Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener Recipes


Are you tired of the amount of money you spend buying liquid fabric softener?

Well, there’s a solution.  Save money and Make Your Own!

When I started researching how to make fabric softener, I soon discovered that the magic ingredient (once again) is white distilled vinegar, a wonderful ingredient that can be used in lots of money saving ways around the house.  (I especially like vinegar to make my favorite DIY All Purpose Cleaner).  I can buy a gallon of white distilled vinegar for $2.69 which equals about 16 cents per cup of vinegar so it’s a pretty cheap addition to your homemade mixtures.

Only white vinegar should be used for these fabric softener recipes. Apple cider vinegar could make your clothes dingy.  You should also never mix vinegar and bleach which can create toxic fumes, so don’t use these homemade fabric softeners with vinegar in them in a load with bleach.

homemade fabric softener recipes

Here are three frugal recipe ideas that make use of vinegar’s ability to work as a homemade fabric softener.  This first recipe is the one that I’m currently using which is a combination of water, vinegar, and hair conditioner.  There’s no need to use an expensive hair conditioner in this recipe.  Something like Suave hair conditioner in a nice fragrance works great.

#1 – Homemade Fabric Softener With Conditioner


  • 1 Cup Hair Conditioner

  • 3 Cups Hot Water

  • 1-1/2 Cups White Distilled Vinegar

Put the cup of hair conditioner in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly add in the hot water, stirring as you go to get the two mixed together well.  Finally stir in the white vinegar.  Store in a covered container.  Use about 1/4 cup per load or use in a Downy Ball


The second recipe idea is to just simply use straight vinegar.  I’ve also done this and it does in fact work to soften clothes and help eliminate static.  An essential oil can be added to the vinegar for fragrance.

#2 – Using Vinegar as Fabric Softener


  • White Distilled Vinegar

  • Essential Oil (Optional)

To use vinegar as a homemade fabric softener, simply add about 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle, or use in a Downy Ball.  You can also scent the vinegar with your favorite essential oil, using a drop or two per cup of white vinegar.


Finally, I’ve also included a popular homemade fabric softener recipe that combines vinegar and baking soda.  I haven’t used this recipe because frankly, vinegar and baking soda neutralize each other.  That’s what all that fizzing is about. (Here’s a good blog post to read about what happens when you combine vinegar and baking soda).  Nevertheless, many people say they have much success with this recipe so here it is if you want to give it a try.

#3 – Homemade Fabric Softener with Vinegar and Baking Soda


  • 2 Cups Hot Water

  • 1 Cup Baking Soda

  • 1 Cup White Distilled Vinegar

In a bucket stir together the hot water and the baking soda.  Slowly add in the vinegar.  It will fizz and bubble up.  Once it’s all mixed together, store in a covered container and shake before each use. Use about 1/4 cup in the rinse cycle or use in a Downy Ball.


Downty BallIf you’re not familiar with the little Downy Balls, here’s a picture of the one that I use.  You put your fabric softener in the bottom of the ball, filling it to one of the marked lines on the ball for the size of your load of wash.  Then there’s a little plug on the top that you pull up to close the opening.  You put the Downy ball (with the softener in it) into your load of wash and start the load.  Apparently during the spin cycle, the plug comes loose allowing the softener to come out into the rinse cycle.  It’s a great cheap fix if you don’t have a working automatic dispenser for fabric softener in your washing machine.

Need a few more money saving laundry ideas?  Try making your own Wrinkle Release Spray, making your own Laundry Soap, or making your own Homemade Stain Remover.



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  1. I can’t wait to try the coditioner one I always have a giant gallon of vinegar around and I have an empty 64 oz bottle of gain to store it in so I used mykitchencalculator to convert it rounded to the nearest fraction for just over 63.5 ounces.

    -Original Recipe:
    1 cup conditioner
    3 cups hot water
    1 1/2 cups white vinegar

    Original size: 44
    Desired size: 64
    *Original recipe multiplied by 1.45
    *Recipe rounded to nearest cooking fraction

    1 1/2 cup conditioner
    4 1/3 cups hot water
    2 1/8 cups white vinegar

    I hope that helps anyone if they want that amount or if you want a different amount you can go to their site and use the recipe calculator.

    Again I can’t wait to try this – I just did laundry last night so it’s going to be at least 4 or 5 days until I can try – until then I’ll just keep rinsing out my old gain bottle a couple times a day to make sure I get all the old stuff out. – I have this weird obsession with saving bottles and jars in case I need them for something, and once in a while a use does pop up!

  2. Because I am so addicted to my favorite laundry softener, I simply wanted to extend my softener, not do away with it altogether. So if I am using the wash cloths in the dryer method, I mix distilled water and hair conditioner in with half a bottle of my softener. However, the part that I’m going to use in the washing machine, that when I add vinegar to. I have never, ever had a problem with smelling the vinegar afterwards.

  3. I was wandering about using bleach when using the fabric softner. After the bleach clothes has rinsed n drained can u then add the fabric softner to the clothes.

  4. I was just reading how marcia says vinegar only softens your clothes but in one of the recipes up top says that it helps to eliminate static electricity. So now I am confused, does it eliminate static or not? Thanks! I’m new to this & just tried my first homemade fabric softener & it didn’t leave my clothes smelling good? Actually they kinda stunk? My clothes always smell good & I don’t know what happened unless the vinegar cleaned my washer & that’s why my clothes didn’t smell good. I used the water, hair conditioner & vinegar recipe. Maybe if I add some baking soda to it(after dissolving it in some water first)? Thanks

      1. Try crackling Aluminium Foil up and throwing in you dryer for Static !!!! Or them Yellow Tennis Balls

  5. Thank you for the great info and answers! I made the first softener recipe using Suave Lavender Scented Conditioner. In the wash it has working great, but I’ve also tried it on some DIY dryer sheets (dampening a coffee filter with softener) and found the vinegar scent is lingering. Any thoughts?

    1. You could experiment with less vinegar more water and/or a little baking soda to neutralize some of the vinegar smell.

      If you use baking soda, be sure to mix it until the baking soda is completely dissolved and start with just a little first, i.e. a couple of tablespoons or so and work up (less is more here since it’s purpose here is just to neutralize the smell). Keep plenty of room in the mixing container for the mixture to bubble up.

  6. Hi Bev! Thank you so much for all the answers you’ve given and the home recipes. Its working well for me too.
    I would like to know if you’ve tried the softener made with adogen or if you know someone who has tried it. Is it safe, good or what


    1. “Adogen” was a new term for me and my Google research did not turn up much help either! Sorry I can’t be of more help on that one but I will see what more I can keep learning on that subject.

  7. I’ve already used two bottles of homemade fabric softener using Paul Mitchell leave-in conditioner and one made with Suave ocean scent and I’ve had no repercussions of skin irritations. Didn’t mind that it was white not blue with the Paul Mitchell.

    1. I don’t have an HE washer to speak from personal experience, but my understanding is that you can use the homemade fabric softener recipe with hair conditioner in an HE machine. The thing to avoid in HE machines is anything that suds up too much and this softener does not suds so it should be OK.

  8. Thanks Steve, I was wondering about the chemicals in hair conditioners and was trying to find out if they were good or bad before I tried them in my fabric softener. Now I know.

  9. Please I have tried to make fabric soft net two week ago, but I think I was given wrong ingredient, I was given hair conditioner, perfumed,and colour. when I mix it became so watery and maintain some white staff on top. Please advice . You haven’t also dimension perfumes and colour. Procedure and name of ingredients please. Thank you

      1. Hi Beverly
        It’s not a conditioner I would use; with quick check it looks like it has Methylisothiazolinone as one of its ingredients. It can bring you out in a very bad skin rash (as had happened to me). It builds up in the skin over time without you knowing it, then your skin tell you it’s fed-up with this nasty stuff and gives you a rash which can take up to a year to go.

        This is the main reason I now make my own conditioner. Just use white vinegar, I know it’s hard to believe I promise your clothes won’t smell like fish & chips.

        You can get it on ebay, I’ve been experimenting with white vinegar all over the house for about two months now, it really is magic; use it with a micro cloth and you won’t bother with any other cleaners any more.

        All the best Steve

  10. Just a point about your third option using hair conditioner, 90% they contain “Methylisothiazolinone” (MI or MIT) and a cocktail of many other chemical toxins that can irritate or burn skin(as had happened to me). The reason I hooked onto your very good site is I am looking for a safe alternative to toxic products.
    Keep up the good work

    1. Using a non-toxic hair conditioner solves that problem. You can make your own or find an organic version in the health food section of your local market. http://safecosmetics.org is a good resource for learning more about what specific ingredients we might wish to avoid. For a safer alternative, I use the dōTERRA conditioner, which contains Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils. You can learn more about the conditioner, shampoo and other healthy products at http://oils4u.org Best wishes!

  11. I love the smell if Downy & Snuggle fabric liquid softener. They make my clothes soft and smell good for several days. Do have any idea on how to make a similar scent or at least a pleasant scent that won’t fade after a day without having to purchase extra scent boosters?

    1. I’ve seen recipes for the dry powdered homemade laundry soaps that add a jar of the fabric softener crystals. Perhaps that would be an idea for saving money by making the laundry soap, but still adding the nice smell of the fabric softeners. This type of recipe might also help with the line drying.

    2. Carrie, many natural home stores carry essential oils that you can add for scent. I have a small independent shop nearby that stocks dozens of different scents. A recipe of this size probably only requires ~5-10 drops or so, but you can experiment and find what gives the intensity you want. I typically use sage or cedar myself, but since my girlfriend also really likes the Downy scent we’ve switched to white tea. Smells very clean and fresh, and she’s been happy with it.

      1. I use Cedar oil as well, it keeps bugs away and smells wonderful. I use the strawberry conditioner too, great smell combo!

  12. i hang dry my clothes and am looking for a home made fabric softener that will make my clothes and towels alot softer with hang drying.

  13. I have been using the recipe with baking soda for a year. If I go more than a few days with out “shaking” the mixture, the baking soda seems to settle and clump, then is collects in the washer. Any suggestions as to how to stop the baking soda from clumping? Thanks for your help!

    1. I have not tried the baking soda recipe Theresa. I’m wondering if you use really HOT water when initially making the mixture, and then let the baking soda dissolve in it really well, if perhaps that would help? Not sure though . . .

    2. Hi Theresa,

      There are several reasons why the baking soda could be clumping up, but you could try running the rinse cycle without baking soda and just vinegar added (and a few drops of your preferred essential oil if you desire a scent). The vinegar will help the water to neutralize and dissolve the extra left over baking soda. Vinegar does a good job of dissolving other soap residues as well.

      1. This will clean out the clumps. Once clean you could try mixing it again with less baking soda (maybe your tap water is harder than normal), making smaller batches, using hotter water, and/or checking to make sure the baking soda is mixed more thoroughly before applying the mixture to your machine. I hope that solves your problem. 🙂

  14. I like the Downy ball but the rinse cycle takes a lot of it down the drain so I started putting hair conditioner directly on a cloth and putting it in my dryer instead of a dryer sheet. It works better for me.

    1. Just remember not to put too much and rub it in thoroughly; otherwise it will get directly on your clothes and leave a greasy-looking spot.

    2. When I made my fabric softener, I dampen a small piece of an old t shirt and then saturate it with the fabric softener. It eliminates the grease stain that I used to get.

    1. I tried to do some research on why vinegar works so well as a fabric softener and it’s probably because it rinses the clothes a little cleaner of soaps and detergents which makes the clothes feel softer. Whenever I’ve used vinegar in the laundry, the smell fades really quickly and you can’t even smell it on your clothes.

      1. I use white sprit vinegar; about one table spoon a wash don’t mix it with anything else you do not need to. It will not leave any smell after your washing has dried. It is outstanding for cleaning sinks as well, just dilute it about one to ten with water. Hope that has been some help to you Steve.

    1. The homemade fabric softener in the picture is the recipe using hair conditioner. I used a Sauve hair conditioner that was blue 🙂

    1. A couple of homemade solutions you can try for static cling are to put a couple balls of crumpled tin foil in the dryer, or to put a few safety pins in a scrap of fabric in the dryer. Both of these strategies are based on having something metallic in the dryer to attract the static. I’ve tried both of these and they do seem to work!

          1. I pu3 or 4 tennis balls in the dryer. It helps keep the clothes fluffy reducuses static cling reduces drying time so it’s even more cost efficient. And works great!!!

          2. I know for sure that the tennis balls work in the dryer. I had to wash my oversized blanket at a laundry facility. There was a lady who worked there, and that’s exactly what she was doing!