Introduction: Homemade Fabric Softener

Picture of Homemade Fabric Softener

Both of my parents grew up on farms in Northern Canada and even though I live in a big city full of convenience, I find myself more and more wanting to learn how to do things in 'old school', less toxic ways - yesteryear farm style! So I hit up the internets (not so 'old school' ha!) and researched different ways to make homemade fabric softener.

I decided on two methods/main ingredients and played with different recipes until I was happy with the results.

*Also check out my Instructable for a Homemade Dryer Sheet Replacement.

Step 1: Making Dispenser Bottles

Picture of Making Dispenser Bottles

Before we get started on the softener recipes, I'm gong to show you how I made cheap and easy dispenser bottles that make adding the softener to your washing machines a simple, no-mess cinch!

I chose to make batches of both softeners, and therefore needed two bottles, but if you're only going to try one of the recipes, just make one bottle.

What you'll need:

- 1-2 bottled waters with a sports style bottle cap (mine were 99 cents each!)
- a thin, permanent marker
- a measuring cup
- thin veneer or paper for label
- ruler
- exacto knife
- cutting mat

Empty out the water bottles (if not already empty) and remove the labels, keeping them intact. Next, use your measuring cup to add water either 1/4 cup* or 1/2 cup* at a time, putting a mark at the water line each time until the bottle is full.

*If you have a standard washing machine, you'll need 1/2 cup of softener per load, so do 1/2 cup increments and if you have an HE washing machine (high efficiency) you'll need to do 1/4 cup increments.

If doing two bottles, use the first bottle to mark the second.

Next we'll make our labels.

Use the old label as a pattern to cut the new ones in either a thin wood veneer like mine, or a fun paper.
On a cutting mat, use a ruler and sharp exacto knife to cut out 1-2 labels. Then use your thin permanent marker to write on the labels. I wrote 'Fabric Softener Vinegar Mix' on one and 'Fabric Softener Baking Soda' on the other.

Step 2: Why Two Recipes?

Picture of Why Two Recipes?

Both of the following recipes worked really well, which is why I decided to make and use both, alternating between the two. Note: After I'd already photographed this Instructable, I decided to try adding 100% essential oils to both*, lavender to the baking soda recipe and lemon verbena to the vinegar one. It's a simple way of making the boring task of doing laundry both smell good naturally and be a little less monotonous! And after a few months of using both, I'm sure I'll pick a favorite to move forward with, but I wanted to give them both a chance!





Step 3: Baking Soda Recipe

Picture of Baking Soda Recipe

Fabric Softener using Baking Soda

3 cups baking soda
2 cups warm water
10 drops 100% lavender oil

Add the 3 cups of baking soda to a large mason jar. Measure out the 2 cups of warm water and mix in the 10 drops of lavender oil to the water. Add the water/oil to the jar. Use a wooden spoon or chopstick to do a quick initial stir of the mixture. It will be clumpy and hard to stir all the way to the bottom, so screw the jar lid on tight and shake the mixture until the soda is dissolved.

Using a small funnel, fill one of your dispenser bottles and screw cap on tightly. Set aside next to it's label so you remember which one is which once both bottles are filled.

Step 4: Vinegar Mix Recipe

Picture of Vinegar Mix Recipe

Fabric Softener using Vinegar & Conditioner

1 cup sodium laureth sulfate free hair condition (I prefer to use one with no or little scent so I can add an essential oil of my choice and not have it compete)
3 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
10 drops 100% lemon verbena essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a large mason jar and stir to mix it. Do not shake it as it will foam too much.

Using a small funnel, pour the mix into the remaining dispenser bottle. You should have enough left over for another full bottle. Screw the jar lid on tightly and store in a cool dry place until needed.

Step 5: Adding Your Labels

Picture of Adding Your Labels

You'll notice when you wrap your labels onto the bottles that they cover up the measure marks you made on the bottles. I used a scrap piece of paper to mark the marks so I could draw them onto the label. Then I cut a little window out just beside the marks so I could check on the softener levels. After doing this I realized that I could have just cut a window out so that it lined up with the marks on the bottle underneath!! (Doh.) I would recommend doing that instead so you can skip the re-marking step.

Once you've cut out your viewing windows, tape your labels to their appropriate bottles.

Step 6: How Much to Use

Picture of How Much to Use

If you have a standard top loading washing machine, using your marks as the amount guide, add 1/2 cup of either softener to the water before adding in clothes.
If you have a standard side loading machine, add 1/2 cup of either mix to the softener compartment of the pull out drawer.
If you have an HE (High Efficiency) machine, add 1/4 cup of either mix to the softener compartment of the pull out drawer.

Note: The baking soda mix will settle quite a bit in between uses. Just give it a good shake until it appears mixed before adding it to your machine.

Another Note: DO NOT MIX THE TWO SOFTENERS. Nothing bad will happen, they will just neutralize each other and you will have wasted all that time you spent making them.

Step 7: Get Soft!

Picture of Get Soft!

If you do end up trying both, let me know which one you liked best and why!

And also check out my Instructable for a Homemade Dryer Sheet Replacement.

Comments

afehrer (author)2014-01-17

doesn't baking soda also work well as a stain cleaner for cloths? like for removing arm pit stains and what not? I've been looking for something to rescue my husbands undershirts. I fully respect his job (the Marine Corps) but I don't respect what his physical training does my laundry load. lol

sheME (author)afehrer2016-07-06

I use some ammonia. I have a top loader and I put in just enough water to soak the arm pit shirts and dump in the ammonia. Let it soak over night and fill the tub the rest of the way and use regular detergent and throw in the rest of the load. You may find you need less detergent. When we lived base housing I had a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and would soak cloths in it, I would leave it on the balcony, carry the bucket of ammonia water and shirts to the wash house and just dump it in the washer and add the other cloths. The ammonia would take out the ickies of BDU's.

You have to remember that if you have soap suds, that is a signal that there is too much soap. Too much soap will make your clothes feel stiff. My brother in law fixes appliances. One of the main complaints is that the washing machine does not rinse out all of the soap. DUH! Use less soap.

In my old age I have started to just soak over night with that powdered arm and hammer with oxiclean.

Great Grandma had a wringer washer in a wash shed and would take all of the clothes out there and would soak and wash cloths in ammonia and detergent, rinse and hang them to dry. On a dairy farm there is a lot of everything to wash out. She emptied the wash water on the garden. We never had softener. I still enjoy line dried clothes.

staticfire (author)afehrer2014-01-18

Yellow stains? Because I researched that a while ago and tested several methods and the following is the one that worked the best:

The 1:1:1 – One part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, one part water. Make a solution of the three ingredients. You will need about 1/4 cup each of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and water to treat one shirt. Protect your countertop or work area with a thick white towel, rub the 1:1:1 solution into stains and allow to work for at least 30 minutes. Use an old soft toothbrush or bristle brush to loosen any residue and then wash as usual in warm or cold water.

Bizzy8 (author)2015-11-30

how can you make a less amount of the baking soda one

TalulahBancroft (author)Bizzy82016-07-05

1 & 1/2 cups baking soda and 1 cup warm water will make half of the recipe listed here.
If you want even less, use 3/4th cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of warm water. This will be enough for about two loads of laundry in a standard sized top loading washing machine.

hdg30067 (author)2014-01-26

Hi Paige...can you reply with the vinegar recipe for softening the rinse water again. Just as I get to the recipe part, "INSTUCTABLES" crashes every time. Never get to see the recipe of ingredients. Thnx in advance ;-))

Paige Russell (author)hdg300672014-01-27

Bummer about the crashing! Here's the recipe for the vinegar softener:

1 cup sodium laureth sulfate free hair condition (I prefer to use one with no or little scent so I can add an essential oil of my choice and not have it compete)
3 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
10 drops 100% lemon verbena essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a large mason jar and stir to mix it. Do not shake it as it will foam too much.

Using a small funnel, pour the mix into the remaining dispenser bottle. You should have enough left over for another full bottle. Screw the jar lid on tightly and store in a cool dry place until needed.

RenèeS22 (author)Paige Russell2015-12-19

Sorry.. tried it. Doesn't work. Clothes were stiff and full of static

Ninzerbean (author)2014-01-17

I'm sure I could do the research myself, but since you wrote this up I have to ask you - what is the purpose of fabric softener? I have never used it. Why would I want to?

iamgale (author)Ninzerbean2014-01-22

I use fabric softener to stop static cling. Using the dryer softens them for me.

mslaynie (author)Ninzerbean2014-01-18

It does just what the name implies- it softens your fabrics. Most of them have pleasant smells, as well.

roopanin (author)2014-01-22

i CAN MAKE THE BAKING SODA SOFTNER AT HOME AS I WTLL BE ABLE TO FIND EVERYTHING EASILY. THANX FOR SHARING.

mir0k (author)2014-01-18

Nice instructable, but I keep washing laundry even more simple:-)

I use 3 tennis balls which I put inside washing machine and 1 tsp of baking soda, which I put in laundry detergent compartment. Inside washing machine I put homemade gel detergent. Baking soda also makes water softer, so you don't need a lot of detergent.

christaclair (author)2014-01-17

Softener!!!!!!!

drutkowski2 (author)2014-01-17

The tutorial kept blanking out on me when I got to recipe 2 so what's the recipe for that one

Sparkz365 (author)2014-01-14

Great instructable. I can't however get to the second recipe as the instructable app crashes every time at the same point as I scroll down. Tried about ten times. Keep up the great work.

Ninzerbean (author)Sparkz3652014-01-17

Are you still having this problem?

musselsmarinara (author)2014-01-17

do the clothes actually smell good afterwards?

mwilliams68 (author)2014-01-17

try the Epsom salt recipe, WAY better

Vera van den Berg (author)2014-01-17

I Always top us about half the normal amount of detergent with white vinigar (keeps machine from smelling nasty too), than add about half the usual amount of detergent per load. Works well for me, cheap and easy way to cut on costs and keep you machine smelling fresh.

tonimk86 (author)2014-01-16

Oh, I'll bet the vinegar mix works really well for me. I make my own detergent and all of the ingredients (washing soda, soap, borax) are alkaline. I already do a vinegar rinse every few washes to keep my detergent from building up on the clothes (after five or so washes I was getting a residue). My jeans and towels get a little stiff with line drying, so maybe this will fix that, too. I'm going to try it next laundry day.

lvitto (author)2014-01-16

it looks like the one with baking soda is thicker. Thanks for this it
will surely be another addition to my collection of DIY
tutorials... I will try to make the baking soda recipe.

Regats (author)2014-01-16

Wouldn't simply adding, say, a half cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle work jut as well?

john mantova (author)2014-01-16

Washing soda works better an ae only half a cup in the mixture

thebeatonpath (author)2014-01-16

I've always used vinegar in the softener dispenser, but I think I will give these two a go. I use vinegar and baking soda all the time, so I've got plenty to try this. Thanks!

sbattour (author)2014-01-16

washing powder/liquid is alkali based and adding something acidic (like white vinegar) neutalises the wash and therefore making the washing soft.

jbh123 (author)2014-01-14

I use baking soda for all kinds of other stuff around the house, but I've never heard of it being used as a fabric softener. Does it really make fabrics feel softer (compared to not using any softener)? I'm assuming it does, because you say "both of the following recipes worked very well."

I can see how adding conditioner might soften clothing and/or fabrics, but why/how does the baking soda soften them? Not saying you should or must know, just wondering if you do. :-)

As long as I'm asking, does either of these recipes also reduce static cling if you dry the clothes in a dryer?

Mig Welder (author)jbh1232014-01-15

Apparently, baking soda softens the water. In a sense, then, the baking soda is a water softener that prevents fabric hardening :D (since clothes + hard water = stiff clothes).

http://www.wikihow.com/Add-Baking-Soda-to-Laundry

About This Instructable

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Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
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