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Saving Money on Fabric Softener

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about fabric softener. Yes, my life is THAT interesting. As a general rule, I like to use white vinegar as my fabric softener. It works great and it’s super cheap! However, it just doesn’t give clothes that nice, pretty smell. They just smell non-dirty. I realize that’s probably keeping a lot of people from using it. Because who doesn’t want their towels to smell like a field of fresh daisies? So, I set out how to find ways for you guys to save money when it comes to fabric softener. I did a lot of research on the internet and this is what I came up with. Sit back and see how you can save more cash.

This idea came from my mentor, Lori. She says that she dilutes her fabric softener with water. Why didn’t I think of that?! So, I looked it up to see if other people were getting good results from that as well. The answer is, yes! I went and pulled out my Downy that I got super cheap at CVS and went downstairs to find something to mix it up in. I came up with this old coffee canister. It’s working great so far! If you don’t have one, you just need to find something to mix it up in and it needs to have a lid. Everything on the internet said to use about a gallon sized container. This looks pretty much like a gallon, so I went with it.

Pour one cup of fabric softener into your canister. Isn’t Downy pretty? I love how it smells – like a field of fresh daisies. Actually, I’m just guessing. I’ve never walked through a field of fresh daisies. A field of hay, yes….daisies, no. They’re not very good for a cash crop.

Now, fill the rest of your container up with water. It’s going to be pretty thin… water. Blue water. Wow. That reminds me of the toilet.

Stir up your mixture until you can tell that it’s incorporated. Use a longer spoon than me. This was the first one I grabbed and it was too short. Annie was actually mad because she likes to play with this spoon. So, I had to give it back when I was done.

Then you’ll use measure it out with a regular soap cup. I’m sure you’ve got some of those. I think I have about 5 in my laundry room…..I keep them for miscellaneous uses. They’re handy to have around. You’ll need about ¼ cup for each load. I think that’s half of this measuring cup.

I try to label everything. I might say “Oh, I’ll remember that.” But I don’t. Face it, you don’t either. So, just label it to be safe. Verdict? It works just as well as the full strength and it still smells great! This is going to stretch your fabric softener very far. For other ways to save a buck by cutting back, read this post.

You can also save money by just using less fabric softener. Use ¼ to ½ of what the bottle actually calls for. It does nothing to the results. Of course the company wants you to use more! If you use more, you’ll run out sooner…..and then you’ll run back to them sooner. Heck, they’d like for you to use one bottle per load. Wouldn’t that be a fresh daisy??? If you want to make your own fabric softener, you can do that too! Here is what you’ll need: 1 part white vinegar, 1 part baking soda, 2 parts hot water. You need a container that is double the amount of what you’re making. Why? Because it’s going to bubble – a lot. Baking soda and vinegar make a really cool chemical reaction. Try it sometime!  Anyway, mix up the baking soda and water in your large container until the soda is dissolved. Then add the vinegar. When it’s stopped fizzing and your kids are bored with that, you can pour it into the bottles you want to store it in. Every time you use it, you’ll have to shake it up because the baking soda will settle at the bottom. I’ve not tried this, because I like to use pure vinegar.  If you want to learn how to make your own laundry detergent you can read how to do so here and here.

So, before I leave you I want to give a couple more tips. First, clean your lint tray. Seriously, clean it. I don’t mean to pull the lint out after every load. Sure, that’s great and all but you also need to clean it with soap. Dryer sheets can cause build up on your tray and it could be a fire hazard. Also, if it’s clean, your clothes will get dry faster and you’ll save money on electricity. I always feel like I’m telling people what’s a fire hazard. “Yes, did you know that your Glade Plug-In is a fire hazard?” I’m not always fun at parties.

After you clean out the lint, hold your tray under water. If it piles up instead of running through, you’re overdue a cleaning. Just clean it with some soapy water and fling it at your daughter to dry it – she gasps and asks for more. I have a water bug on my hands. You should do this about every six months. Try to remember to do it when you change the clocks. Man, I hate it when Daylight Savings Time ends. It’s a bummer.

Secondly, if you make your own dry laundry detergent that I mentioned above, you might have a little piece of this Fels Naptha soap left from grating it. I leave mine on the washer. It’s GREAT for treating stains. Plus, it keeps me from grating my fingertips off. That’s a big plus. If you need to get blood out, use hairspray.


Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.


  1. You know, I’m going to have to sniff you tomorrow to see if you smell like flowers.

  2. Thank you so much Stace! I was wondering if there was a way you could make this go farther. I always use less than what it says it use, but it always seemed like it was still strong. I love my Gain fabric softener. MMMMMMM!!!

  3. Just another little tip about Fabric softener:
    My mother-in-law just dabs a bit of fabric softener on a clean wash rag and throws it in the dryer when drying clothes. She uses the same dish rage with the same dab of softener for like 6 load of laundry. This is a great substitute for using dryer sheets.

  4. I vacuum my dryer lint catcher about once a week, that works well too!

  5. Two weeks ago, I found a recipe for homemade liquid fabric softener, so I whipped it up and it’s wonderful. I’d been using straight vinegar, but hubby was complaining about the static that remained in our clothes, so this new batch I made has eliminated that problem.

    6 cups water
    3 cups white vinegar
    1.5 cups hair conditioner (I used pomegranate, because it smells yummy!)

    Mix all that together in a big bowl or bucket (or whatever you have) I placed a sponge in my bucket, and when I’m putting clothes in the dryer, just wring the excess outta the sponge, toss it in the dryer and ta-da…. Reusable, homemade dryer sheets!

  6. Stacy, have you ever tried adding esential oils to the vinegar? I was just wondering if that would work?

    • No, I don’t put them in the wash, but I do use essential oils in the dryer on my wool dryer balls. I should post about those! I will try do that soon, okay? :-) Great question!

  7. LOL Daisies do NOT smell very nice. :) And as far as I know, nothing will eat them, thats why there are fields of them <3

  8. Why couldn’t a cheap hair conditioner work as a fabric softener? Maybe mix it with vinegar. I have used the dregs out of the conditioner in the rinse cycle and it made the knit sweaters SO soft, especially the the wool or animal hair blend sweaters.

  9. I’ve seen people do that. :-) I just really like white vinegar.

  10. But they’re my favorite flower! :-)

  11. Why not use vinegar with some lovely essential oils if you’re looking for that wonderful fresh floral scent? I understand that fabric softner contains some chemicals that are really damaging to the nervous system. I stopped using that stuff years ago. Essential oils not only smell beautiful they are good for you as well!!!

  12. I have tried adding them to the wash but by the time they dry I don’t smell anything anymore….so I just keep them for other uses. :-)

  13. Having grown up using Downy, that is the smell of clean clothes to me. Environmentally and pocketbook wise, it isn’t the best choice. But when you put two “loads” amount in a container, then fill the lid completely full three times with water, it sure saves on the pocketbook. The 196 load jug that I bought nearly 3 years ago, has given me 790+ loads already and I still have a good quarter of the jug to go (and am still counting!). To use I cut a sponge into 2 pieces. Depending on my load size I use 1 or 2 pieces of sponge, excess squeezed out and placed in old wash cloths (used only for the dryer now) and then placed in the dryer with the wet clothes. No more dryer sheet build-up, a lot less chemicals on our clothes, and I save a LOT of money–all while still getting that clean clothes smell and no static cling. I originally tried this with a dollar store brand to see if it would work. The 64 load bottle dried 151 loads. Still a good deal, but there was some static cling issues, so I found myself needing the sponges kept wetter, thus using more. The Downy definitely does better with the static cling and I don’t need as much applied. Looking forward to hitting 1000 loads before I’m done.

  14. Gail Henriksen says:

    I “water” mine down with vinergar. About 2/3rds vinegar to 1/3 fabric softener. I prefer a more eco friendly brand though.

  15. Karen Del Ben says:

    Does this work in front loader machines? The ones that state HE soap and soften only?

    • I’m not sure. We don’t have a HE washer, so I’m afraid to say. Check your manual or ask around to some other friends who may have HEs.

  16. Robynne Catheron says:

    I love all these ideas! I’m not a fan of commercial fabric softener because of the chemicals, even though they do make clothes smell so nice and eliminates static. I tried the homemade aluminum foil balls but they don’t last long and they’re noisy as all get out. I saw Stacy’s blog a while ago about wool dryer balls, and I’ve used nothing else since (thanks, Stacy!). I put a few drops of lavender essential oil on one or two of them (I keep four balls in the dryer at all times), and it ever-so-lightly scents the clothes. I add an extra few drops for sheets and towels. My favorite tip to remove static when pulling clothes out of the dryer is to wet my fingertips first, and fluff up the load while it’s still in the dryer. Works every time, even on polarfleece, the worst offender of static cling and shocks. Don’t tell my cats, but I sometimes I dip my fingers in their water bowl, which sits on top of the dryer :)

  17. If I want scent in something, I usually just use essential oils. (Sometimes I’ll make my own infusion, like the thyme-infused vinegar I’m currently cleaning my apartment with.)

    I usually launder with soap nuts, though, and you don’t need fabric softener with those.

  18. Commercial fabric softener and dryer sheets do not actually soften fabric fibers, it creates a lubricant film on your clothing and other fabric to give you the feeling of softness. Yuck, slime. Also, those chemiclas reduce the absorbency of fabrics which is not good for towels, diapers, rags, etc. I will stick with using my vinegar and essential oil.

  19. Lacemaker427 says:

    When you mix baking soda with vinegar, you get l lovely bubbly reaction, then you end up with water with a tiny bit of sodium acetate salt. You may as well just pour water in the wash. My husband is a PhD inorganic chemist, and this comes straight from Dr Professor’s mouth. The vinegar alone with a few drops of a concentrated fragrance oil will give you much better results. You may want to store your own special fragranced fabric softener in the laundry room in a well-washed out half gallon (or gallon) milk jug that is clearly labeled. It’s a good idea to further identify the jug as non-food by tying a ribbon on the handle. You never put a ribbon on the handle of the milk in the fridge, do you?

    The same floral fragrance oils (honeysuckle and gardenia are glorious!) are great in other products. I almost never like the scent of body lotions, hair conditioners, and the like, so I buy generic unscented products and fragrance them to suit myself. (If you’re not a floral lady like me, there are lots of other choices.) Since I always use the same two fragrances, I suppose you could say that people recognize my flowers just before they see my face. :-) That really tickles me! Don’t be concerned — I don’t drench myself in scent like 1960s old ladies!

  20. katrina says:

    I started using a hair conditioner, vinegar, and hot water mix and I love it. I always get an ocean breeze scent or something like that so I still get that fresh smell.

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