Frugal DIY: How to Make Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener

We’ve been exploring ways to cut costs by making everyday products at home from run of the mill ingredients for a lot less!  So far we’ve covered homemade laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and dog food. Today we’re tackling homemade liquid fabric softener.

The conditioner in this recipe will leave a slight fragrance after you take your clothes out of the dryer. Save your expensive conditioner for your hair, cheap-o brands like Suave or V05 will work just fine.


  • 3 cups White Distilled Vinegar
  • 2 cups Hair Conditioner (this works out to about the size of a full bottle of Suave)
  • 8 cups Hot Water


Mix ingredients together and pour into a storage container. (I used an empty milk jug for no added cost.)  Use about 1/4 cup per load in the rinse cycle or in a Downy Ball.

Heads up…

  • Do NOT substitute Apple Cider Vinegar for any of these recipes. You’ll end up with dingy clothes.
  • Do NOT use your homemade fabric softener on loads using bleach. Mixing bleach with vinegar can produce toxic fumes. Vinegar is a natural whitener so you really don’t need bleach anyway!


    • says

      Lisa, I’ve learned that you can use ANY type of detergent, but if it’s not HE you just use 1/2 as much. We have an HE washer and that’s what we’ve been doing for 2+ years. Saved a lot of money that way too :)

  1. LoveToBeFit says

    This sounds like a great idea. However, I use distilled white vinegar alone as a fabric softener – about 1/4 cup/small load. It’s nice since it leaves no residue. Even black tee-shirts stay black and there are fewer wrinkles than without the vinegar. (I also line dry indoors.)

  2. ~T~ says

    Awesome, you can choose “better” fragrance at least have a larger variety AND …. the 99 cent store has a great variety of conditioners for …. 99 cents LOL

    I think I will use an empty laundry soap container with the button pour these fit so nicely in the cabinet directly over my washer and I already have 2 emptied 😉

  3. says

    Can’t you just add a few drops of an essential oil to the vinegar? I have used white vinegar for fabric softener before but I don’t worry about my clothes smelling like anything so I’ve never tried it, but it seems like hair conditioner would leave a residue.

  4. Andrea Roberts says

    Pour one bottle of liquid fabric softener in a 5 gallon bucket then fill the rest of the bucket with warm water. Dip a (new clean) sponge in, wring it out, then toss it into your dryer with your clothes. Viola! Fabric softener!

  5. Ellen C says

    I made this today, excited about getting to try it. I remember reading several days ago about makeing homemade coffee creamer. Was it on TFF? I have looked but so far cannot find it. I really want to give it a try. Thanks.

  6. Maria says

    I was just wondering of I could maybe not add vinegar to my mixture I don’t like the smell of it so I was wondering if maybe instead of adding vinegar just boil water and baking soda and hair conditioner?

  7. Karena says

    I tried it but the vinegar smell is over whelming, I used a whole bottle of conditioner and 3 cups of vinegar and 3 1/2 cups of water.

  8. Holly Pickett says

    I’ve been making a similar softener. The vinegar smell does not stay in your clothing. The conditioner is probably not needed but smells nice and does help.

    You could definitely add some lavender EO to it or other EOs.

    Not my blog btw but I felt the urge to comment

  9. Jackie says

    I have been using this for 5 months, works great!! Great money saver and no chemicals on your clothes or going down the drain!! It really does not smell like vinegar on the clothes. You can also just use essiential oils instead of the conditioner. I also make my own laundry detergent.

  10. Angie says

    If I was to add eo’s instead of conditioner how much would I use? I’m not wher to get eo’s but it seems like it would be better then conditioner. And why vinegar? What does it do? If I was to add eo’s instead of conditioner how much would I use? I’m not wher to get eo’s but it seems like it would be better then conditioner. And why vinigar? What does it do?

  11. Maggie says

    I have made my own detergents, I make my own soap… I am sometimes a little shocked how many people are concerned with how much ingredients to add in the comments. I advise readers to experiment with things like this… Everyone has different preferences and sensitivities. I always start with a little and if it is not enough I add more. With my five gallon drum of laundry soap I usually add an ounce of fragrance or EO depending on how I am feeling.

  12. Monica says

    I just buy cheap liquid fabric softener pour in a spray bottle from the dollar tree and spray a wash cloth and throw it in the dryer, reusable dryer sheets

    • Maria says

      My guess is that this homemade liquid fabric softener should last at least 3 months, and likely up to 6 months or more. I would just date the container and make sure it still looks/smells good after the 6 month mark!

  13. April says

    The conditioner is to soften clothes and reduce static. The oils/silicones in it are partly what does it. I’m going to use a “mostly natural” conditioner that’s naturally scented. I’ve used homemade laundry soap for years and used vinegar only as a softener in my front loader (keeps soap dispensers clean, too), but now we are in an apartment with top loaders so I’m going to try the conditioner plus downy ball recipe. Then I can add all and walk home! :)

  14. Kimmi says

    Hi…I’m a newbie to all thus DIY tips and was wondering if I can’t use the DIY fabric softener with bleach, what do you do instead? Just use vinegar? If so, will it whiten as well as bleach? Can you add baking soda to the whites as well? *so sorry so many questions….I just want to make sure I’m doing this correctly* :/

  15. says

    I’ve used this recipe before and it definitely works! Don’t make huge batches of any homemade product that has water as it has the potential to go ‘off’ before you use it all. Some of those chemicals that we’re trying to avoid are the ones that help keep store bought products good for a long time.
    Anyway, good recipe – plain white vinegar works, too – I also have diluted fabric softener in a spray bottle (5 parts water to 1 part softener) to lightly spray wrinkled clothes. It also works as an anti static dusting spray for furniture! Lightly spray your dust cloth and dust away!


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