How To Make Natural Fabric Softener For Your Laundry

How To Make Natural Fabric Softener For Your Laundry | Growing Up Herbal | Cut out some harmful toxins by making your own homemade fabric softener!

Learning to make a natural laundry detergent was the first thing I did when switching over to using natural cleaners. It wasn’t too time-consuming, it worked well, and it saved me money… and that was back when there were only 3 people in my family. I’m sure it’s really saving me money now that there are 5 of us. Plus, kids are messy! I feel like I’m constantly doing their laundry.

So if you’re looking to do good things for your family, I think laundry is the perfect place to start!

There are a few things that you’ll have to get used to when it comes to using homemade detergent verses a store-bought detergent. One of those things is that your clothes don’t come out of the dryer smelling fragrant. Yes, they smell fresh and clean, but they don’t have that typical detergent scent to them.

This always bothered me because I like it when my clothes smell good, but I wasn’t thrilled with the chemicals sitting on my (or my child’s) skin all day. Then I heard about a homemade, natural fabric softener that is used like the regular, store-bought fabric softeners. Not only does it scent your clothes a bit, but it reduces static in the dryer too!

I found several different natural fabric softener recipes and tried them all. The video below shows my two favorite natural fabric softener recipes, and these are what I use every time I do any laundry for my family! Enjoy!

Natural Fabric Softener Crystals

You’ll need:


Add one cup of salt to your jar followed by 10 drops of your essential oil. Mix thoroughly and use 1/4 cup of this mix to your water for a regular load or 1/3 cup for a large load. Add in at the same time you add your detergent.

Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener

You’ll need:


Boil 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water and dissolve 1/4 – 1/2 cup of fabric softener crystals in your water. Next, add 6 cups of white vinegar to a bowl and slowly dissolve 1 cup of baking soda into your vinegar. Finally, mix these two things together, bottle, and store. Use 1/2 cup in a downy ball, your fabric softener compartment, or add to your rinse water.

If you wash your clothes using a natural detergent, what do you do to get them to smell nice after they’re dried?

68 thoughts on “How To Make Natural Fabric Softener For Your Laundry”

  1. This is so great because I’ve been looking for a natural alternative to fabric softener! Couple of questions: (1) how long will the liquid softener mix keep? (2) I assume that either option will work even if you don’t put your clothes in the dryer? (I tend to air dry the majority of my clothes) Thanks so much!

    1. Your liquid should last you a good while. I use mine pretty quickly so I’ve never tested it to see how long it would actually stay good for, but it contains salts and vinegar… both of which are preservatives. You probably won’t have any problems with it going bad. And yes… it will work no matter how you dry your clothes.

    2. I just found your site today and so far I’m enjoying it a lot πŸ™‚ I just wanted to say that I’ve been using plain white white vinegar as fabric softener for many, many months now and it works perfectly all by itself. I took an empty dishwashing liquid bottle and cleaned it out really well, labeled it “Plain White Vinegar” and then when I do laundry I fill the fabric softener compartment (we have an HE washing machine) and our laundry comes out amazingly perfect! I had been hearing about it, so about a year ago, I thought, “What can go wrong?” And NOTHING went wrong πŸ™‚ The only reason I’m mentioning this is because your natural fabric softener seems to have so many extra steps and really, you don’t need them. I mean no disrespect and hope you don’t take my post as having any. Thank you!! Take care!!

      1. You’re totally right Heather, and I use plain white vinegar when I’m in a pinch. They only reason I use this fabric softener is if I want my clothes to have a bit of smell to them. This works fairly well and it’s much healthier than buying store-bought softeners to help your clothes smell. But yes, if you don’t care about smell, vinegar is the way to go as it’s much easier.

      2. I love these ideas and hints……how much vinegar should I add ? In the rinse cycle or can I add it with the detergent….I seem to miss the rinse cycle a lot…

        1. I think it’s supposed to go in with the rinse cycle or else it gets washed out (or the detergent binds it… I’m not really sure). I use a downy ball so I don’t have to remember to catch it. Hope that helps, and thanks for your comment!

    1. Sorry about that Devin… I’ll add it to the post. The recipe is for a quart jar which holds 4 cups of water. Since you need 3 cups to be vinegar, the water should make up the other 2 cups. So maybe try boiling 1 cup of water to dissolve your crystals in. Hope that helps. The amount of water isn’t as important because it’s only purpose is to dissolve your crystals. The vinegar is really what softens your laundry… the crystals and essential oils just give it a really nice scent!

    1. I don’t see why not. You’d probably have to use less than a regular machine though. I’m sorry… I don’t know exact amounts for an HE though.

    2. I make my own fabric softener and laundry detergent. Same basic recipe for fabric softener except this one has a few more ingredients, and I also have an HE washer. It works. I will be trying this recipe. Mine is not fighting the static cling as well as I want (maybe I should use more?).

      1. Hope you like it once you try it Karen, and as far as static goes… I’m not sure. You can always try putting some scrap cloths in your dryer that have some oil and essential oil spritzed on them. That may help cut down on the static there. Anyway… hope it all turns out well for you!

      2. I put about 20 drops of essential oil (lavender) on an old sock and tied it into a ball then put in to another sock and tied that over into a ball. I leave that in the dryer with every load. I don’t have any issues with static and it adds a slight scent.

        1. Love it Cheri! It’s so simple. I’m definitely going to try this next time a do laundry. Do you just add more oils when you can’t smell it anymore, or do you add more every 3-4 loads?

  2. Can bottled spring water be used instead of distilled? Also, do you think super soda would work?
    Thanks for your time!

    1. Yes, I’m sure the spring water would work just fine. I’m not sure about super soda though. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!! Thanks for your comment!!

    2. crazywoman/billie

      Super Soda works well to help with cleaning (and might help with softening?) in the wash water, but I don’t think you want to put it in your rinse water.

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  5. I had the same problem with wanting my clothes and linens to smell nice when I started making my own laundry detergent. I use homemade felted wool dryer balls and add a few drops of essential oil to the dryer balls before using. Some oils such as lavender hold up better in the heat of the dryer so you may need to experiment to find something that works.

    1. I tried the wool dryer balls and experienced skin irritations due to an allergic reaction to the wool so beware if you have any sensitivities !!

      1. crazywoman/billie

        I made rolled up sock balls, and use those, as I too am allergic to wool, and idn’t want to transfer wool fibers to my clothing.

      1. I’m sure that may work, but you’d have to use a lot of herbs that are high in volatile oils… maybe something like rosemary or mint.

    1. crazywoman/billie

      I have used vinegar in my rinse water for years. My clothes do not smell like vinegar when they come o9ut of the wash, definitely not after they are dry!

  6. Can you use the Natural fabric softner crystals that you made in place of the store bought ones in the liquid softner?

    1. Yes, that’s what I intended. The first part of the recipe is making the natural fabric softener crystals, and then you use them to make the second part of the recipe… the liquid portion. At least that’s what I did in the video and do at home. Hope that helps!

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  8. I add more when I don’t smell it anymore. (About every fee weeks) Even without the oils it helps the static and prevents wrinkles too!

  9. I really like these ideas. I plan on doing both. I just have one question…Using the epsom salts do i just add it to the washer or actually mix it with my detergent? I know you arent familiar with HE. Im assuming it just goes in the tub like the purex ones do. Thanks πŸ™‚

    1. I put mine in a downy ball, but I’m assuming you put it in the same place you’d put your purex crystals. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  10. Which is your personal favorite? The crystals or the liquid? I’ve been using straight vinegar, but I’m looking to add scent to my wash. Thanks!

    1. Yes Jasmine… you can definitely use that if you want. I think it’s scented with essential oils. I’m not positive about that, but I think the scent is natural.

    2. I’ve used the pre scented Epsom salts before for baths but I feel they are not potent enough. Maybe add more essential oils.

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    1. I’ve made tour natural fabric softener and I have crystals in the bottom of my container.
      I’ve followed your instructions explicitly, and both times my jug has crystals.

      1. Mine does that from time to time if I don’t use it fast enough Deb, but with four boys… I use it! Maybe try cutting back on the fabric softener crystals a bit and see if that helps.

        1. I’m still having problems with crystals forming in the bottom of my glass container. Everything is dissolved when making it and I use distilled water.

          1. I honestly have no clue, Deb. Mine does form crystals, but it seems like it only happens when I do use it quick enough and it sits for too long. I read somewhere online that you can try heating the vinegar a bit before mixing it with the baking soda. It’s supposed to help the baking soda dissolve better so maybe that will help. Best of luck!

  12. I’m really excited to try this. I’m wondering what is in fabric softener crystals. I’ve never heard of them and am having a hard time tracking them down.

    1. I’m not sure what all is in the store bought variety. I’m sure it varies based on the brand, but the big thing I was trying to avoid was the synthetic fragrances that are in them. I’d much rather make my own even though the scent doesn’t come through as much. I have another recipe for scent boost crystals right here if you want to make your own.

  13. I tried making this today, but no matter how slowly I added the baking soda into the bowl of vinegar it blew up. Any tips on that?

    1. Hmm. Whenever I make this, they always react and fizz together, but if I add it slow enough it eventually settles down. Maybe use a bigger bowl or a plastic bucket of some sort and try that. How much baking soda are you adding at once?

  14. What is the purpose of combining an acid (vinegar) and an alkaline (baking soda)? Won’t they “cancel” each other out?

    1. Good point Katie. I know that baking soda and vinegar turn into salt water when combined, but I wonder if that’s true when the Epsom salt is included. I’m sure it is, but I’ve never considered it before. Mainly, the vinegar helps the Epsom salt to dissolve and disperse the EOs. Maybe I’ll try it without the baking soda and see how that goes. I’ll let you know what I find.

  15. Hi! When making the recipe for homemade laundry soap could the fabric softener be made and just mixed in with the laundry soap rather than have the soap and the fabric softener separate? Or would it just make both less effective? I’d like to combine the two to make things easier but not sure if it would work.

    1. I would think you could definitely mix the fabric softener crystals with homemade detergent. The main goal of this is to scent the clothes a bit more although it doesn’t actually scent them, but leaves them fresher smelling. I’m not sure if you could mix the vinegar in with the soap. Sometimes adding the two of those ingredients together will cause the oils to separate from the soap and will leave you with a yucky mess. It really depends on the soap you are using. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

  16. Will I be able to add the liquid fabric softner into my fabric softner compartment of my washer? I really want to try this ASAP, but since I do not have a downy ball I will have to wait. I am eager to check out your site.

    1. Hi Amanda. I’ve only ever used this in a downey ball so I’m not sure if you can put it in your actual fabric softner compartment. It seems like you would be able to, but I’m not possitive. I’ll look into it though and get back to you.

  17. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, the baking soda will not dissolve in the vinegar, three attempts now and despite how slowly I add the baking soda, stir, and stir, and stir…the baking soda reappears and settles at the bottom of the bowl. :-/

    1. Mine does this from time to time, Liz. I just give it all a good shake before I use it, and I’ve never had problems with it. You can always try cutting back on the amount of baking soda used.

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