How to Make a DIY Fabric Softener With Household Materials

Pouring fabric softener into a washing machine.

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Commercial fabric softeners have built a strong business because no one likes clothes and linens that are scratchy. The lubricating chemicals in commercial fabric softeners coat fabrics to make them feel softer and reduce the static electricity that forms in an automatic dryer.

However, commercial fabric softeners can also leave spots on clothes, reduce the absorbency of towels, and interfere with the flame-retardant quality of children's sleepwear. If overused, the products can also leave a film inside your washer that feeds mold spores or inside your dryer preventing the automatic dryness sensor from functioning properly.

Fortunately, you can still have soft clothes, towels, and bed sheets with some DIY fabric softeners you can create with household products.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • set Measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 to 2 Glass or plastic storage bottles
  • 3 to 4 5-inch squares of white cotton fabric (old towels or t-shirts)
  • Kitchen funnel
  • Resealable plastic container


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Hair conditioner
  • Wool yarn or strips of wool fabric
  • Old socks or pantyhose
  • 2 to 3 Rubber bands
  • Essential oil
  • Cotton string


How to DIY Fabric Softener With Distilled White Vinegar

The easiest laundry tip you'll learn in this article is to use plain distilled white vinegar as a fabric softener. The mild acetic acid in the vinegar cuts through the detergent and soil residue left in fabrics after the wash cycle. By stripping away the residue, clothes feel softer to the touch.

  1. Use Distilled White Vinegar

    • Add 1/2 to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar—based on load size—to the rinse cycle.
    • The vinegar can be poured into the automatic fabric softener dispenser or added directly to the drum as the washer fills for the rinse cycle.


    If you don't like the smell of vinegar, use DIY scented vinegar in the rinse cycle.

How to DIY Fabric Softener with Hair Conditioner

Hair conditioner coats hair stands with cationic surfactants and emollients that leave them feeling softer. This is the same basic science behind commercial fabric softeners. When mixing this DIY fabric softener, use a hair conditioner that does not contain dyes to boost hair color.

  1. Gather Ingredients and Supplies

    For this DIY Fabric Softener, you will need:

    • Warm water
    • Distilled white vinegar
    • Hair conditioner
    • Measuring cups
    • Kitchen funnel
    • Glass or plastic bottles
  2. Measure and Combine Ingredients

    • To create a manageable amount of the fabric softener, use 1 1/2 cups warm water, 3/4 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup hair conditioner.
    • If you want to make a larger batch the mixture should be six parts water, three parts distilled white vinegar, and two parts hair conditioner.
    • Use a kitchen funnel to add ingredients to a quart-sized glass or plastic storage bottle.
    • Shake or stir to mix well.
  3. How to Use

    • Fill a washer's automatic fabric softener dispenser with the DIY fabric softener.
    • Or, add one to two tablespoons of the mixture to the rinse cycle.

How to DIY Softening Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets help soften clothes by leaving a coating on fibers as they tumble dry. You can make your own that can be reused again and again.

  1. Mix Ingredients

    • Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar and 8-10 drops of essential oil to a plastic container with a resealable lid.
  2. Soak Cotton Squares

    • Place 3-4 cotton fabric squares in the solution and make sure that they are saturated.
  3. How to Use

    • Before adding one of the squares to the dryer, wring out the excess liquid until the square is just damp.
    • Add to the top of a load of wet laundry in the dryer.
    • Dry the load on medium heat.
    • Add the dry fabric square back to the container and to use it again.

How to DIY Fabric Softening Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls help keep clothes separated in the dryer, allowing the heated air to circulate better and dry items quicker which leaves fabrics softer.

  1. Create Cores

    • Wind wool yarn or wool fabric strips into a ball until it is around 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Secure the end of the yarn by running it under several strands of yarn. 
    • Make 3-4 cores.
  2. Shrink the Cores

    • Place each core in an old sock or pantyhose.
    • Tie a piece of cotton string around the sock between each core to keep them separated.
    • Add the filled sock to a pot of hot water, and bring it to a boil to shrink or felt the core.
    • Once boiling, remove the pot from the heat source, but allow the balls to soak until the water is cool.
    • Squeeze excess water from the balls and put the sock of balls in the dryer to dry on high heat.
    • When dry, cut the strings between the balls, and remove them from the sock or pantyhose.
  3. Finish the Dryer Balls

    • Using the cores, begin the wrapping process again with the wool yarn or fabric strips.
    • Keep wrapping until each ball is around 3 1/2 inches in diameter.
    • Repeat the soaking and drying process.
  4. How to Use

    • Toss two or three balls in the dryer with each load of wet laundry.