Making your own natural fabric softener is not a complicated process and has many advantages over store-bought products.
For one, it works out a lot cheaper as you only need a few key ingredients that you probably have in your store cupboard – white vinegar, for example, makes for a great fabric softener.
The benefits of homemade fabric softeners
Natural fabric softeners are all-natural, so you’ll be avoiding the chemicals found in manufactured softeners, which makes them a better option for sensitive skin or those with allergies.
They can be a more eco-friendly solution too, as you cut down on packaging waste.
You can also customise homemade softeners with whatever fragrance (if any) you like, so your clothes will smell exactly the way you want.
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How to make a natural fabric softener
Assembling your own homemade fabric softener is relatively straightforward and requires only a few ingredients. Take your pick from our favourite recipes.
The bicarbonate of soda and vinegar method
You will need:
- 200g bicarbonate of soda
- Water (have around 2.5 litres handy)
- 1.7 litres white vinegar
- A bucket or bowl for mixing
- Essential oils if you like fragrance
- In your bowl, mix the bicarbonate of soda with 250ml water.
- Add the white vinegar – the whole thing will start sizzling, but it’s a normal chemical reaction and will die down soon enough.
- Pour in 1.7 litres of water and give it a good stir.
- If you fancy a touch of fragrance, use 10 or so drops of the essential oils of your choice. Lavender is great on bedding while citrus-based scents like manadarin and orange feel clean and refreshing.
- Add 80ml of the solution to your washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser (see here for tips on where to put fabric softener and washing powder).
The vinegar and hair conditioner method
You will need
- A bowl
- 1.25 litres of hot water
- 360ml distilled white vinegar
- 240ml hair conditioner (this is used for extra softening action, but note that the conditioner fragrance may end up in your clothes depending on how strong it is).
- Mix together the hot water and the distilled white vinegar in a bowl.
- Stir in the conditioner.
- Use the mixture in the washing machine as if it was a commercial softener – add to the fabric softener dispenser, using 35ml for an average-sized load (55ml for a large load of 6-7kg)..
The one ingredient natural fabric softener
Plain old Epsom salts do a great job doubling up as a natural fabric softener.
You can use the salts as they are, adding about a tablespoon to your wash, but you can also mix in your favourite fragrance. Use essential oils and blend away to your heart’s content (it’s easier to blend the oils into a large batch – you’ll want one drop to every 20g of salts).
How to make your own dryer sheets
There’s no need to buy expensive sheets for the tumble dryer as it is super easy to make your own.
You will need:
- Fabric scraps – you could cut up an old (but clean!) T-shirt
- 150ml of distilled white vinegar
- Essential oils for fragrance
- Cut your fabric scraps to size, roughly 12cm square.
- Either spray or soak them in distilled white vinegar.
- Add essential oils if you like fragrance – 10 drops into 150ml of vinegar should be plenty.
- Your dryer sheets are ready to go – toss three or four into the dryer with your clothes.
- They can be reused if you re-soak them.
Your natural fabric conditioner questions answered
Is vinegar a natural fabric conditioner?
Yes, vinegar softens fabrics by removing soap residue, but is mild enough that it won’t harm your clothes. Plus, it is hypoallergenic and won’t irritate the skin like some commercial products.
It’s also good at reducing static, which helps the fibres feel smoother (we have more tips here on how to get rid of static electricity on clothes). You want to make sure that you use distilled white vinegar, not the stuff you put on your salads.
How can I soften clothes without fabric softener?
You don’t need to use a commercial product to soften your clothes – as you can see above, there are plenty of natural home remedies to choose from.
But you don’t even need to bother to make your own, if you don’t fancy it as you can just add a dash of bicarbonate of soda to your wash. It will help soften your clothes as well as the water, which will help your washing machine perform better (the cleaning and rinsing processes will be more efficient and effective). About 120g should do the trick. See here for more uses and tips on cleaning with bicarbonate of soda.
Alternatively, you can just use distilled white vinegar, which will help soften the water and shift any leftover soap on your clothes. However, you need to add it when the rinse cycle is about to start, so you’ll have to keep an eye out. Use 120ml added to the dispenser meant for fabric softener. Don’t worry about the smell as it will wash out (unless you overdose, so be careful!).
Do you really need fabric softener?
In short, no. Your clothes will be fine if you don’t use one. However, they are useful if you like your fabrics to smell nice, come out the dryer wrinkle free and just feel more comfy. Check out our advice on why you might want to use fabric conditioner.