Homemade Fabric Softener: Baking Soda, Vinegar and Water

20 Jul
by Jenny, posted in Consumerism/Minimalism, Money Honey, Saving More   |  21 Comments

Laundry hanging out to dry

About two months ago, I posted a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. I’ve since received lots of positive feedback from those of you that have tried the recipe. This past weekend, I decided to try homemade fabric softener as well.

I’ve tried adding straight vinegar to the rinse cycle while washing towels in the past, and I wasn’t super happy with the results. I just couldn’t get past the vinegar scent in the laundry room. And whether the towels retained that scent or not, I was convinced I could smell a hint of vinegar on the dried towels.

I decided to try a baking soda and vinegar recipe to see if that would help neutralize the scent of the vinegar. After some trial and error, this is the recipe I was the most satisfied with.

Along with being incredibly inexpensive, this recipe doesn’t contain any of the harmful chemicals or phosphates found in commercial fabric softeners. It’s great for sensitive skin, eco-friendly and it works!

The Recipe

  • 4 cups warm water
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 2 cups white, distilled vinegar
  • Essential oil (optional)

Add four cups of warm water to a large container. Mix in two cups of baking soda. Slowly add the two cups of vinegar (the mixture will fiz).

When fizzing subsides, you can add 10-20 drops of essential oil to the fabric softener if desired.

*Instead of adding the essential oil to the mixture, I decided to just add a few drops directly to the fabric softener dispenser with each load. I’ve been alternating between lemon and lavandar essential oil.

Cap the container and shake before each use.

Use 1/4 – 1/3 cup of fabric softener with each load.

That’s it! This recipe is so quick and easy to make. I hope you have the same wonderful results that I have!

UPDATE! Adrienne from The Rich Life has posted her experience with this recipe on her blog. She has lots of wonderful photos that I think you’d enjoy!

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Put a Cork in It

While we’re talking about eco-friendly options, I’d like to share with you a great wine cork recycling drive I just discovered.

The California Wine Company (CWC) is holding a nationwide collection drive for wine corks called “Put a Cork in It.” The CWC, in partnership with ReCork.org, is hoping to collect 20 million natural wine corks by Sept. 30th. If their goal is reached, ReCORK will celebrate the accomplishment by planting 1,000 cork oak trees in the Mediterranean forests!

If you’re interested in participating, the CWC will send you a free postage paid envelope, which you can use to mail them your wine corks. Just call them at 1-800-777-4443, or email them at corkdrive@cawineclub.com to request a postage paid envelope. I requested mine this past weekend!

For more information about this fantastic collection drive, you can view the CWC’s official press release.

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21 Responses to Homemade Fabric Softener: Baking Soda, Vinegar and Water

  1. Just an FYI: I’ve received some feedback from readers that say using straight vinegar does not leave any trace scent of the substance on clothing or towels. So if using one ingredient is more your cup of tea, it may be worth a try!

  2. socalgal

    From a chemistry point of view I’m not sure that your “home made fabric softner” would do much. I add straight white vinegar 1/4 cup to a large-xlarge load. I put it in the rinse cycle and run a second “extra rinse cycle”. When the clothes are dried, the vinegar should have no scent. Use white vinegar. I have skin issues with detergents so I am very careful about what I use.

    When you add the vinegar and baking soda, after the fizzing is done, the reaction is done, the byproducts or whatever is left you have produced carbon dioxide (which we breathe out), water (which comes out of the tap) and a bound form of vinegar (the unbound form helps to absorb detergents and odors that are left in your clothing from the wash cycle…that’s how it works)… Have you tried first to reduce the amount of vinegar and detergent you use per load? Get a measuring cup and never use more than 1/8-1/4 cup white vinegar to a full tub of clothes + water! Try that and see if it helps with the scent!

    Here’s the chemical formula I was talking about. Usually baking soda would go in a separate cycle, like with the detergent in the wash cycle:

    Vinegar is acetic acid: CH3COOH

    Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate: NaHCO3

    Mixing the two is simply and acid base reaction.

    CH3COOH + NaHCO3 —> CH3COONa + H2CO3

    That last product is carbonic acid which quickly decomposes into carbon dioxide and water:

    H2CO3 —> H2O + CO2

    The CO2 is what you see foaming and bubbling in this reaction.

    • Hi Socalgal – Thanks for your feedback and suggestions. I’ve actually read the chemistry argument somewhere before trying the fabric softener recipe, but decided to give it a try anyways based on the positive feedback I’ve heard from others using this recipe.

      It’s summertime in Ohio right now, so I suppose it’s possible that the humidity is creating an illusion of softened clothes from using this recipe. ;)

      I may give straight vinegar another chance once this batch is gone.

      Thanks again for all of the helpful advice!

  3. Hmmm… Interesting stuff… Never knew you could use vinegar as a softener!

    -Rich

    • I’m finding that vinegar is so useful Rich. You can clean with it, soften laundry with it and even wash your hair with it (I’ve heard).

      • Michele

        I wash my hair with baking soda and water and rinse with white vinegar and water. Hare is cleaner, clears up dandruff, hair is soft and manageable and does not smell like vinegar. I C of baking soda to 1 gallon of water for the shampoo and 1 C of vinegar to 1 gallon of water for the cream rinse. You could add essential oil to the cream rinse if needed, but we don’t. Chemical free and extremely inexpensive.

  4. Oh, I must try this! Thank for sharing it, Jenny. I’ve been using straight vinegar for a long time now, and yeah, the smell is quite strong especially when we switched over to the HE washers that use so little water in the first place.

    I missed your laundry detergent post! I’m going to check it out too. :)

    • Let me know what you think after trying the recipe Nenette. I’ve been using this recipe for two weeks now and I couldn’t be happier! There isn’t even a hint of vinegar scent when I add it to the wash and our clothes come out super soft. :)

  5. seda

    hellow,

    i am very much intersted in this and as well, home amde detergent..but i ll got rying this fist..

    but i have ahuge question what exactly is white vinegar and can i subs apple cider vinegar with that? cause i never saw white vinegar in my country..(turkey)

  6. Sandra Mort

    I was wondering if salt water might just do the same thing for less money? Glad to see I’m not the only confused person, though I’m thrilled to hear something so benign works!

  7. I’ve been using vinegar in rinse for my silk clothing for decades now! A Chinese girlfriend told me to use it when I said I didn’t want to send my silk blouses to the cleaners, but I was afraid they’d lose their nice finish. She was absolutely right. Vinegar did the trick!

    • I use plain white vinegar as a fabric softener on occasion too. Lately, I’ve been using a scoop of plain baking soda. It seems to work just as well, but I haven’t tried washing any silk while using it!

  8. KN

    Hello and thanks for the post! Is this effective for hang dry and dryer? Also, does this take care of static? I hate static…. Thanks again :)

    • Nicki

      Hi =) I have just started using homemade natural detergent and this fabric softener recipe and I have NO static and I hang alot of my clothes to dry and they feel great! I do sometimes through them in the dryer for a few minutes then hang them to dry, but I am totally in love with THIS recipe and ive tried a few others.

  9. Nicki

    IDK WHY THIS works, but it does!!! My towels feel amazing and its winter and I live in Ohio! Sometimes science just cant explain things lol

  10. Pris

    Was wondering where a good place would be to get essential oils. Any hints.
    Thanks

  11. Lisa

    There is a product called Spring Again.
    It is concentrated vinegar with a nice citrus
    Scent. You have to mix it with water and
    I add a bunch of citrus essential oils
    and some Borax into the bottle and shake
    it really well before each use. It smells great
    in the rinse cycle plus you get the benefit
    of vinegar. Its been working great! I love it!

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  13. tina

    I use this
    2 cups of Epsom or sea salt, mix 20-30 drops of essential oil in with the salt, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda. Add it to the wash cycle, not the rinse. I found this at
    http://everydayroots.com/homemade-fabric-softener

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