Fresh Scent 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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    • Jamie says

      Nope! Actual fabric softener is the only thing I’ve found that does that. I’ve been using vinegar for 10 years and my towels love me for it. ;)

  1. Nicholle C. says

    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!

  2. Candis says

    Could u possibly give an estimate as to the cost it is to make this? I am interested to see how much cheaper it works out to be. Thank you!

  3. says

    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?

    • Alison says

      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?

    • says

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

      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.

  4. michelle says

    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.

    • says

      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. :)

  5. says

    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

    • Michelle says

      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!!

      • Fig says

        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.

  6. Shana says

    Another spectacular idea!!! Can’t wait to whip up a batch and get to it on the laundry today. At this rate I am going to clean the store out of vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide!!! Thanks Jillee!!



  1. […] Fabric Softener – I liked this recipe because I had some Purex Crystals leftover and it worked very well. Not a strong scent – just softness with a clean subtle scent. The vinegar tones down the stronger scent of the crystals. Note:  If you are really cheap, one cup of vinegar alone in the rinse cycle works well also, but leaves a no scent at all. I think this works better and leaves  just enough scent to say “I’m Clean!”. […]