Instructables
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.

 
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Step 1: Making Dispenser Bottles

Picture of Making Dispenser Bottles
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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.

hdg300678 months ago
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)  hdg300678 months ago

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.

Ninzerbean9 months ago

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?

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

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

roopanin9 months ago
i CAN MAKE THE BAKING SODA SOFTNER AT HOME AS I WTLL BE ABLE TO FIND EVERYTHING EASILY. THANX FOR SHARING.
afehrer9 months ago
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

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.

mir0k9 months ago

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.

christaclair9 months ago
Softener!!!!!!!
drutkowski29 months ago
The tutorial kept blanking out on me when I got to recipe 2 so what's the recipe for that one
Sparkz3659 months ago
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.

Are you still having this problem?

jbh1239 months ago

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 jbh1239 months ago

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

I was just going to comment that these are not really fabric softeners, rather, they are water softener/ conditioning agents that allow a more thorough rinse. If you have a commercial water softener unit installed, these probably wont do a lot of good for you, unless the commercial unit isn't properly adjusted. Commercially made fabric softeners are essentially a combination of three things, a rinsing/wetting agent to allow the water to break its surface tension and saturate material better, an antistatic agent , and a scent. The wetting agent can be many things from borax to baking soda, to an acid such as acidic acid (vinegar). which works best depends on your waters hardness, BUT the sodas are naturally antistatic... so guess what commercially mad products are based on. The scent is all a matter of marketing and personal preference. If it smells nice, more people will buy it. Personally, I don't want my clothes competing with my cologne or aftershave, BUT I don't want them smelling like the inside of a clothes washer either. Even top loaders take on an unpleasant scent. Most commercially made softeners get carried away with the perfumes...

Understanding they whys of how softeners work can help you make them work better for you, from making your own, like these, to using these to alter store bought to cut down on the scent levels. This is probably one of my favorite instructables to date. I only add these extraneous comments, because so many people in the community, are like myself, we use instructables not just to learn to make a specific thing, but to learn many things, and knowledge carries across subjects.

Excellent Job Paige.

do the clothes actually smell good afterwards?

mwilliams689 months ago

try the Epsom salt recipe, WAY better

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.

tonimk869 months ago
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.
lvitto9 months ago

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.

Regats9 months ago

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

john mantova9 months ago

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

thebeatonpath9 months ago

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!

sbattour9 months ago
washing powder/liquid is alkali based and adding something acidic (like white vinegar) neutalises the wash and therefore making the washing soft.