Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fresh Scent Homemade Fabric Softener

homemade fabric softener If you are a fan of my homemade No-Grate Laundry Soap but miss the “fragrance” aspect of it…have I got an idea for you!

Basically it takes the two most basic “fabric softening” substances….baking soda and vinegar….and adds a little scent love.

Thanks to Poppy at Poppy’s Money Tree House for the inspiration!

Start out with some sort of “scent booster”.

I used Purex Crystals because I had some left over from making my “Make A Year’s Worth of Laundry Soap for $30.00” post, but Downy Unstopables or Gain Fireworks could work as well.

Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of your scent-booster of choice to one cup hot water (from the tap will do) and stir. Let sit while you combine the other ingredients, stirring occasionally.

Add 1 cup of baking soda to a large bowl.

Baking soda helps to regulate the pH level in the laundry rinse water by keeping it from being too acidic or alkaline. Adding baking soda to each rinse cycle acts as a balance to suspend detergent or mineral deposits that can make clothing feel stiff.

Then VERY SLOWLY add 6 cups of white distilled vinegar.

Vinegar naturally softens laundry by removing the soap and residue build-up.  Vinegar contains small amounts of potassium and sodium, which softens hard water, dissolves mineral build up in the washing machine, and reduces static in the dryer. 

Do NOT add all at once or you will have a mess on your hands!  The chemical reaction of the two will cause it to bubble up (it’s actually kind of fun! Get your kids to help you…or not) but it will subside quickly. Once all the vinegar has been added, stir until baking soda is dissolved. Some of it will settle to the bottom of the bowl…but don’t worry…it will all get mixed up before you dispense it.

homemade fabric softener

Pour the vinegar and baking soda mixture into a large container, then add the scent booster liquid and give it a shake. This is one of those concoctions that will separate as it sits…but a couple of shakes before you pour it into your fabric softener dispenser is all it takes to get it ready to use.

homemade fabric softener

I decided to test it out on a load of towels because, well, I had a LOT of dirty towels to wash….and….because towels are one of those things I like to “smell nice” when I use them. I used about 1/2 cup. (I know the picture shows me holding a FULL cup…but I only used half.)

homemade fabric softener

Verdict: Very nice!  Towels were soft and fluffy (thanks to the baking soda and vinegar), and very fresh smelling (thanks to the scent booster). The AMOUNT of scent was just about right. Not too strong…or too subtle.

homemade fabric softener

 (Just a FYI….I ended up switching out containers because the large mason jar was too heavy to easily shake and pour. So I poured the mixture into one of my handy-dandy repurposed containers — an O.J. bottle — and it’s MUCH easier to use this way.)

I have since used this on several more loads of clothes and towels and have liked it more each time. It’s nice to be able to pour it into the dispenser at the beginning of the washing/drying process and be done with the whole fabric softening aspect of doing the laundry. I also like that it’s another option I have in my laundry “bag o’ tricks”.    A girl needs options! :-)


What is YOUR favorite method for softening the laundry?

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128 thoughts on “Fresh Scent Homemade Fabric Softener

  1. Brenda St James

    Hi Jillee,

    I forgot how much fun it is to make stuff from scratch. I was a soap maker for years before full time work had me back to just “buy” it.

    Love your blog. Now I am a huge fan of essential oils. When you say “scent-booster of choice” are you saying fragrance oils? Can you give an idea of how much you used above to make it seem ideal for you?

    Keep up the great work! Brenda

    1. Michelle

      I just mixed some using a lavender vanilla essential oil instead of the fragrance crystals. Got my first load in using both my detergent and homemade fabric softener and I can’t wait for the cycle to finish!!

      1. Fig

        I also was wondering if you had any experience with using vanilla extract instead of vanilla essential oil as I cannot afford 20$ for a bottle of the essential oil at the moment.

    1. Ange

      Also, drying your clothes until they are ‘just dry’ helps too. Static is caused by the friction of the dry fabric rubbing together, like socks on a carpet, so if you can figure out how long your loads take to dry (mine take about 45 minutes in my dryer) and don’t continue to run the dryer after your items are dry, you shouldn’t have static and you will save electricity!
      I use straight vinegar in a downy ball, like Susan does. I only get static when I leave fleece in the dryer too long. :)

  2. michelle

    I think too many things are overfragranced these days. When I can smell someone’s laundry products 10 feet away it is CRAZY. Nice to be able to control how much… or do none at all.

    1. Jillee Post author

      Janice….this is from the American Cleaning Institute’s guide to High Efficiency Washers and Detergents: http://www.cleaninginstitute.org

      Rinse-added Fabric Softeners
      • Add fabric softener to the fabric softener dispenser so it gets dispensed
      at the right time. Follow the washer manufacturer’s use and care guide
      for proper use of the dispenser.

      This formulation is ideal for HE machines because the vinegar helps reduce mineral build-up.

  3. Angie Platten

    First of all, I have to tell you that I tried your recipe for removing perspiration stains and am SO excited to have back some of my favorite shirts that were sitting in a pile that were no longer wearable!!!! I do not use Dawn due to animal testing issues but used my regular dish washing liquid. However, I had some OxiClean spray which has ruined a few items of colored clothing because it not only removed the stain, it removed color from the clothes so, I added a bit into the mix on my shirts. They look amazing!!! So excited!

    Now, about the fabric softener, I am also wondering about adding essential oils. If I don’t add the Purex crystals mixed in water, does it change the vinegar/baking soda ratios of measurement?

    1. Alison

      Susan you said you don’t use dawn “due to animal testing issues” but dawn has been used to save lots of wildlife after oil spills. Can you give us more details about what you mean?

  4. Nicholle C.

    I’m adding this to my ‘to-do’ list for the weekend – I just made your dryer balls last weekend and they turned out great but I was very frustrated by the amount of static when I pulled the laundry from the dryer. Hopefully this home-made fabric softener will do the trick!

  5. Teresa from Biloxi, MS

    This is the first time I have ever written to anyone. But your site has helped my family in so many ways. My nephew has celiac disease. A couple of years ago he was the youngest to have it in our state. You have saved us money. And my sister has multiple sclerosis. Because of your cleaning recipes she can breathe safely and we still can have a clean house. Her favorite scent is lavender,vanilla. And her favorite is Purex Crystals. She will be over joyed with this recipe! From the bottom of my heart I thankyou and all of the rest of you. I LLL (LOVE,LOVE,LOVE) your site. MY question is , can I use a Downey ball in my washer with all the ingredients inside?

  6. Kathy

    Once I saw this recipe I had to make it right away! It smells fantastic and makes my clothes ooohhh so soft and fresh~thanks for another great idea, and keep them coming!

  7. Kelle

    Do you like this softener better than the conditioner/vinegar one? I’ve been using the powdered mix with the crystals and it’d be nice to keep the same smell , even tho I found that Suave waterfalls match the Purex blue.

  8. jill

    You know the reaction takes away the vinegar and baking soda and leaves you with lots of water and sodium acetate. So any thing about the vinegar or baking soda benefits gets null and void at that point because you are left with something completely new (the water and sodium acetate).

    1. Minnie

      I was thinking the same thing, although i didn’t know what the residual compound was called. I just use vinegar with essential oils since my homemade detergent already has washing soda! Thanks for pointing it out, Jill!

  9. Tonya

    Made this today using unstoppables! Smells fantastic and uses less of the downy product which is fantastic for the budget!!!

    Thanks for another hit!
    Oh and I made your nesquik recipe tonight too. Probably shouldn’t have! It was delish!!!

    You are such a blessing to me, thanks for pouring into so many lives with cost cutting measures!

  10. Jennifer Soullier

    I’m so thrilled I came across your website on Pinterest! Thanks so much for all of your helpful tips. This may be more addicting than Pinterest itself!

    I have my own blogspot. I don’t have as much as you do. But I come up with as much creativity as I can.
    I love using old/used things, turning into new. And being on a budget I’m always trying to come up with different uses with “cheap” food.
    Thanks again for your inspiration.

  11. Cynthia

    Once again, Jillee, a wonderful laundry idea! However, I am again stumped as to how I am going to get this stuff to smell like Original Gain??? All the scent-booster things out there do not smell like the original scent of Gain. This doesn’t bother me so much – I’m not picky on how my laundry smells – but the man in my life is. I know, it’s so weird! I can understand, that when you spend your days smelling like sweat and dirt, you kinda want your clean laundry to smell as fresh as possible. Gain is his favorite and he said he would rather spend the money to get Gain fabric softener than for me to keep making it if it doesn’t smell like Gain. I told him he was nuts because making it saves so much money! Please HELP!!!

      1. Cynthia

        Unfortunately, they do not make Fireworks in Original scent. It only comes in “Sweet Sizzle”. I’ve never smelled them, so I don’t know if my fiancee would approve. I mean, it’s pointless to buy an entire bottle of the stuff if you don’t know if you like the way it smells. I think I might have to look into getting a free sample or something.

        1. Marie

          Take your fiancee to the store with you and let him smell the “Sweet Sizzle” and whatever other fragrances are available. Let him choose. Most of the bottles have some way for you to be able to smell them before making your purchase.

  12. Kelsey

    Hi Jillee,

    I love your blog and read it all the time. I have tried a similar recipe before and kept it in a jar that I could shake up. But what I found is that in just the amount of time that passes between starting the load and having the softener dispensed in the rinse cycle, the mixture separates.

    What I’ve ended up with is the vinegar goes into the rinse cycle and the baking soda piles up in the softener dispenser on my washer. It has taken a while to break it down. I love the idea of this stuff, but it really did gunk up my washer after a few weeks….

    Anyone else had this problem??? Any ideas??? I’ve just been using vinegar instead….. Thanks :)

    1. Marcy

      I wonder if you could put this in a Downy ball instead of the washer dispenser? I was just going to try this and I have an HE washer also. But don’t want to if it gets the gunked up.

      1. Meg

        Add a scoop of baking soda to your washer directly, and then vinegar in the softener dispenser. Same effect, just at different points in the wash cycle. That is what I do, and my laundry is so soft. I omit the fragrance crystals, so that’s not an issue for me.

        1. Ashley H.

          I bet if you just mixed the fragrance crystals with the vinegar and put it in the dispenser, and then put the baking soda in with the clothes it would be perfect! That’s what I’m going to try :)

    2. Kristin Lieb

      I have an HE washer with the fab softner in the pull out drawer, this doesn’t happen at all for me as far as separation. If you have the type of washer where you put the mixture in the little “tub” on top of the agitator, then it could separate. Why not try making Jillie’s dryer sheets instead? (or run downstairs as soon as you hear that rinse cycle start ha ha )

  13. brandi

    I just made this with gain fireworks yesterday.. smells yummy! After reading the comment that it can gunk up the machine (even though I use a downey ball) I wonder if you could just dissolve the scent booster and add it to vinegar with no baking soda?

    1. Jamie

      I actually do use the baking soda separate during the wash cylcle and everything else during the rinse cycle. I also have and HE washer so I just dump the bs on the clothes instead of putting it anywhere else. ;)

  14. Cristy

    I dry most of my clothes on the line, but still put the towels in the dryer to keep them soft & fluffy. Will using this make them soft off the line, too? BTW…LOVE your site!!! You have such wonderful ideas, hints, and tips! Thanks!!!

  15. Sarah

    I am a total Jillee convert. I have made all of my home cleaning agents and love them. My husband loves it too, he’s an asthmatic and there are no harsh chemicals anymore. I was skeptical about this fabric softner business, but one trip to Walmart and 45 minutes later…I have towels in the wash right now! 45 minutes because I also whipped up laundry detergent too. I used a glass bowel to melt the downy crystals (I like their smell) and an empty vinegar bottle (I seem to have a few of those around these days:) The blue Oxyclean scoop works great as a measurement for the softener. Thanks Jillee!!

  16. Shannon

    I am going to try this. I had to get new machines and the energy efficiency of using less water makes me think things don’t smell right or something. I’m boggled and frustrated. I tried softener and the smell is overwhelming. Maybe this will be the solution.

    1. Jillee Post author

      Hi Autumn! I actually have a few different laundry detergent recipes depending on your preferences. If you just types “laundry detergent” into the search bar near the top of the page you’ll be able to see all of them!

      1. Christine

        I did. I used wool sacks and cut up squares and soaked them in this solution. Then I let them dry in the sun. I have been using them for about a week and they seem to be working. No static and I love the scent ! =)

  17. Kristi

    I found your site looking for a homemade laundry soap-I made the grated laundry soap which works great in my HE machine but missed the scent! I check your site everyday to see what you come up with next & made the fresh scent homemade fabric softener -I used downy unstoppables -which I had on hand to use in the wash before I saw your post for the fabric softener -I love the scent and the clothes are soft! (the scent is the same as using it in every load but it is nice to use 1/2 c for the entire batch of fabric softner instead of about 1/4 c every load!) I also made your dishwasher detergent (and vinegar for the rinse) & all purpose cleaner-which work great! The all purpose cleaner with a sprinkle of baking soda-even got the bicycle grease out of the bathroom sink (after the mess my daughter made!) Thank you for posting things that we can make and not have to purchase products that are just a bunch of chemicals! Now back to searching your site for what I can make next!

  18. Nicholle C.

    I made and used this home-made fabric softener over the weekend and I have to say I’m a believer! It was super cheap and I’ll get a lot of product out of the stuff I purchased, super easy to make, and it works! My laundry was softer, smelled great, and had almost no static.

    Next on my list of things to try is the home-made laundry soap!

  19. Terri

    Made this yesterday after I read the post and I love love love it!! I use the detergent in the make enough for one year psot and it has the purex crystals!! This is an awesome smelling fabric softener!! this will make my purex crystals last longer!!

  20. Susan Fiordeliso

    Hi there,
    I’m a chemist and I’ve been seeing these these recipes mixing baking soda & vinegar all over and I thought I’d point out that the bubbles you see are a chemical reaction and what is left behind is a water solution of sodium acetate, which is a very weak base and offers not much in the way of fabric softening. Depending on when you purchased that bottle of Purex, it may account for any softening you notice. Purex crystal underwent a manufacturing change mid-year from being freshening/softening to just freshening. I found some information on the web from a great blogger such as yourself here:


    1. Melanie Evans

      I love chemists. I will be taking chemistry next year. I have been researching the chemistry of all this stuff. I would hope you could enlighten us more!! Thanks for your reply and please educate us!!

    2. Poppy

      Hi All,

      I originally posted my recipe for this homemade fabric softener and had many of my readers ask the same question. I was a little disturbed about the confusing information regarding the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar and the end resulting chemical. I did a little more reading and I think I found some helpful info as to why sodium acetate is useful as a softener.

      It appears to reduce static electricity which is one of the main benefits of fabric softener – at least to me ;)

      From the website Wikipedia



      “Sodium acetate is used in the textile industry to neutralize sulfuric acid waste streams, and as a photoresist while using aniline dyes. It is also a pickling agent in chrome tanning, and it helps to retard vulcanization of chloroprene in synthetic rubber production. In processing cotton for disposable cotton pads, sodium acetate is used to eliminate the buildup of static electricity.”

      I hope this helps answer the baking soda – vinegar question. It eased my mind to know that I wasn’t imagining the “softening” effect.

      Happy washing!

      Poppy @ Poppy’s Money Tree House

  21. Lynn

    Hi, Jillee! I absolutely love your blog! It’s the go-to blog for me for everything!!! I made this recipe and just finished using my first batch. I found that if I put it in the fabric softener dispenser, there’s a baking soda build-up in there and I had to dig it out. So, I now just put it in the wash cycle with my no-grate laundry soap and my clothes come out soft and smelling great!!! I love it! Thanks and keep those ideas coming!

  22. Tracey Sweeney

    I also have used a different concoction of this water softener…I did not know to use the baking soda making a new batch today…ALSO>. very handy and old suave hair conditoner was my scent and I use the bottle to “squirt” into the water dispenser…It works perfectly…

  23. Jennifer C

    It seems to me that the baking soda and vinegar would “undo” each other. Since they react and neutralize each other, I’m confused. Something about this obviously works as there are so many positive remarks, but I’m wondering if you do need both, or if you just added something scented to vinegar if it would be the same? I’m already using vinegar, but still use a dryer sheet for some scent. I would like to eliminate the dryer sheet from the mix!

    1. Casey Joens

      I am also wondering about the effectiveness… Have been using this recipe and while the scent is nice, I am detecting a bit more static when I dry– compared to when I use just straight vinegar as my fabric softner. Is anyone else noticing a difference? Can Jilee please address this concern about the baking soda cancelling out the softening effect of the vinegar????

      1. Judy L.

        My grandmother always told me that if you use bleach in the main wash, to use vinegar in the rinse to “deactivate” the bleach, (ie, neutralizes the pH). This also lessens the harshness of bleach on clothes and gets rid of any residual bleach smell. I have a super-sensitive nose, and this has worked every time. I’m also an asthmatic and have to stay FAR away from the washer on the rare occasion I use bleach. The vinegar rinse lets me safely get near the washer again. ;) Hope this helps!

  24. Stacey

    Thanks for the great recipe! The scent is great. I’ve recently started using just vinegar in my fabric softener dispenser (HE Front Loader) and that does work great (immediately the funny smell I’d noticed disappeared) but since I had made my own laundry detergent sans scent I was missing that fresh scent. For those questioning about static cling, I’ve always been in the camp of fabric softener and dryer sheets. I am interested in doing away with dryer sheets and a friend recently shared with me you can take a wash cloth and dip it in fabric softener and then let dry…throw it in the dryer with your clothes and reuse until the scent and softening effect are gone. I’ve not tried it yet but once my sheets are gone I plan on it with this softener I just made.
    Thanks again Jillee….love your tips!!!

  25. Chris

    I LOVE this as a fabric softener, but I also like that the vinegar and baking soda each have the added benefit of mantainin my HE washer … disinfecting, deoderizing, and freshening. My laundry smells great, but the towels DRY BETTER without the residue build-up from store bought fabric softeners. Oh, and the Septic Man said that the vinegar and baking soda is MUCH bette for our septic system an drain field, too. THANKS SO MUCH!!

  26. Angela Steelman

    I made a batch this morning, and am on my second load with it. I LOVE this fabric softener. I started making my own laundry detergent earlier this year, and though I love the cleaning power and the cost, I did miss the scent of store bought. Thanks for this recipe!

  27. Nancy Gifford

    I am new to the make it yourself stuff. This is the first recipe i tried for a fabric softener. First off let me start by saying i can only wash in cold water. Long story short 120+ year old house =bad plumbing in an area i can not reach to fix. To add to that problem I also have very hard heavy water here. I still use a fabric softener sheet in the dryer i like a little more smell and i have too much static. I have a pet peeve about musty mil-dewy smelling anything! This stuff is amazing! I don’t have to throw out and buy new towels and wash cloths any more works great on getting the build up off of my other clothes as well! Thank you so much!

  28. Jenn

    Love this site! Been reading about the homemade liquid laundry detergent (using Dawn) and the fabric softener and can’t wait to buy the ingredients and try them both! However, has anyone tried using the beverage dispensers with the spouts for easy storage and measuring? Thanks! And, Jillee, congrats on your years of recovery and the victory you win every day! Thanks for this awesome web site!

    1. Amber

      I have used the beverage dispensers with the spouts. I thought they looked nice and would work well. First of all they do look nice and they do work well, the only issue is that when I kinda shook my containers to make sure the laundry soap and fabric softner was mixed well I ended up making a small crack in the bottom of the container. This was not an issue until I hadn’t done laundry in a while and I then walked into a big wet mess. If you are using the beverage containers make sure they are a REALLY REALLY thick material because the mess sucked! I spent a good fifteen dollars on each of them and only one cracked. Just a heads up…. it is a great idea though!
      In the end I used a gallon container from the vinager and it worked well.

  29. Christina W.

    I need help my son is allergic to corn and it is made into vinegar. I don’t know if it will irritate his skin, don’t want to risk it. Has anyone used this recipe and tried apple vinegar? Thanks, Christina

    1. Kristie

      My son also has randomly weird allergies and I have had to go outside the box in how we make things. You can put plain Apple Cider Vinegar into the softener slot, or add it to the rinse cycle and it will do the same thing as a softener. However, if you want the smell of traditional store bought softeners, I am not sure if you can use it in this type of recipe. But you could always try it plain or in the recipe and see if you like it. After the clothes dry you should not be able to smell the vinegar at all. Hope this helps :)

    2. shalom

      DH used to be allergic to corn among other things (allergy shots for several years helped him), Even though he was allergic to corn he was told corn oil wasn’t a problem. You might under doctor supervision do some type of test to see if vinegar is a problem.

  30. Kathy

    I made this and it didn’t work….after the clothes come out they don’t even smell… Not happy with this or your body wash either…Think twice before making this if you don’t want to waste $$$

  31. Pingback: Fabric softner.. and laundry soap DIY! « CouponKADIE

  32. mma

    put it in my fabric softner container and it it clogs up my softner cotainer have any ideas how to fx this had to take out container it was all clumped down to the bottom i have a HE washer any suggestions

    1. Barbara Bellamy

      I had the same issue… I use Downy Unstopables mixed with just vinegar, no baking soda. Works well for me and it doesn’t separate like the Purex Crystals and baking soda do.


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