DIY Your Own Fabric Softener With Common Cleaning Ingredients You Already Have

Commercial fabric softeners may soften your clothes, but they leave much to be desired. The fragrances, preservatives, and chemicals in store-bought fabric softeners can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems and may not be the best choice for the environment. Breathing in the scents can be problematic, and chemicals commonly found in fabric softeners such as D&C Violet No. 2 have been linked to cancer and many other issues.

Fortunately, natural alternatives to commercial fabric softeners exist that will leave your clothes feeling nice and soft without these risks. Combining vinegar and baking soda can work wonders on your clothes and linens, making them soft to the touch and allowing you to breathe easily. Because vinegar and baking soda are natural, eco-friendly ingredients, you can rest assured that they'll do more good than harm. You also probably have these natural ingredients for the laundry on hand in your home already.

Baking soda and vinegar as a DIY fabric softener

While some recommend combining these two ingredients and adding them to the wash simultaneously, it's not a good idea. There are some downsides to cleaning with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. This solution may be somewhat effective, but the two chemicals will essentially cancel each other out due to their opposing pH. The pH of vinegar is low, and the pH of baking soda is high. The combination will have minimal cleansing properties, but it won't do as good of a job as when you stagger the use of these two ingredients.

The better option is to add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the washer drum along with your regular detergent so that it will be used during the wash cycle. Then, separately add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment to be used during the final rinse cycle. The result is naturally soft clothes and linens without harsh commercial fabric softeners.

Remember, however, to be safe with delicate fabrics. Don't add these ingredients when washing materials like wool, leather, and silk. Also, re-consider using these ingredients for every load since they may cause fading and discoloration with overuse. Always follow specific instructions on your clothing or linens before washing to ensure you don't cause any damage.

Pre-treating stains with baking soda and vinegar

In addition to using a baking soda and vinegar combination as a fabric softener, you can also use it to pre-treat stains and remove them from fabrics before washing. Just like with the DIY fabric softener, it's generally recommended to stagger the use of these ingredients when used as a stain remover. It's best to start with the baking soda and follow up with white vinegar. 

First, make a paste by adding two tablespoons of baking soda to one tablespoon of warm water. Then, apply it to the stain and wait for a few minutes. You may see results from simply adding your fabric to the wash at this point. However, vinegar is also a good idea, especially for tough stains. 

Add equal parts vinegar and warm water to a spray bottle to do this. With the baking soda paste remaining on the fabric, spray a small amount of vinegar onto the stain. The mixture of the two will fizz and react. Use a brush or sponge to scrub and remove the stain. You can then let the fabric dry or put it directly into the washing machine.