This homemade fabric softener recipe is very simple, so it’s a great beginner DIY project. Whether you’re new to DIY, or a seasoned pro, you’ll love this recipe!
I love the smell of laundry dried on a clothes line, but it always leaves my clothes and towels stiff and scratchy. I usually end up putting them in the dryer for a few minutes just to fluff them up… until I came up with this recipe!
Homemade Fabric Softener
This homemade fabric softener is by far one of the easiest DIY projects you'll make. Save an old fabric softener or detergent bottle to make the measuring easier.
Pour vinegar into a gallon container (like and old vinegar bottle). Add the alcohol and mix well. Add the essential oil and mix well. Add the optional Polysorbate 80 and mix well. Top off the gallon container with water and mix well. When it's thoroughly mixed, you should not see oils floating on the top. Use as you would any other fabric softener, at about ¼ to ½ cup per load.
Enjoy your homemade fabric softener!
If omitting the Polysorbate 80, be sure to shake fabric softener well before each use.
Note: if you haven’t already, you should also try making our simple homemade laundry detergent!
Ingredients for Homemade Fabric Softener
Each ingredient in this homemade fabric softener serves a certain purpose:
This is more acidic than regular distilled vinegar and is usually unscented. That’s not to say there won’t be any scent, it just won’t have that sharp vinegar smell. The stronger acid won’t harm your clothes; in fact, it helps to protect them by breaking down any residual grease and cutting any soap residue left behind.
Tap water and well water often contain minerals and metals that can discolor your laundry over time. I use distilled water, but you can also use filtered, reverse osmosis, or even rain water.
Rubbing Alcohol or Grain Alcohol
Just a bit is used in this recipe to help break up the essential oils and keep them in smaller amounts. This helps to distribute them evenly throughout the bottle.
Essential oils are used for a number of reasons. The first purpose is to add a natural scent. Many fragrance oils contain petroleum products and that is one reason I make my own products – to stay away from synthetics. Secondly, many essential oils contain antibacterial compounds, which can help break down stains and odors in the laundry. Finally, you can customize your fabric softener to be soothing, calming, or even energizing by using different essential oil blends.
This is a synthetic product, but made from natural ingredients. It is a lightly colored, viscous liquid that’s made from sorbitan (chemical compounds derived from the dehydration of sugar alcohol) and oleic acid, a fatty acid found in animal and vegetable fats. (Think aspirin as opposed to white willow bark. One is natural, the other is a synthetic made from the natural ingredients.)
The main reason I use Poly 80 in my homemade fabric softener is to keep the oil in suspension in the water. If you’ve ever used micellar water, you know the water has a very different feel to it. This is because the oil droplets, or micelles, are kept suspended in the water. So the alcohol will break up the oils, whereas the Poly 80 keeps them broken up. You can omit this ingredient if you wish – just be sure to shake the bottle before each use.
Which Essential Oils to Use
I give my homemade fabric softener a tropical scent with sweet orange or tangerine essential oil, and ylang ylang essential oil. I love the combination of the two, but you can use most any oils you prefer.
Citrus oils are always good. Lavender can help relax you, while eucalyptus can help ease congested sinuses. Cedarwood is good for keeping moths out of your closet, and grapefruit just makes me happy.
NOTE: There will not be a lot of scent left on your clothes, but enough to be detectable. Keep in mind that commercial fabric softeners leave a strong, lasting odor on clothes because they contain synthetic fragrances.
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