DIY Chemical Free Fabric Softener Recipe

Did you know that fabric softeners and dryer sheets generally contain ethyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, limonene, linalool, and a-Terpineol? These chemicals can cause respiratory irritation, headache, nausea, dizziness, anemia, liver and kidney damage, central nervous system disorders, and respiratory edema. Many of them have EPA warnings to wash hands after handling and some are on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Sounds delightful doesn’t it :)  A few months back I posted a recipe for DIY Laundry Detergent I thought it was about time I followed it up with a chemical free  fabric softener. What alot of people don’t know is that fabric softener  should really only be used on synthetic fabrics to reduce static cling. It is pointless using it on natural fibres.

I recently made the switch to a Natural DIY fabric softener. Guess what it is…vinegar. Yep, the plain white vinegar you have in your kitchen cabinet. Just pour 1/4 cup in the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine when doing a load of laundry. Not only is vinegar free of those nasty chemicals, it also removes excess detergent and softens the water to help prevent limescale buildup. You may need to use up to 1/2 a cup, depending on the size of your washer. Not to worry, you won’t walk around smelling like a pickled onion. There may be a slight odor if you use too much, but it will disappear as the clothes dry. If you want something a little more special that will lightly scent and soften your clothes try this recipe.


1 cup baking soda

6 cups white vinegar

1 cup of water

10 -15 drops of essential oil of your choice. I like  7 drops Sweet Orange, 5 drops Ylang Ylang &  3 drops Patchouli  it smells divine

a bucket

wooden spoon


* Add the baking soda to the bucket

* Add  the water to the baking soda in the bucket

* SLOWLY add the vinegar to the bucket, take care though as  it’s going to bubble up like a 5th grade paper-maché volcano

* When all of the vinegar is added to the baking soda and has settled, stir it a bit so that the majority of the baking soda dissolves.

* Get a large empty plastic bottle and pour the vinegar/ baking soda/ water brew into it, add the essential oils.

* Add 1/2 a cup at the start of the rinse cycle ( be sure to give the bottle a good shake to disperse essential oils through liquid

You may have been told you need to use “special soap” for your HE front-load washing machine.  Let me enlighten you as to why.  HE front-load washers require “special soap” for one reason and one reason alone…low suds; because they use less water, they require soap that is less sudsy. The good news is, the homemade detergent mentioned in this recipe is VERY low suds. Just make sure you use the recommended amount of detergent.

The HE designation is just another advertising mechanism the industry is using to try & swindle consumers into buying “special soap” that they charge unnecessarily exorbitant prices for.


  1. Angela Johnston says

    Is this safe for cloth diapers? I would assume it is because 3 of your 4 ingredients are often used with cloth diaper washing but I just wanted to know if you knew if it was? I’m not sure about the oils, could it be done with out the oils?

  2. says

    Hi Angela,
    It is perfectly safe on cloth nappies. With the essential oils you can leave them out, Or you could just use lavender. Lavender relaxes and has antiseptic properties.

  3. Kathy says

    Linalool is also found in some washing up liquid as well, so for those who don’t like skin contact always check the bottle first.

  4. Marla says

    Are these preparations approved for He machines? You know, the front loading machines that use less water and save so much on detergent and water and drying time.

  5. Mary says

    Regarding your DIY Laundry Detergent, can you add bleach to the water along with this detergent?


  6. Becky Green says

    This sounds NICE!!!!!!! And what I like is the ingredients are something most would have on hand!!!!!! I like making my own household products! Thanks for the recipe!!!!!! :)

  7. says

    I have used distilled vinegar for this fabric softening method for many years and the only tip I have is to cut the vinegar with 50% distilled water before you add it to the dispenser on your washing machine. otherwise the soft rubber and plastic parts will break down faster and your repair man will be out more often.

  8. says

    Hi I love your DIY receipe. With my little girl now, I would love to try some chemical-free stuff to clean and wash around. One question though, as I am located in France, what is washing soda ? I don’t see exactly what it is…

  9. Natalie says

    This sounds great, but I have a high efficiency washer. I am unsure if it is safe to use this formula with it. Do you know?

  10. says

    Hi Lily
    Baking soda, otherwise known as bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, and, less commonly, saleratus, is a chemical salt with diverse practical uses. With a chemical formula of NaHCO3, baking soda is a white powder with crystalline grains. Although it can be produced by artificial means, in its natural form, baking soda is called nahcolite, taking its name from its chemical formula.

    Baking soda is weakly alkaline. As such, it acts to neutralize acids and break down proteins. This quality accounts for its usefulness as a tenderizer and a leaven. Also, it is baking soda’s neutralizing action on acidic scent molecules that makes it an effective deodorizer. Added to the water when doing laundry, baking soda stabilizes the pH level, enhancing the detergent’s effectiveness. Baking soda may also be added to swimming pool water to balance the pH and keep the water clear. You can buy it from the supermarket in the cooking aisle. Hope this helps

  11. Jodie says

    I just thought I’d point out that linalool, camphor, limonene and a-Terpineol occur naturally in many plants.

    In fact, you’ll find that lavender essential oil (L. angustifolia) usually has a chemical composition of limonene (0.02-0.68%), camphor (0.54-0.89%), linalool (29.35-41.62%) and that it’s the linalool that soothes and heals the skin and relaxes your muscles. In many people’s eyes, it holds the status of being the most versatile essential oil.

    Lemon essential oil is composed mostly (62.1-74.5%) of limonene and it’s a well known antimicrobial, antiseptic, bactericidal and astringent oil. It’s also common knowledge that Lemon oil has an uplifting odour and is great when fighting flu/cold season. It’s so powerful that you only need to littlest bit to clean with.

    Both are non-toxic and non-irritant and Lavender oil is also non-sensitising. Neither cause respiratory irritation, anemia, liver or kidney damage, or central nervous system disorders. As with all scents some people may suffer from headaches, nausea or dizziness if the odour is too strong.

    One last thing, ethanol occurs naturally in most extraction processes and is found in most cleaning products. It won’t hurt you because it’s only found in the faintest amounts.

  12. Kelli says

    Is this a recipe that makes a batch to store or does it make enough for 1 load of laundry? If it makes enough for a batch, how long can I store it?

  13. says

    Hi Kellie
    It will make just under 2 litres to store if you use it as you would commercial fabric softener. I have had mine sit up to 3 months before using it all up.


  14. says

    Valarie, you are so right about the fabric softeners! I love that you are sounding the alarm about those nasty chemicals and promoting the use of vinegar and baking soda. It is the secret formula that fabric softener companies do not want women to know. So good on you!

    Unfortunately, I am not able to use essential oils, or any perfume because I am so chemically sensitive. And many essential oils are extracted using solvents which I cannot tolerate.

    But I do love your recipe without the oils and will put a link up on my blog about chemical sensitivities. I wish more women understood how we don’t have to be a slave to toxic home products. And we can save so much money making our own!


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