loosens lint’s grip on your clothes. Talk about a multi-tasking pantry item, right?

As if you needed one more reason to make your own safe and non-toxic fabric softener at home, it's worth calling out that pouring some vinegar into the washing machine is about the easiest (and cheapest) thing you can do. There’s no mixing involved, no complicated recipe, and no worrying about making more when you run out. Just grab another dirt-cheap bottle of vinegar at the store. But if you don’t mind making a fabric softener that’s slightly more complicated, there are some scented options you can make.

Scented vinegar spray

If you really miss the perfumed smell of store-bought fabric softener, you can add three teaspoons of your favorite essential oil to a spray bottle filled with of two cups of white vinegar. While you move your clothes from the washer to the dryer, spray them down, recommends Crunchy Betty. Less is more, or you could wind up with a lingering vinegar scent on your clothes.

Essential oil and vinegar dryer sheets

If you don’t want to deal with spraying your clothes down between the washer and dryer, you can make dryer sheets out of this scented vinegar solution by putting it in a container with a lid rather than a spray bottle. Cut fabric into strips or cut sponges into pieces and soak them in the solution. Then put one of these homemade dryer sheets in the dryer with your wet clothes. Put your dryer sheet back in the solution after your clothes are dry.

Baking soda

Baking soda boasts many of the same benefits as adding vinegar to your laundry. It makes colors and whites brighter, and it also deodorizes both your clothing and your washing machine. Even better, baking soda softens water, which means you can use less detergent. Add one-half cup of baking soda to your rinse cycle. One warning: You can’t use baking soda in the liquid fabric softener dispenser or a dispenser ball, so you’re going to have to be on top of it when the rinse cycle starts.

What about baking soda and vinegar together?

These two pantry superstars work better separately than together. There are many recipes out there online for cleaning solutions and fabric softeners that include baking soda and vinegar. But when you combine these two, you get a foaming reaction that leaves you with a solution of sodium acetate and water, which is neither a cleaner nor a fabric softener. So you're better off ignoring those recipes.

Antimicrobial fabric softener

If someone in your household has been sick, especially with a stomach bug, you know how important it is to get your sheets and towels extra clean so no one else catches a highly contagious infection. Enter this incredible fabric softener that kills viruses, bacteria, and fungus.

You can use coarse sea salt to soften your clothes, but Epsom salt works just as well and it’s much cheaper. When you make this antimicrobial fabric softener with essential oils, you get the added health benefit of killing germs that make you sick. To kill microbes, add lavender, lemon, and melaleuca essential oils to the salt. Lavender is antibacterial and antifungal. Both lemon and melaleuca are disinfectants that can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

To make this fabric softener, add 40 drops lavender essential oil, 30 drops melaleuca essential oil, and 20 drops lemon essential oil to a 64 ounce bag of Epsom Salts. Stir them together and store in a glass jar. Use one-fourth cup for a small load and a one-half cup for a medium to large load.

If you want to save money and no one in your house is sick, you can exclude the essential oil and just stick with the salt. Your clothes will be soft, but you don’t get the benefit of the antimicrobial properties.

Now you know how to make your clothes softer with zero stress on your body, the environment, and your wallet. In fact, if you make the antimicrobial fabric softener, you might just be benefiting your health. The next time you’re tempted to reach for a fabric softener full of nasty chemicals, stop and use one of these cheap and healthy alternatives instead.

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