family folding laundry softened with homemade softener

5 Easy Ways to Make Homemade Laundry Softener

Laundry softeners are designed to reduce the amount of static in synthetic fibers and make clothes and linens come out feeling soft and smelling great. So why would anyone opt to go to the time and trouble of making homemade fabric softener when the commercial stuff works well? Consider these three reasons:

family folding laundry softened with homemade softener

1. Allergies

While I’m blessed to have a very healthy family, all of us are sensitive, if not allergic, to fabric softeners, which is common. Commercial fabric softeners are composed of various chemicals, some of which can be major irritants on the skin and body.

If you or your kids develop a skin irritation like a red rash or bumps, itching, pain, tenderness or a localized skin rash, prepare for the dermatologist’s first question: Do you use fabric softener? According to this Mayo Clinic study, the offending ingredients in fabric softeners include quaternium, cobalt chloride, and formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritation, and rash or hives (small swollen welts) to form on the skin.

The fragrance or “fumes” from fabric softeners can irritate some people, leading to tiredness, difficulty breathing, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, faintness and memory problems.

2. Negative effect

Dryer sheets and laundry softeners smell great but they’re bad for your clothes and dryer. Those woven sheets   of fiber are coated with stearic and fatty acids, fragrance and a cocktail of various chemicals. The result is a film from these sheets that coats your dryer’s interior and filtering system. This same film coats towels and linens. Load after load results in towels that become increasingly less absorbent. The wicking capabilities of activewear like socks underwear.

3. Cost

Commercial laundry softeners aren’t cheap. Depending on the brand and your measuring methods, both liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets can cost north of $.30 per dryer load. If you do as much laundry as I do, that adds up quickly.

But why pay for the stuff, if you have an option—five options, to be exact—to not spend your money that way? You can make your own fabric softeners for less than a penny a load and as a bonus, know exactly what’s in it.

Homemade laundry softener

Option 1

The easiest homemade fabric softener is plain white vinegar. Add 1/2 to 1 cup (depending on load size) white vinegar to the last rinse in the washer. Vinegar is cheap and nontoxic; effective and antimicrobial. It naturally softens because vinegar helps to remove every last bit of detergent from your clothes. Vinegar aids in static reduction during drying. If your washer has a liquid softener dispenser you can fill it with white vinegar and you’ll be good to go.

Option 2

If a subtle, clean fragrance is what you want, this recipe is for you: Combine six parts water, three parts white vinegar and two parts any hair conditioner in a container with a sealable lid. A cheap bottle of hair conditioner from the dollar store works great to soften and also fragrance your laundry. Use this in the final rinse or fill the softener dispenser in your washer, as you would with any commercial liquid softener.

Option 3

If you prefer dryer sheets you can make those at home, too. Take an old t-shirt or cotton baby blanket and cut it into a few small squares. Place them in a sealable container like a Mason jar or a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup white vinegar and 8 drops of your favorite essential oil, which can be purchased from your local health food, drug store or online. A bottle of oil will last a long time. Pour enough of this liquid over the cloths in the container to saturate them. Close the container. To use, simply remove a sheet from the container, squeezing any excess liquid back into the jar, and toss into the dryer. When clothes are dry, simply place the sheet back in the jar for use later.

Option 4

Here’s a great way that you can continue to use your favorite commercial softener product if no one is showing signs of allergy, while drastically cutting the cost:

Mix 1 part fabric softener with 3 parts distilled water and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the inside of your dryer before tossing your clothes in the dryer. This option works amazingly well and will make that bottle of softener seem to last forever. Just that small amount will soften and fragrance an entire load of laundry.

Option 5

This option is softener crystals, similar to a fragrance booster product like Purex Crystals, which you add to the washer along with the detergent in the wash cycle. This is an excellent alternative to laundry softeners and will soften your clothes and also result in a wonderful subtle clean fresh fragrance that lasts for weeks.

To make homemade softener crystals, you need two ingredients: Epsom salt and essential oil. Get a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Start with one cup of Epsom salts and about 10 drops essential oil (lavender, lemon, eucalyptus are all nice or create your own signature blend). Give it a good shake or stir well. Apply the lid and you’re good to go.

To use, add 1/4 cup crystals (more or less to your preference) per washer load along with your detergent. The results will be amazing—soft and static-free laundry with a nice subtle scent.


Today is Day 1 of my 40-Day Christmas Challenge! You can find the first challenge at my NEW! Debt-Proof Living Podcast.

Each day I am giving you a daily challenge—something to do that day to get ready for Christmas. This will be so much fun to do it together. I’m going to do it and I want you to join me because in that way we can encourage each other and share our ideas. Join me today, and every day as we countdown to Christmas!

 

UP NEXT:

How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

How to Make Your Own Dusting Spray

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6 replies
  1. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    I have heard that when using dryer balls to not use any type of fabric softener. Will any of these homemade versions (epsom salt, hair conditioner interfere with the viability of the dryer balls?

    Reply
  2. Naf Ranz
    Naf Ranz says:

    I mix decent fabric softener with vinegar and water in a clean, plastic vodka bottle. I get all the benefits and lower the cost per use significantly. My clothes are soft, smell good and my HE front loader does not get “gunked” up.

    Reply
  3. peggy
    peggy says:

    i own a HE washing machine. today it told me to clean w/everfresh or r something. i have used these tablets b4. they r quite expensive, plus 103 mins. w/HOT water. Yikes! i know this is not approved by cheapskate nor peggy. can u think of any substitute for these tablets; or something that will do a similar job? thanx u, Mary.

    Reply
  4. Trudy
    Trudy says:

    Mary,
    If I don’t want my clothes to be “fragrant”, could the Epsom salt be used by itself with the same results?
    Love your column. I read it every day.

    Reply

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