Introduction: Homemade Fabric Softener

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a degree in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Mar…

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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!

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.