I’ve got a really simple recipe for you today showing you 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 helping to prolong the life of your clothes when you reach for the fabric conditioner.
If you’ve thought these things, then 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. There’s a whopping $18.6 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. The eco-friendly alternative to fabric conditioner I’m going to share costs just pennies per load. It is also much more effective, load per load, at softening your clothes.
How to Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner
I’m a big fan of making my own natural cleaning products. I first made my own fabric conditioner 15 years ago. What I’ve found, through VERY extensive testing is that this homemade eco-friendly alternative to fabric conditioner is much cheaper and better for you, your clothes, your washing machine and the environment compared to conventional fabric softener.
What’s more, this fabric conditioner is perfect for people with sensitive skin. It contains just two simple ingredients (one of which you can skip if you have super sensitive skin):
You will need:
- 500ml Glass bottle
- 500ml White vinegar – here’s where to buy white vinegar in bulk for cleaning
- 30 drops of essential oil of your choice (or skip if you have very sensitive skin)
Fill your bottle with vinegar, and add around 30 drops of essential oil of your choice to your vinegar. If you have sensitive skin, avoid citrus-based oils, or omit them altogether for a scent-free conditioner.
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 favourite oils to use for natural fabric conditioner are lemon and sweet orange. These give your clothes a light but zingy citrus aroma. However, feel free to substitute depending on your preferences.
Vinegar makes for a great natural fabric conditioner because its acidic nature cuts through soapy residue and limescale, helping to keep white clothes whiter. It’s also safe to use on coloured fabrics.
Unlike conventional fabric conditioners, this homemade version 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 washing machine every time you do a load of laundry. Double win!
Why You Should Ditch The Shop-Bought Fabric Conditioner
Not convinced by homemade fabric conditioner? Here are four reasons to ditch the softener in favour of an effective eco-friendly alternative.
1. Fabric conditioner is terrible for some of your clothes and towels
Fabric conditioner works by applying a thin, waxy coating to your laundry. This coating has to be water-resistant in order to survive the washing process.
The issue here is that this waterproof coating makes your clothes feel softer, however, it 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 odours.
The chemical coating can also make your towels less absorbent over time. It also reduces the performance of sweat-resistant sportswear.
Fabric conditioner is also harsh on cotton or bamboo clothing, which normally absorbs light sweat on its own. As soon as fabric conditioner is introduced, that absorption is lost.
And 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 odour-causing bacteria.
2. Some conventional brands aren’t vegetarian or vegan
Rather alarmingly, some fabric conditioners 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 colourful 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 carcinogens, developmental toxins, and allergens that can contribute to eczema.
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 fat, they can also clog up your washing machine (especially if it’s a front-loading one) and pipes.
Fabric conditioner can also encourage the growth of mould 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. This leaves a residue that only encourages the growth of bacteria and black mould throughout your whole washing machine. Which does not make for pleasant reading.
If you have been using a conventional fabric conditioner, then it’s really easy to clean the bacteria and mould from your washing machine. Check out my guide on how to clean a washing machine to banish bacteria and mould for good.