Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner

I’ve got a really simple recipe for you today on how to make your own fabric conditioner.

You might be wondering why you need to make your own fabric conditioner, when it’s widely available in the shops.  And you might think you’re doing a good thing for your clothes when you reach for the fabric conditioner.  I don’t blame you.  Decades upon decades of marketing have convinced millions of us that fabric conditioner is a vital element of the laundry process, and there’s a whopping $12 billion global market for the product.

But, I’ve got a little secret for you: you really don’t need to use conventional fabric conditioner, and the eco friendly alternative to fabric conditioner I’m going to share at the end of this post costs just pennies per load but is more effective load per load at softening your clothes.

make your own fabric conditioner

First, here are four reasons to ditch fabric conditioner in favor of an effective eco-friendly alternative:

1. Fabric conditioner is terrible for some of your clothes and towels.

Fabric conditioner essentially applies a thin, waxy coating to your laundry, which has to be water-resistant in order to survive the washing process.  This waterproof coating makes your clothes feel softer but lessens their ability to properly absorb water and laundry detergent.  This means your clothes won’t respond as well to washing and will be more likely to lock in bad odors.

The chemical coating can also make your towels less absorbent over time and reduce the performance of sweat-resistant sportswear.  Fabric conditioner is also harsh on cotton or bamboo clothing, which normally absorbs light perspiration on its own.  As soon as fabric conditioner is introduced, that absorption is lost.

When used on clothing containing elastane and nylon (such as leggings, skinny jeans, and bras), fabric conditioner can leave a residue that dulls the item’s finish and attracts odor-causing bacteria.

2. Some conventional brands aren’t vegetarian or vegan.

Rather alarmingly, some fabric conditioner aren’t vegetarian- or vegan-friendly.  One ingredient found in certain brands is dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride.  In simpler terms: animal fat.  This fat is extracted from suet — the fatty tissues around the kidneys of cattle and sheep.  Suddenly that bottle sitting in your laundry room doesn’t look quite as innocuous as it did at first.

3. It’s not great for us or the environment.

Fabric softeners often contain a cocktail of non renewable petroleum-based chemicals, which are not easily biodegradable.

A study by the University of Washington found that certain chemicals found in fabric conditioner are likely human carcinogens, developmental toxins and allergens that can contribute to eczema.  These chemicals included likely human carcinogens acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, developmental toxicants methyl ethyl ketone and chloromethane, and allergens like linalool,

Once these chemicals are washed down the drain they can become highly toxic to aquatic life too.

4. It’s bad for your washing machine and plumbing.

As many brands of fabric conditioner are petroleum-based and full of animal fat, they can clog up your washing machine (especially if it’s a front-loading one) and pipes.

Fabric conditioner can also encourage the growth of mold in your machine.  Due to its fat content, when fabric conditioner is exposed to air and moisture, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.  And because of the design of most machines, it means that the water resistant softener is never quite washed out properly, leaving a residue that only encourages the growth of bacteria and black mould throughout your whole washing machine.  Which does not make for pleasant reading.

How to Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner

This homemade eco-friendly alternative to fabric conditioner is much better for you, your clothes, your washing machine and your environment. It’s perfect for people with sensitive skin, and it contains just two simple and inexpensive ingredients:

You will need:

500ml Glass bottle/jar
500ml White vinegar
30 drops Essential Oil of your choice


Fill your bottle/jar with vinegar, and add around 30 drops of essential oil to your vinegar

To Use:

Shake well before use.

At the stage when you are adding your laundry detergent to your machine, fill the fabric conditioner compartment of the drawer up to the line with the scented vinegar.  For a half load of washing, decrease the amount by half.


Using this mixture in place of fabric conditioner will give your laundry a delicate and clean aroma without a hint of vinegar — I promise!  If there is still a trace of vinegar on your wet clothes, be assured this will dissipate as the clothes dry.

My favorite oils to use for fabric conditioner are lemon and sweet orange for a zingy citrus aroma, but feel free to substitute depending on your preferences.  Alternatively, you can skip the oil for a scent-free conditioner.

Vinegar makes for a great natural fabric conditioner because it cuts through soapy residue and it won’t interfere with the absorbency of your laundry, making your clothes and towels last longer and smell better. Nor will it leave deposits in your washing machine or plumbing.  In fact, vinegar also cuts through grease so you’ll actually clean your machine every time you do a load of laundry.  Double win!


This article originally appeared on mindbodygreen


    • My machine has a fabric conditioner compartment that has a little line on it – I just fill it up to the top. I think it’s about 2 tablespoons but I’ll double check next time I put a load of washing on!

  1. This is great, thank you! I’ve already started to scale back the amount of fabric conditioner I use as I wasn’t sure the benefits outweighed the negatives, but this is the perfect compromise. Is it added to the machine at the beginning of the wash cycle like a regular fabric conditioner?

    • It’s not a bad idea – it will scent your clothes without any artificial perfume, but I don’t think it will soften them. But if that isn’t an issue to you then keep using the oil!

  2. Rowena Richards
    June 28, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Hi thank you for another really interesting article. I have long held doubts about fabric conditioner, some brands have made my clothes feel quite waxy and the perfumes are so strong they can make me sneeze so I was very keen to give this a try when I came across this idea a few months ago. It does work really well but the only problem I found was that it didn’t address build up of static in some of our clothing. It’s not a problem in the cotton stuff but some of the jumpers I have (synthetic materials but I am trying to wear them out before I can consider replacing them and there is still plenty of wear left in them!) just seem to generate so much static electricty I’m thinking of selling it to the National Grid! This has sadly got me shamefully switching back to fabric conditioner although I do buy Ecover or Method only now. Has anyone else had this problem? Maybe I should just persevere with the vinegar and think of the static problem as a small price to pay!

    • I haven’t heard of that before Rowena, it’s not something I’ve really come across. I try and dry everything outside or when that’s not possible (like today) I hang clothes on the clothes horse. When I do use the dryer I have been using wool dryer balls and I haven’t noticed too much cling.

    • I haven’t found anything or process to eliminate the static problem encountered by synthetics. I use unscented dryer sheets only for my synthetic items, in the winter, when I have to use the dryer. I’ve found some synthetics do OK being line dried.

  3. This is a really useful post! Some shop-bought fabric conditions can be awful for your drains and cause a lot of damage, this is because the chemicals are water resistant so they accumulate in a slimy substance which can lead to blockages, which as we all know can cause a lot of problems and headaches. This also means a lot of maintenance work to unclog your drains with the use of more chemicals, so, any solution you have which stops this is no doubt going to be very useful!

  4. Just tried this with coconut oil. It was amazing the smell fabulous and the clothes came out lovely and soft. No more fabric conditioner for me. Thank

    • Forever! It’s only when you add water that homemade cleaning products require a short shelf life. If you don’t use it up within a reasonable amount of time (say 6 months) then do check that it still smells and looks normal before using – if it starts to small bad or develop a slime/sludge then it’s time to discard but I’ve never gotten to that stage yet!

  5. Hello, this is such a great idea but as I am allergic to gluten white vinegar is a big no no for me. Do you have any suggestions what to use instead?

    • Hey Lesley, I haven’t heard of this before. I know malt vinegar is a big no no, but as white vinegar is made from distilled alcohol I would have assumed it would be ok! Every day certainly is a school day! I don’t have any other suggestions I’m afraid.

  6. Thank you for this article. I’ve been using white vinegar instead of fabric conditioner for years but never thought to add an essential oil, great idea! The dispensing drawer of my machine doesn’t get slimy and gunky anymore and whilst I guessed that was down to the vinegar, I didn’t understand why until reading this. Thanks again!

  7. White vinegar sounds a great idea. Applying logic (without actual practical testing) my thought is that because vinegar has a de-scaling effect then it might release some of any existing machine ‘sludge/limescale’ into the final rinse items.

    If (?) that is the case then before you start routinely using white vinegar as a fabric conditioner/scent carrier it might (?) perhaps be advisable to give your machine a good and proper de-scale first. Thereafter perhaps the white vinegar might also help to keep the machine sludge/limescale free and make its perfume oil addition more effective.


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