Homemade Fabric Softener and DIY Dryer Sheets

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Homemade Fabric Softener Homemade Dryer Sheets

Homemade fabric softener and homemade dryer sheets have no strong chemical scents like store brands. Their light, natural smell is awesome!

You’re probably familiar with our homemade laundry detergent, so today let’s learn how to soften laundry (and save money) with natural homemade fabric softener and homemade dryer sheets.

Also related is our tutorial on how to make wool dryer balls; they’re great for reducing drying time, softening clothes, and reducing static cling. You can purchase wool dryer balls here; we recommend buying 2 four-packs.

If you want to learn WHY we make our own, and why you should too, scroll down to find facts revealing how dangerous chemical perfumes in commercial cleaning products really are.

Homemade Fabric Softener

Vinegar is my homemade fabric softener of choice.

Aside from being a natural softener, it also removes soap residue in the washing machine and reduces static in the dryer. You can add vinegar to a Downy ball and throw it in with your laundry, or pour vinegar directly into the fabric softener dispenser if your washing machine has one. I sometimes add 1-2 drops of my favorite essential oil to the vinegar in the softener dispenser.

I like to experiment with combinations of my favorite oils in the laundry. Sweet orange brightens and fights stains, lavender offers a calming effect, and peppermint can help fight tough odors on clothing. Another reason to love making your own homemade fabric softener.

You can pre-mix your fabric-softening vinegar by using the following recipe:

Homemade Fabric Softener Homemade Dryer Sheets

Homemade Fabric Softener Recipe

5 from 1 vote

Homemade fabric softener and homemade dryer sheets have no strong chemical scents like store brands. Their light, natural smell is awesome!

Prep Time
2 minutes
Active Time
2 minutes
Total Time
4 minutes
1 gallon
Estimated Cost



  1. Shake well before each use and add during the start of the rinse cycle.

Top-Loading Washers

  1. Use a ½ cup for small or average loads and ⅔ cup for large loads.

For HE Washers

  1. Use ¼ cup for small or average loads and ⅓ cup for large loads.


Once dry you will not smell the vinegar from this homemade fabric softener. We use the essential oils for their antibacterial properties and to help disinfect laundry. (Lavender, sweet orange, lemon, and peppermint are all antibacterial.) Essential oils like lemon and sweet orange have also been known to brighten laundry and fight stains. Feel free to leave out essential oils if you wish because vinegar is also antibacterial.

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Homemade Dryer Sheets Are Simple Too

Over the past few years, we have researched many alternatives to commercial dryer sheets. That’s because there is evidence that toxic fragrance chemicals can be present in commercial dryer sheets that can be absorbed into your skin when you put your clothes on. That convinced us commercial dryer sheets are not the best choice for our family. Also, the cost savings of homemade dryer sheets are an added bonus.

You will love experimenting with different homemade fabric softener scents along the way, and will never have to put dryer sheets on your grocery list again!

Homemade Dryer Sheets

Cut some cotton cloth into small squares. I use 5-inch squares of old cotton t-shirts. Add 3-5 drops of essential oil to your cloth and throw it into the dryer with your laundry.

You can use these cotton dryer sheets for 2 or 3 loads, each time adding 3 more drops of your favorite essential oil. Wash the cloth after a few uses and experiment with a new fragrance. Some of my personal favorites are lavender, lemon, and grapefruit. (Find pure essential oils here.)

Note: These homemade dryer sheets do not soften laundry they are mainly for adding scent. To soften clothes use the homemade fabric softener recipe above. Another way to soften naturally is to use felted wool balls in the dryer, which also decreases static.

Other Ways to Reduce Static Cling

Want to learn how to get rid of static cling naturally? Here are some additional things you can do to:

  • Dampen hands with water and fluff laundry as it comes out of the dryer to reduce static cling.
  • Line dry clothing to avoid static cling altogether.
  • Hang dry clothing made from synthetic fibers. These items create more static in the dryer.
  • Use felted wool dryer balls to fluff clothing, reduce drying time, and cut down on static. (Learn how to make wool dryer balls or find them on etsy.com – get at least 6 to be used in each load for best results.)
  • Although I’m unsure of the “natural” factor of aluminum foil in the dryer, this one works! A ball of aluminum foil in the dryer does wonders for decreasing static! It turns into a nice smooth ball and can be left in the dryer for many loads.

I probably spend too much testing and enjoying the laundry aromatherapy. But I’m also enjoying the peace of mind knowing that I am not putting chemicals into my family’s laundry! That alone makes homemade fabric softener and homemade dryer sheets worth my time.

Facts About Chemical Perfumes

A recent study revealed that many of the top-selling commercially scented cleaning products – including air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, disinfectants, dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, and shampoos – emit more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.

Even products advertised as “green,” “natural,” or “organic” emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones. That is one of the main reasons to make homemade fabric softener.

From the study:

“Steinemann and colleagues found the average number of VOCs emitted was 17. Each product emitted 1–8 toxic or hazardous chemicals, and close to half (44%) generated at least 1 of 24 carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants, such as acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, or methylene chloride. These hazardous air pollutants have no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of the 133 VOCs detected, only ethanol was listed on any label (for 2 products), and only ethanol and 2-butoxyethanol were listed on any Material Safety Data Sheet (for 5 products and 1 product, respectively).

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and laundry products, currently does not require manufacturers to disclose any ingredients on the label, including fragrances in these products. The same is true for fragrances in personal care items, which are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration. The Household Product Labeling Act, currently under review in the U.S. Senate, would require manufacturers to label consumer products with all ingredients, including fragrance mixtures. “Disclosing all ingredients could be a first step to understanding potential toxicity and health effects,” says Steinemann.

Homemade Fabric Softener & Other Products

If all that data doesn’t convince you to begin making your own cleaning products, I don’t know what will.

Homemade fabric softener and homemade dryer sheets contain only what you choose to put in them – that’s part of the beauty of making your own cleaners. Commercial dryer sheets coat your clothing with a thin film of artificial chemical perfumes. Sensitivity to these chemical perfumes decreases over time, but when you stop using them your senses return to normal and you won’t believe how noticeable and repulsive the artificial fragrance chemicals are.

Your clothes will take a few wash cycles to lose the coating from commercial detergents and softeners, but the sooner you get started the sooner your family will be free from harsh chemicals and perfumes.

In short, try the above solutions next time you do laundry, we made the switch and will never go back!

Homemade fabric softener is simple and fun to make!


References and Resources

About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebookand Twitter.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for us to support our website activities, we may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this website.

DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.


  1. Penny says

    Wow, it amazes me how the big manufacturers like P&G, etc, have hoodwinked the general population into using all those so called “fragrance enhancers”, etc. Why does everything have to be scented…even trash bags! Really hard to find unscented sometimes. When I’m outside & someone in my neighborhood is doing laundry, I have to go inside because my tongue starts tingling & my sinuses swell! I have used white vinegar for years in my fabric softener dispenser…and I always use 2 rinse cycles, and if there is a slight vinegary smell afterward, it disappears in the dryer (I don’t like scented clothes & linens…I hang my bedding outside for that fabulous sun-drenched fragrance.) Towels are more absorbent, as well.

  2. Bete Primm says

    Hi! I have geranium and rise absolute essential oil. Can I use those with the vinegar? Thanks!

  3. Sarah says

    So true about becoming desensitized to commercial products! It took my being pregnant to realize that all the smells that were making me sick were the artificial ones. Now that I have gone several months using natural cleaners and personal products, I can really smell the perfumey stuff people wear. Can’t believe I never noticed it before!

    • Micki Miller says

      I have been using aluminum foil in my dryer for quite a while now. The results are very good.
      In regard to making homemade dryer sheets, I have been told that using essential oils in the dryer does have an effect on the scent and lessens the lovely smell. Does anyone know anything about this?

  4. Linda says

    I do not understand how to make the dryer sheets. I see that you cut a sheet from cotton and add an oil but is that all? How does that soften the clothes and reduce the static. Do you need to add the vineger to the rinse cycle and then use the dryer sheet?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, the dryer sheets are very simple, and are only intended to add a light scent to clothing. It’s the vinegar in the rinse cycle that softens and reduces static. They have to be used in tandem if you want results similar to that of a commercial dryer sheet. Hope this helps!

  5. tiff says

    Paint it a dark color then line with cardboard and seperate each bottle with cardboard. Would this idea keep shelf life as well as a bought wooden box?

  6. tiff says

    I have another question. As far as storing my oils. I can’t afford to buy a wood box. I have plastic storage containers with lids. Could I store them in storage container and

  7. tiff says

    Hi. I’m new to homemade cleaners and such. I have a question tho… I love the scent of lavender and vanilla… I can’t afford the vanilla essential oil… can vanilla extract be used instead?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I would avoid using vanilla extract in your laundry…it can leave a somewhat sticky residue behind, and it has a color that you definitely don’t want on your laundry.

      • tiff says

        Ok, thanku. 🙂 do u have a homemade recipe for an anti itch spray that I can make to keep on hand for my kids? My poor kids are alreeady getting bit. And what about a tea for severe migraines

        • Betsy Jabs says

          Peppermint tea is good for migraines. For anti-itch spray, combine 1/2 cup minus 2 Tbsp. water, 2 Tbsp witch hazel, 20 drops lavender EO, 15 drops eucalyptus EO, and 10 drops chamomile or tea tree EO.

        • Betsy Jabs says

          Cut the essential oils in half if using on kids. Eucalyptus Smithii is safe
          for young kids, but if you can’t get your hands on this, just eliminate
          eucalyptus from the recipe and use lavender, chamomile and/or tea tree.

        • Cynthia Nicks says

          Peppermint oil mixed with a carrier oil as olive oil put in spray bottle and spray the kiddos before they go out, mosquitos hate the smell. Tea tree oil works too, but a little bit more pricey.
          P.S. if you have a Kroger’s near you you can go down the baking isle and pick up a card with 2 bottles in it for 1.70. 1 bottle is is enough for a small spray bottle.

  8. judy says

    Using the white vinegar works great as a fabric softener. I too noticed a faint smell of vinegar after washing. I have a HE washer and just used the extra rinse. No more smell.

  9. juanita says

    I have an HE washer, can i make a whole batch of fabric softner and store it or will the viniger no be as effective? I would also like to know if the fabric softner can be added to my despenser at the beginning of the wash cycle?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      You don’t have to worry about the vinegar going bad, but you DO have to worry about the essential oils degrading (heat and light will affect them). Keep your pre-mixed fabric softener in a cool, dark place so the essential oils can work at full strength as you use up your full batch of softener. Since each washer is different, you’ll have to read your owner’s manual to see when the best time is to add fabric softener to your machine’s dispenser.

  10. Elizabeth says

    I noticed that there is vinegar with 9% and 5% acidity, will this change the amount of vinegar needed ?

  11. Marie says

    I used Vinegar for my floor washing swiffer tool, and vinegar ate through the mechanism within 6 months. Now I am wondering what vinegar is doing to my washer when I add it to rinse cycle.

    • Sherri says

      Marie, it sounds as though the vinegar reacted to something that was previously in your swiffer tool. Did you have some other ingredient in it before using vinegar? I’ve used vinegar for years and have not had any issues.

      • Marie says

        Over time, you will find that vinegar will break down the rubber lining on door of your washing machine. Not worth using vinegar! Very expensive to replace.

        • Amanda says

          I have a top loading washer, no rubber lining on the door, and haven’t had any issues from using vinegar. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    • Sharon Vincello says

      I agree with Sherri, I’ve used vinegar for years and have not had a problem. I think the vinegar cleans and deoderizes my washing machine. My washer used to have built up gunk from traditional laundry soap and our clothes got “mildewy” within hours … now my washer is sparkling clean on the inside and our clothes never get mildewy if we don’t change the load over right away. Perhaps the swiffer tool is made from inferior materials that degrade easily, like a built in “defect” so you have to buy a new one.

  12. Amanda says

    I’m still having a lot of trouble with static cling. I’m using the vinegar rinse with a couple of drops of peppermint in it (just cause i like it) and using wool balls in my dryer. The stuff is so staticy it makes my hair stand up just trying to pull it out of the dryer.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Synthetic fabrics will cause static. Hang-drying synthetics will eliminate most of your static. Also, have you tried using the foil ball in the dryer along with your wool balls?

  13. Carol says

    This idea is great. I use it and want to pass it on so I want to get some things straight:
    1. You can use a Downy ball to dispense it.
    2. If your clothes smell like vinegar, use more essential oil or pour the vinegar in during the wash cycle instead of the rinse cycle.

    Is that correct?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      1. Yes, a Downy ball works wonderfully for dispensing.
      2. If your clothes smell like vinegar, try adding vinegar during the wash cycle, but I would not recommend using more essential oils than suggested in the above article.
      Hope you like the results!!!

  14. Hannah says

    I have enjoyed using the laundry soap recipe from your site. I made a 5 gallon batch of it. It has lasted me a really long (did I mention long) time and it cost me very little. I have used tea tree oil in the detergent, but I think I would like I would like to try peppermint next batch. I’m also excited about trying the wool drier balls. Thank you for making these recipes and suggestions free. Love the new knowledge.

  15. Erika says

    I found that using vinegar in the rinse cycle makes my clothes smell like vinegar. I put about a cup of vinegar in the wash cycle and have found that it works just as well without the vinegar smell. 🙂

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks for sharing here! Although we have never had clothes come out smelling like vinegar, other readers have made the same comment. I wonder if it has to do with a particular type of washer, or the type of water in your house. Don’t know, but thanks for the tip that will help others for sure!

    • Carol L says

      Using vinegar in the wash with the soap will counter-act the cleaning ability. You can’t mix vinegar and soap: one is a base, the other is an acid. The two cancel each other out. You are just wasting your money, the ingredients and are not getting clean clothes.

  16. AW says

    It’s catching on. I have MCS and my friends are amazed with the less expensive but just as effective, vinegar solution to fabric softeners that send me fleeing the room. I am going to try to make scented vinegar now with herbs and spices (peppermint, or basil, or sage, or vanilla or cloves… 🙂 to see how this works out.

    Since I can also be sensitive to certain essential oils but still need something to eliminate the extra static cling in the dryer at times, I took the time to make felted, pure woollen dryer balls (directions can be found online). If you are crafty, and don’t mind spending a couple of hours making a bunch (just wool yarn wound into large balls that are felted in pantyhose. I used lengths of left over yarn so there was no extra cost to me, a knitter) they meet the task beautifully! I throw about 3-5 large ones in the dryer. They are not as noisy as the plastic ones that can be purchased and they also continue to soften the clothes. You can put a drop of essential oil on the balls too if you want. I prefer making my own vanilla scent.

  17. Sharon says

    I steep lemon rinds in white vinegar to use as my surface spray. Do you think I could do the same thing to make a lemon-infused fabric softener?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like it could work. The thing I would be worried about is the fact that you probably can’t control the concentration of lemon that ends up in the vinegar as easily as you can with essential oils. I wonder if the lemon will have a lightening effect on laundry if the concentration is too high? Maybe a great fabric softener for white loads? Don’t know. It may be end up absolutely fabulous. 🙂 Be sure to return and let us know the results if you try it!