Homemade Fabric Softener {Picture Tutorial}

February 11, 2015 92 Comments | Disclosure

This Homemade Fabric Softener, will not only save you money, it’s easy and actually works!

Check out our tried and true Homemade Fabric Softener Recipe!


Marji here again with another recipe to save you money on your laundry. I don’t go through fabric softener as quickly as I do laundry soap, but I figured there had to be a recipe to make my own for less than what I pay at the store for it. I found one on pinterest and it is really easy to make and uses things you probably have on hand!

Here is what you need:

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2 cups hair conditioner, pick a scent you like (Here is a deal that you can save even more on with Subscribe and Save)

3 cups white vinegar

6 cups hot water

a container to mix it in


Mix the water, vinegar & conditioner together. I used my big pitcher, easy to mix in and easy to pour into another container.


Make sure you stir it, don’t shake it. It takes a few minutes of stirring until it is all mixed together. I just mixed it until there were no more conditioner clumps and it was a smooth consistency.


I used my funnel to pour it into my old fabric softener dispenser.


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It is ready to go. I added about 1/4 cup to my fabric softener dispenser in my HE washer. I like how it works and it smells really good.

Here is the cost break down:

hair conditioner $1.99

Gallon of vinegar $2.00 (I only used 3 cups of it and have more for other cleaning projects)

It makes about 11 cups and if you use 1/4 cup/load then it is just 8 cents a load.

Use a coupon for the hair conditioner it is even cheaper! Or get this deal for .16/oz!


Homemade Fabric Softener


  • 2 cups hair conditioner, pick a scent you like
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 6 cups hot water
  • Essential Oil if desired


  1. Mix the water, vinegar & conditioner together. I used my big pitcher (easy to mix in and easy to pour into another container). Stir, don't shake... be patient, it might take a few minutes to smooth it out.
  2. Add some drops of essential oil if you desire (I love to add Purify and Ongaurd)
  3. Use a funnel and pour it into your old fabric softener dispenser.

We have many more DIY Cleaners.


  1. Thanks so much! I just got my new washer and dryer today! I have CHEAP laundry detergent but the cost of fabric softener makes me cringe. I will definitely be trying this!

  2. This is awesome! Thank you!
    You can also use this to make your own reusable dryer sheets by soaking cloth diapers in liquid fabric softener and letting air dry. :)

  3. Cheryl_hiccups says:

    I have taken this one step more basic & just add a scent to vinegar. You could use an essential oil or something, but I just use a couple spritzes of dollar store cologne in a scent I like added to the quarter cup vinegar.

  4. I made my own fabric softener with vinegar, baking soda, water and lavender essential oil. I keep trying to find the exact recipe, but for some reason the pin isn’t showing up on my pinterest board. I put it in a little pump bottle, the baking soda sinks to the bottom but I just shake it up some before pumping it into my washing machine.

    • Linda Haynes says:

      check my web site. Scroll down to yesturday. It is from a friend of mine. I will send u a friend req.

    • TERESA COLE says:

      Found a recipe you might use: 1 cup water and 1 cup baking soda and 6 cups white vnegar. This will fizz and bubble up. Stir in 6 more cups water. Use funnel to pour into container. Can add essential oil fragrance. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load.

    • ummmm- baking soda and vinegar do not mix- at least not in a closed container- (that is what we make our volcanoes with…)

  5. I would think it would just build up on your clothes. I’ve used this stuff for about a year now and it beats Downy hands down, clothes come out with no scent unless you add EO http://www.food.com/recipe/homemade-fabric-softener-179890

    • Does all the baking soda dissolve in this recipe? I’m wondering if my ratios were off when I made it and thats why I have so much baking soda left over. How much do you put per load?

      • I slowly mix them together, there should only be trace amounts left of the baking soda at the bottom. I don’t add all the extra water so I only need to add a little bit to the wash. Plain vinegar works just as well, I think you just add 2/3cup to the rinse cycle.

  6. oh yes, thank you so much, I already have everything except the lavender conditioner, cause i already have lavender essential oil to add with, this will be great, so if one only uses 1/4 cup per load…that would make this 44 loads for $4.84 and lot’s of Vinegar left over for the next batch, wow I love this, again ladies, I love this, what a great savings, anyone besides myself making their own Laundry detergent as well? I found that recipe on utube, tried the wet version first, made 1 gallon @ 1/4c per load an pennies per load, cost me approx $7.50 for the Ingred. but I have alot left to make much more, Iloved it but the next batch I’m making (dry ingredients) in the food processer , this is fun………..saving money. Nampa, Idaho

    • Can u tell me where you buy your essential oil?

      • You can get them from Doterra. These oils are the most amazing oils I have ever used. They are the only Certified Pure Grade oils on the market. Because they are so strong you can use very little of them. I work at a Montessori school and we use them for everything. http://www.doterra.myvoffice.com/thehealingoils/

        • Thank You.I found it and made the fabric softener but i still cant smell it on the clothes.Can u tell me how many drops of oil to a qt of vinegar.

          • Lynley Shea says:

            you can also get essential oils at your local heath food store, or order them off amazon. way cheaper than that other website listed above! plus you get more and they smell very good and you can smell them on your clothing!

  7. I am really loving the posts on making homemade stuff. I would love love to see one on making cleaning supplies.

    • more coming soon! I have really gotten into making my own cleaning supplies so I’ll be sharing some “recipes” in the coming weeks.

      • Maria Hicken says:

        Thanks Marji for the recipe on the homemade laundry soap. I made it this weekend but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. It smells great! I’m super excited to make the fabric softener! Thanks so much for the great recipes and all the savings.

      • Susan Holley says:

        For an wonderful home-made cleaner, Here is the best grease cutter, dirt cutter I have made. I’ve made it for years-its so simple and pract costs nothing: One qt. squirt bottle,: and then just add 1/4 C. ammonia liquid, 1-2 drops of liq. dishes detergent, fill up with water. You can vary the strength with the ammonia (like B0-peep brand, or any generic ammonia.

  8. Pinned it and FB shared it. What a fab idea I am gonna try as I have everything right now…If this works for me no more running around after adds for my fabric softener and the best deal. As always thank you ladies.


  10. Question – I have been told you aren’t supposed to use fabric softener on kids clothes because it takes away the flame retardant. Which was why I like the crystals fabric softener, because it doesn’t apply to it. And essentially, it’s just salt/sugar crystals with scent. Would the homemade stuff be ok for kids clothes then?

  11. Make it in food processor…mixes up great !

  12. Allison says:

    Not sure this is really a bargain. A friend and I figured it up and you can buy Downy for $6.99 for 105 loads which equals out to be $0.06 a load. So…this would be more expensive and definitely more work!

    • chelsie says:

      How many ounces do you get for 6.99? 105 loads should be about 210 ounces, if you use a quarter cup (2 Oz)per load. I looked on walmarts website, and bottle for 6.97 gives you 90 Oz, or 45 loads, which equals out about 15 cents a load

      • With the front loader washing machines you are only to be using a tsp of fabric softener in them and 1 TBL of detergent. They do get a build up and they hardly use that much water for a load. Run your washer by it self on the rinse setting look to see how much soap suds you see in your machine.. If you see lots of soap suds its because you have a build up.. I was told that your only to be using the 1 TBS of soap per load to wash and the 1 tsp of fabric softener as well. So you can still save big time buying the big containers to wash your clothes by buying Tide and Downy because You do not need to use the cap to measure because its too much..

    • i use some downey and delute it i think its too thick i water it down the dryer newer ones fluff up the clothes what happened ed debbieedto that pink stuff call

  13. Can I use cider vinegar or does it need to be white?

    • You really should use white vinegar. Cider vinegar can stain clothes. It’s also more expensive most of the time so it’s also cheaper to use white vinegar.

      • I was always told that
        brown vinegar is for healing
        white vinegar is for cleaning

        I make homemade laundry soap . The recipe I use is:

        1 bar Fels Naptha Bar Soap, grated
        Melt in 2 quarts hot water–don’t let it boil


        Put 3 gallons of hot water into a 5 gallon pail

        Add 2 cups of Washing Soda and
        1 cup Borax to the hot water and stir until dissolved.
        Now, add the melted soap and stir well.

        Cover the pail with the lid, or plastic.
        Leave it sit overnight.

        The next morning, stir it well with a very large whisk – until it is a creamy consistency.
        In clean laundry soap containers, mix 3 parts of hot water to one part laundry soap.

        Stir soap mixture each time – before adding to the hot water in another bottle. This
        will ensure that the consistency stays the same for all the bottles that you fill.

        I got my whisk from GFS Gordon Food Service. For about $12.00.

        I use about 1/4cup detergent per load of laundry or less.
        I have an HE washer.

        I am on my second batch of homemade laundry soap.
        I really think that it is better than any store brand that I have ever used.
        I have used Downy fabric softener because I think it smells so nice, but I am
        going to try to make fabric softener next.
        I also use white vinegar in the rinse water sometimes.

        I bought the ingredients to make homemade fabric softener. I will be making it this week.

        1 bottle creme rinse (use the ones that you can get for a dollar or less.
        3 cups vinegar
        6 cups distilled water.

        Whisk together and pour into an empty fabric softener bottle.

        I go to the recycling center and pick up bottles with lids, if I run out of used containers.

  14. I simply use 1/4 cup white vinegar in my Downy ball so it opens automatically into the rinse cycle. It works well and doesn’t smell like vinegar after it rinses. I have almost no static and i can use it with my towels to make them softer without hindering their absorbency. I tried cider vinegar and the smell stayed in the clothes.

  15. Shelley says:

    How strange is this,, was just thinking of google-ing this today!! Thank you so much, cant wait to try it!!

  16. Casieopea says:

    I know you are trying to save money – but the chemicals in your hair care products are meant to be RINSED OFF – and putting them into your clothes makes you exposed to them alllll daaaaaay loooooong.

    Check out some of this stuff…
    These ingredients are from the back of the suave naturals bottle and websites that talk about the ingredient follows

    DMDM hydantoin, (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient.php?ingred06=702196 )

    methylchloroisothiazolinone, ( http://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/methylchloroisothiazolinone )

    methylisothiazolinone, (http://www.naturalnews.com/005342.html )

    For me, personally, part of the reason to make this stuff at home is to reduce my family’s and my own exposure to all the chemicals that are in this stuff. Now – your reasons may be different. I just look at the chemicals in downey – and see lots of the same kinds of chemicals in the hair conditioner too.

    Personally, I use vinegar water to rinse my hair….

    • Michelle says:

      If you like citrus scents you should check out Trader Joe’s Refresh Citrus Conditioner. It doesn’t seem to have near the chemicals that other conditioners do.

  17. Dyanne says:

    Add about 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar to the last rinse. The acid in white distilled vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. Besides removing soap, white distilled vinegar prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and is a static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew.

  18. What id you can’t use scented stuff? My daughter has sensitive skin.

    • Pure vinegar would be good for her I’ve used it for years and my family has never had a reaction. If anything we notice that there is NO residue left on clothes from any detergents. I use about a half a cup white in my fabric softener dispenser.

      • I have allergies myself and I use baking soda to wash my clothes and vinegar as my softener and nothing else, I have been doing this for almost a year and my clothes are nice and clean and fresh. I do use home made softer with a little conditioner in it mixed with water that I put a sponge in and squeeze out the excess and throw it in the dryer as a softener sheet, but don’t even do this with all loads. My clothes are just as nice as when I used store bought laundry detergent and downy but I have saved a lot of money. I buy the big bag of baking soda at Costco and use about 1/2 cup per load, pour it right on the clothes and put the vinegar in the softener slot in my front loader HE machine.

  19. I have been told that adding white vinegar to your wash if you have something blue in the wash, it will turn the blue clothing red.

    • when I was a kid mom would stick a cup of white vinegar in with the cold water wash to set the dye in our new levi’s. We also would set the dye for tie-dyed t-shirts by putting in a bucket of water with white vinegar.

    • That’s crazy and has never happened to me I have been using a half cup of vinegar in my rinse water for years now. Clothes come out clean and fresh. If I get a wild hair I might try adding the conditioner just for a touch of scent.

  20. Linda Haynes says:

    a friend of mine gave me the recipe. I will send you a friend request as I have not copied it yet

  21. Michelle says:

    Could you just add essential oil to the vinegar and water for scent or does it need the bottle of conditioner? From the posts I’ve read, it seems like vinegar alone softens the clothes pretty well by itself. I just like using something that’s scented.

  22. Meredith Disque says:

    I’ve been using distilled white vinegar in every load as a freshener/brightener and just ran out of fabric softener sheets and have noticed that just using the vinegar my cloths don’t come out of the dryer all static and are just as nice without the softener so I’m sure the vinegar used on it’s own would work well too and it really doesn’t smell like vinegar. It’s nice and fresh smelling and feeling! I also use vinegar is a spray bottle mixed with water and use that as a spray to wash my laminated floors and it works amazing and no streaks!

  23. maybe I should have read the recipe a little better, but I’m guessing “pure white vinegar” and “distilled vinegar” are 2 different kinds?, oh oh..Haven’t made it yet, but I had just gone to the store just to get the vinegar..

  24. love your website,learn a lot

  25. Jeannie Kinsey says:

    This recipe sounds good, but I think I do it cheaper. I buy the largest size of fabric softener sheets box at Wal-Mart. That is around $5 for 180 sheets. Since I tear those sheets in half, that gives me 360 loads-worth the large loads I do. If my math is correct, that is a cost of about 1.5 cents per load.

  26. I see some of the comments are mixing oils into this. Does it smell bad otherwise? Also, what kind of oils? I have oils for my oil warmer is that the type?

    • I do not use oils as I have allergies, there is really no smell to using vinegar by itself as a softener, some people just like the smell of the oils on their clothes, guess it makes them feel like it is cleaner or something.

  27. Luke Tippey says:

    Is this HE?

  28. I tried this on a few loads and have not been impressed. I followed recipe exactly and can smell vinegar. I then out in the whole bottle of conditioner and added water trying to save this. I may need to get cologne from dollar store. Next time I would CUT VINEGAR in HALF.

  29. Is this safe for HE machines?

  30. Okay, this is going to sound disgraceful, but I will attempt to show you why it is not. . Okay, so, this recipe has been working GREAT, except that my family was so spoiled by scent — Downy, in particular, although some others have worked — that they were missing it. Although I’d tell them, “The clothes do not have a scent, but they’re clean,” they continued to try to smell them!
    So here’s what I did. First, I grabbed a Downy Ultra from KMart (on sale last week for $3 with coupon). Secondly, I have my mixture in several containers, one of which is a full-sized jelly jar with lid. It was halfway used, so I added three capfuls of Downy into the jar, then added some vinegar, and filled it up with water.
    My clothes came out smelling as though I’d used straight Downy! My family is very happy now. Like I said, it might sound disgraceful, so here’s my argument:
    1) I only added a small amount to one jar. Plenty more for those who want just the fabric softener effect without the strong scent.
    2) Because it was only a small amount, the Downy will ‘live’ MANY times longer than it would have! I think it’s a 30-load, and I only used 3 caps, which will probably last about 12-15 uses, at least. So we’re talking what? Three HUNDRED uses?
    3) More uses means less waste, yet my whole family can be satisfied,
    4) Half the time I don’t use softener in the wash, and if i do, it’s vinegar. Something I like to do for fragrance is keep a BRIGHT, ORANGE wash cloth in the dryer. The first time, I dampened it in a good bit of very-watered-down Downy, and threw it in the wash. Ever since, I just refresh it with maybe a tablespoon of Downy. One time I had a HUGE load of linens, so I did this to three wash cloths. In the end, they were heavily scented (although the softener was still watered-down), and I barely used any!
    I hope this helps and does not irritate anybody!

    • I LOVE this idea!!! I am IN LOVE with Gain and miss it. I have been using this homemade softener and it works good but Gain just smells so yummy. I actually have to stop in the laundry isle from time to time to get a wiff (it’s sad I know LOL) What was the ratio you used? (vinegar, softener, water)

  31. I had this exact recipe sitting in my “waiting to publish” area of my blog, too funny. I chose the same scent as you LOL, I make it as a half batch though because I don’t have a big enough container at the moment LOL

  32. Tracy Tesseneer says:

    I made some of this over the weekend. I have to say I am disappointed in the smell :( I used a Suave conditioner that I thought smelt pretty good. I mixed up a batch and washed some clothes, adding the mixture to my downy ball. When I dried my clothes I could hardly smell the smell. However, the clothes have been EXTRA soft!! So i love it for the softness effect but not so much for the smell. Maybe if you added some scented oils to it the smell would be stronger?

  33. I made this and used a bit of liquid fabric softener to scent the recipe listed. It worked well and gave off a pleasant but not overwhelming scent. Great recipe- I also used my emulsion hand/stick blender to mix it up (way faster).

  34. How much do I use for a non-HE, top-loading washer?

  35. I just recently tried this recipe and so far so good. It was super easy to make and I don’t notice a difference in my clothes between this and store bought fabric softner. The only complaint that I have is that the Suave scent is not that strong on your clothes. You can barely smell it. I don’t like overpowering scent but I do like to have sometime a little stronger. My one friend uses this recipe too and she said to just try using a different conditioner. Had anyone else used a different brand?

  36. I made this and used it. Totally doesn’t work as well as commercial fabric softener. I tested a load of laundry using this formula with a load using Kirkland softener. The DIY softener is so ineffective that it doesn’t even feel like I softened my cloths. I doubt anyone who perpetuates this post has actually made and used this formula, much less compared it to any commercial brand.

    • Actually I found my cloths (and especially towels) to be much softer and fluffier (which is probably the vinegar stripping all the build up off the laundry). I think what you are missing is the scent, that’s the only drawback.

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  39. I do a similar one to this, I mix 1 litre of vinegar, a sachet of fabric softener concentrate & top with water, give it a good shake. I only use 1 capful per load, so a 2 litre bottle of it lasts me a while. Cost is $1 for 2 litres.

  40. Can you use soap scents oil that they have at hobby lobby that it’s in the soap making isle for $2.99 they also have the 100% easential oil for $6.99 for 1/2oz. & if I can use the $2.99 it be nice. I would appreciate any response. Thank you

    • You can give it a try. I have never used them, so I’m not sure how they will work. I always bought a scent of conditioner that I liked and it seemed to give it enough scent.

  41. Have you tried this with chlorine bleach? I would like to use this with my husband’s white socks, but I bleach and I know that you can’t mix chlorine with certain chemicals because it makes a toxic fume. Another website with a similar recipe advised against using it with bleach, but I honestly don’t even know if my washer dispenses the bleach and the fabric softener at the same time, and if not, then does it matter?

    • I have used it with bleach with no ill effects

    • I also use my baking soda for laundry soap, straight vinegar as my softener and Clorox for my white clothes and they come out beautiful, have been doing this for close to a year now.

  42. Oh, and to follow up on the soap scents…I had some and used it and it worked great. Try the lemon. Mmmm….

  43. I found the same here but this is in a kit form. I believe this is a fabric conditioner.

  44. I will try this, and I’m sure you can soak a wash cloth or any kind of rag in the mix and throw it in the dryer, I usually forget to put in the liquid softener so wash cloth will wor great.

  45. Beware I tried this and broke out in hive all over my body it was awful they said it was most likely the vinegar in the rest of it is going down the drain .

    • Dianna- That is a bummer. You should check with your doctor about allergies. Hives are a sign of an allergic reaction. You should find out which ingredient you used that you are allergic to. Allergies are such a bummer. I know from experience. So sorry to hear about that for you.

  46. Why the vinegar?

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