You know that feeling of slipping into freshly washed and soft clothes, right?
For many people, that’s the point of doing their laundry, which is why using fabric softeners has become a prevalent part of it.
However, many fabric softeners contain harmful chemicals such as benzyl acetate, phthalates, formaldehyde, and others that can irritate sensitive skin and harm the environment.
I have always found the fragrance of fabric softeners too overpowering, and it tends to give me headaches.
That’s why I started exploring alternatives to fabric softeners that are more natural and eco-friendly.
Luckily, I found natural fabric softener alternatives that are effective, affordable, and safe.
So I am here to answer the question you’re asking yourself, “What can I use if I don’t have fabric softener?”.
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Do you really need fabric softener?
We all love what fabric softeners do.
They are a great way to make your clothes feel soft and comfortable while reducing static cling.
Considering the numerous concerns about their harmful effects, do we really need fabric softeners in our laundry?
Fabric softener is not necessary for your laundry routine. While fabric softeners can make your clothes feel soft and reduce static cling, they often contain potentially harmful chemicals and can leave a residue on your clothes. Using natural alternatives or skipping fabric softeners can be healthier and more eco-friendly.
According to a report by the Environmental Working Group, some fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as quaternary ammonium compounds, which can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems.
Also, fabric softeners can leave a residue on your clothes that can be difficult to wash out and can negatively impact the absorbency of towels and other fabrics.
If you still prefer fabric softeners, choosing ones free of harmful chemicals and biodegradable is essential.
Using them sparingly is also a good idea, as overuse can lead to buildup on your clothes and your washing machine.
Fabric Softener Alternatives (13 Better Alternatives)
If you are looking for fabric softener alternatives that actually work then here you go.
1. Natural fabric softener (Eco-friendly fabric softener)
Also known as Eco-friendly fabric softeners, they are a great alternative to traditional fabric softeners, which are often loaded with harmful chemicals.
Natural fabric softeners are made with ingredients like essential oils, vinegar, and plant-based surfactants.
They work by releasing the ingredients during the drying cycle, which softens clothes and reduces static cling.
Using natural fabric softeners is just as you would do for any other fabric softener; simply add it to your fabric softener dispenser to dispense with your laundry.
Here are some additional tips for using natural fabric softener:
- Choose a brand that uses natural ingredients: When shopping for natural fabric softener sheets, look for brands that use natural, plant-based ingredients. Avoid brands that use synthetic fragrances or other harmful chemicals.
- Use the recommended dosage: Check the instructions on the package to determine the amount of fabric softener to use per load.
- Make your own: You can also make your own natural fabric softener sheets by soaking pieces of cloth in a mixture of water, white vinegar, and essential oils. Squeeze out the excess liquid and use the cloth in your dryer.
Related article: How To Remove Wallpaper With Fabric Softener (Easy Steps)
2. White Vinegar
White vinegar is an effective and inexpensive ingredient that can be used as a fabric softener.
It helps to break down detergent and mineral deposits on clothes, which can make them feel stiff and scratchy. Aside from that, vinegar also helps to remove odors and bacteria from clothing.
Adding vinegar to your wash cycle can help to keep your washing machine clean and free from mineral buildup, which can extend the life of your machine.
If you are looking for liquid fabric softener alternatives, then white vinegar is worth trying.
Here is how to use white vinegar as a fabric softener:
- Add a half cup of white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser for the rinse cycle.
- Start the rinse cycle and allow it to run as usual.
- Once the cycle is complete, remove your clothes from the machine and dry as usual.
- You can also add a few drops of essential oils, such as lavender or lemon, to your vinegar solution to provide a pleasant scent.
- It is not recommended to use vinegar together with heavily bleached garments because vinegar and bleach can produce harmful fumes if mixed together.
- Inexpensive and widely available.
- Safe and natural.
- Can help to remove odors and bacteria from clothing.
- Can also help to keep your washing machine clean and free from mineral buildup.
- The smell of vinegar can be strong, although it dissipates once your clothes are dry.
- Vinegar is acidic (except white vinegar which has a pH of sound 2.5) and can potentially cause damage to some types of fabrics, so it’s important to test it on a small section first.
3. Soap nuts
Soap nuts, also known as soap berries, are a natural and eco-friendly alternative to traditional laundry detergents and fabric softeners.
They contain saponin, a natural detergent-like substance that can help to clean and soften clothes.
To use soap nuts as a fabric softener, add 4-5 soap nuts to a small cotton bag or sock, tie it closed, and toss it in the washing machine with your laundry.
You can reuse the same bag of soap nuts for several loads before they need to be replaced.
The soap nuts will naturally soften your clothes and remove any buildup from your laundry detergent, leaving your clothes fresh and clean.
They are also gentle on sensitive skin and hypoallergenic.
So if you are looking for a good alternative to fabric softener for sensitive skin, you should try soap nuts.
One thing to note is that soap nuts may not be as effective in hard water areas, as the minerals in the water can interfere with their cleaning abilities.
In this case, you may need to add a small amount of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to help soften the water and increase the effectiveness of the soap nuts.
4. Baking Soda
Sodium Bicarbonate, popularly known as baking soda has 1001 household uses so as you may have thought, it’s one of the easily accessible and reliable natural fabric softener alternatives.
To use baking soda as a fabric softener, add a quarter to half cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle and allow the cycle to complete as normal.
- Baking soda is an affordable and easy-to-find alternative to chemical-based fabric softeners.
- Being a natural deodorizer it can help to eliminate odors from clothing.
- Baking soda can also help to break down detergent buildup in your washer
- Baking soda can leave a powdery residue on clothes if it’s not fully dissolved in the rinse cycle.
- High-concentrated baking soda can bleach some fabrics.
- If you have hard water, you may need to use more baking soda to see the desired results.
5. Epsom salt
Epsom salt is a natural fabric softener alternative that can be used to break down static and eliminate unpleasant odors, leaving clothes with a fresh and clean scent.
It’s versatile enough to be used alone or with other fabric softener alternatives such as essential oils to achieve optimal results.
To use Epsom salt as a fabric softener, simply add a half cup of Epsom salt to the rinse cycle of your washing machine and let the rinse cycle complete.
- An affordable and natural alternative to other fabric softeners.
- Epsom salt is a natural exfoliant that can help to remove dead skin cells and buildup from clothing.
- Epsom salt can build up and cause clogging in your washer when not properly drained away.
6. Essential Oils
If you’re looking for a natural and aromatic alternative to traditional fabric softeners, essential oils might be your best bet.
Essential oils like lavender, lemon, bergamot, rose and peppermint not only provide a refreshing scent to your laundry, but they also have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can help keep your clothes fresh and clean.
When looking for a fabric softener alternative, organic essential oils without any harmful chemicals or synthetic ingredients will do a perfect job.
Add one tablespoon to your load, making sure not to directly apply the oil onto garments to avoid staining.
This method is best suited for top-load eco-friendly washing machines.
If you have a front loader, consider adding essential oils to your dryer balls or homemade crystals instead.
7. Hair Conditioner
Did you know that you can use a hair conditioner as a fabric softener alternative?
It’s true! By diluting hair conditioner with water and adding it to your washing machine’s rinse cycle, you can soften your clothes and leave them smelling great.
As always, it’s important to choose a natural and eco-friendly conditioner to avoid any exposure of your clothes to harmful chemicals.
Here is how to use hair conditioner as a fabric softener alternative:
You can create a homemade fabric softener that is cost-effective and long-lasting by combining Add 1 and a half liters of water, 750 ml of white vinegar, and half a liter of hair conditioner. This recipe can provide up to a hundred washes worth of fabric softening agents.
Hair conditioner is an example of a liquid fabric softener alternative.
8. Wool Dryer Balls
Wool Dryer Balls Organic
Eco-Friendly, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free, this all-natural and organic laundry detergent is perfect for babies and those with sensitive skin. It is a zero-waste product, eliminating waste, and is 100% biodegradable. Reusable for over 1000 loads and can extend the life of your clothing.
Wool dryer balls are a natural and eco-friendly alternative to fabric softener sheets. They work by bouncing around in the dryer and separating clothes, which allows for better air circulation and a faster drying time.
This helps to soften clothes and reduce wrinkles without the use of chemicals.
Wool dryer balls can also help to reduce static cling and can be used for hundreds of loads. Simply toss a few dryer balls into the dryer with your clothes and let them do the work.
Making woolen dryer balls at home is a simple process requiring just a few supplies and time.
Here are the steps to make woolen dryer balls at home:
- Choose your wool: Choose a high-quality, 100% wool yarn to ensure that your dryer balls will be effective and long-lasting. Look for yarn labeled as “worsted weight” or “feltable” to ensure that it will feel properly.
- Make the balls: To start, wind the wool yarn into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. You can adjust the size of the ball based on your preference, but keep in mind that larger balls will take longer to dry clothes. Repeat this process until you have the desired number of balls.
- Felt the balls: To felt the balls, place them in a pair of pantyhose or a sock and tie a knot between each ball. This will help to prevent the balls from unraveling during the felting process. Run the balls through a hot wash cycle in your washing machine, then dry them on high heat in the dryer.
- Repeat the felting process: After the first cycle, check the balls to see if they have felted properly. If not, repeat the process until the balls are firm and felted.
- Add essential oils (optional): Once the dryer balls are felted and ready to use, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to them to give your laundry a pleasant scent.
- Reusable and durable
- Reduces static cling and wrinkles
- Shortens drying time
- Can be noisy in the dryer
- May not be effective for heavily soiled or large loads
Related article: Can You Use Dryer Balls And Dryer Sheets Together? (Answered)
9. Aluminum Foil
Aluminum foil reduces static cling in the dryer and can also help reduce wrinkles. Aluminum foil can be used as a fabric softener alternative at home without any hustle.
To make and use aluminum foil as a fabric softener alternative, follow these steps:
- Cut a piece of aluminum foil into a square about 12 inches by 12 inches.
- Fold the edges and corners and Roll the square into a ball shape. Repeat this process with a second and third piece of aluminum foil.
- Toss all three aluminum foil balls into the dryer with your laundry.
- Run the dryer as you normally would. The aluminum foil balls will bounce around in the dryer, separating and softening your clothes.
- While aluminum foil can soften clothes, it should be used cautiously.
- The aluminum foil balls can produce static, which can cause clothes to cling together or stick to the dryer’s sides.
- The balls can sometimes tear clothing, especially if their edges are not folded before turning them into balls.
- Aluminum foil can be reused for several loads before it loses effectiveness. After several uses, you may notice that the balls are no longer as smooth as they once were. At this point, you can replace them with new ones.
Using a dry towel as a fabric softener is a simple and easy process. It is the fastest way to soften your clothes without any stress.
Here are the steps to use a dry towel as a fabric softener:
- Toss a clean, dry towel into the dryer with your wet clothes.
- Run the dryer as usual.
- Remove the towel and clothes from the dryer once the cycle is complete.
The dry towel will help absorb excess moisture from your clothes, making them feel softer and more comfortable.
It will also help to reduce static cling, and it can even help shorten drying time, saving energy and money.
You should be aware that using a dry towel as a fabric softener is not as effective as other natural alternatives, such as wool dryer balls or vinegar.
But rest assured that it can still be useful if you’re looking for a simple and inexpensive way to make your clothes feel softer and reduce static cling.
10. Tennis balls
Tennis balls work similarly to wool dryer balls by bouncing around in the dryer and separating clothes allowing for better air circulation and a faster drying time, which can soften clothes and reduce wrinkles.
Here is how Tennis balls can be used as a natural and reusable fabric softener:
- Clean the tennis balls: Before using the tennis balls, make sure to clean them thoroughly. You can wash them in a washing machine with a small amount of detergent or wipe them with a damp cloth.
- Add the tennis balls to the dryer: Once they are clean and dry, add them to your dryer and your laundry. Using at least two tennis balls is recommended to ensure they can move freely in the dryer.
- Run the dryer cycle: Start your dryer cycle as usual. The tennis balls will help to agitate the clothes and fluff them up, which will help to soften them naturally.
- Remove the tennis balls: Once the dryer cycle is complete, remove the tennis balls from the dryer. You can reuse them in the next load of laundry.
Tennis balls can make some noise in the dryer, so it may not be the best option if you have a sleeping baby or need absolute silence in your home while doing laundry.
11. Fabric softener crystals
Fabric softener crystals are small, scented beads that can be added to the wash cycle of your washing machine. They dissolve in water and release a fragrance that can help to soften clothes and leave them smelling fresh.
They are also known as Laundry Scent boosters or Laundry Boosters.
Unlike liquid softeners that coat the fibers of your clothes, fabric softener crystals penetrate and fluff up the fibers, making them feel softer and more comfortable to wear.
Fabric softener crystals are incredibly versatile. You can use them in a variety of ways to achieve different results.
For instance, add them to your wash cycle for an all-over softening effect or sprinkle them directly onto your clothes before drying for a targeted softening impact.
Here are some ways to use fabric softener crystals as a fabric softener at home:
- Add them to the washing machine: Add a capful of fabric softener crystals to your washing machine before starting the wash cycle. The crystals will dissolve in the water and infuse your laundry with a pleasant scent.
- Use them in the dryer: If you prefer to use a dryer, add a capful of fabric softener crystals to a damp washcloth or towel and toss it in the dryer with your laundry. The crystals will melt, creating a fragrant steam that infuses your clothes with a pleasant scent.
- Make your fabric softener: To make your fabric softener with fabric softener crystals, mix 2 cups of hot water with 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of fabric softener crystals. Stir until the crystals dissolve, then pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Use the spray bottle to mist your laundry before putting it in the dryer.
12. Laundry Egg
A laundry egg is a reusable plastic container that contains mineral pellets that can be used to clean and soften clothes. Add the laundry egg to your washing machine with your laundry, and let it do the work.
Laundry eggs are a natural and eco-friendly alternative to traditional laundry detergents and fabric softeners.
To use a laundry egg, place it in your washing machine drum along with your laundry. The beads inside the egg will slowly dissolve and release their natural softening agents into the water.
Depending on the size of your loads, you can typically use Laundry eggs can for several hundred washes of up to 720 before needing to be refilled or replaced.
13. Vegetable Glycerine (Glycerol)
Vegetable glycerin, or glycerol, is a clear, odorless, and sweet-tasting liquid derived from vegetable oils. It is commonly used in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries due to its moisturizing properties and ability to retain water.
In recent years, vegetable glycerin has also become a popular alternative to traditional fabric softeners due to its ability to soften clothes and reduce static cling.
One of the main advantages of using vegetable glycerin as a fabric softener is that it is a natural and eco-friendly option.
Unlike traditional fabric softeners, vegetable glycerin is a pure and simple ingredient that is safe for all fabrics, including those that come into contact with sensitive skin.
To use vegetable glycerin as a fabric softener, mix one cup of glycerin with two cups of water and stir until the glycerin is fully dissolved. Then, add the mixture to the rinse cycle of your washing machine as you would with a traditional fabric softener.
Alternatively, you can add a few drops of glycerin to a spray bottle filled with water and use it as a natural anti-static spray for your clothes.
Tip: You may want to add a few drops of essential oil to your mixture for a fresh and aromatic scent.
Related Article: 5 Best Laundry Detergent That Kills Fungus (2023)
Fabric softener alternatives for air drying
Air drying your laundry is an eco-friendly way to dry clothes, but it can often leave them feeling stiff and scratchy.
Fortunately, there are several fabric softener alternatives that can be used specifically for air-dried laundry.
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Epsom Salt
- Essential Oils
- Shake and Fluff
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a DIY fabric softener?
A DIY fabric softener is a homemade alternative to store-bought fabric softeners. It is made using natural ingredients and can be cost-effective and eco-friendly.
DIY fabric softeners can come in various forms, including liquid, crystals, and dryer sheets. These alternatives can be made using a variety of household items such as vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, Epsom salt, and hair conditioner, among others. With a DIY fabric softener, you can control the ingredients used, customize the scent, and avoid harmful chemicals found in commercial fabric softeners.
Can you use lotion to make fabric softeners?
Using lotion to make a DIY fabric softener is possible, but there may be more effective or economical options.
If you use lotion as a fabric softener, diluting it with water before using it in the laundry is essential. A typical recipe involves mixing one cup of water with a tablespoon of lotion and vinegar. The mixture can be added to the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine or sprayed onto clothes before air-drying.