Natural Homemade Fabric Softener (with a surprising ingredient from your kitchen)

All-Natural Homemade Fabric Softener | In Jennie's Kitchen

The term all-natural is so over used these days it’s become a bit cringe worthy for me to read, let alone write. Still, in my search for soft, fluffy towels again, I decided it was time to figure out how to make an All-Natural Homemade Fabric Softener.

It began with a visit to my friend’s house for Easter last month. While we were cooking up a brunch big enough to feed 20, even though there were only seven of us, I asked Carol where she bought her bathroom hand towels. They were SO fluffy and soft. She said Target, and the brand was Threshold. I have the same brand towels. Mine do not beckon me to curl up with them like a security blanket. Carol told me it was good old Downy.

I know Downy very well. My mother used it growing up, and probably still does. We all do what works for us, and while I’ve certainly made my own compromises with cleaning products, I’ve been working my way towards more natural, less chemical-based, solutions for a few years now. That’s how I fell down the rabbit hole of researching DIY recipes to make my own fabric softener.

I decided to start out with a vinegar based softener first. There are also quite a few salt-based recipes out there that I’d like to give a try in the future. I’ll preface by saying that if you want to keep things super simple, white vinegar is all you need—yes, really. Just one ingredient will suffice to soften your fabrics. Add 1/4 cup to the softener dispenser on your machine.

If you want to give it a little upgrade, you can add some essential oils, and even fresh herbs (or the essential oil of herbs—thyme and mint have natural disinfecting properties). Using vinegar as a softener is also a great way to keep your washing machine fresh and clean. You can take this softener solution one step further, and make a countertop cleaner with it, too. Mix 1/2 cup of the vinegar solution with 1/2 of water in a spray bottle. It’s great for cutting through grease, and wiping away germs. As for cleaning away dirt, it takes a heavier duty soap solution—we’ll talk more about that in the future once I’ve settled on a “recipe” I love.

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All-Natural Homemade Fabric Softener (with a surprising ingredient from your kitchen)


  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 10 drops essential oils orange, lavender & mint are some favorites
  • Few sprigs of fresh thyme but only if you have it on hand


  • Combine the vinegar and essential oil in a jar. Cover & shake before each use. You can tuck in some fresh thyme or mint, too, if you have an abundant amount like I do in the garden.
  • To use, add 1/4 cup of the vinegar solution to the softener dispenser in your washing machine.
  • Note: you'll smell a little vinegar after the wash is done but your clothes will not smell like vinegar (promise!).


  • Josie

    Downy isn’t an ideal solution for fluffly towels as it repels water. Vinegar is how you strip your towels of Downy once added, though, so your recipe is safe 🙂

    I am a huge fan of drying my cheap-o towels with a 3 pack of cheap tennis balls. They’re way better at fluffing things up than the wool balls (but I wouldn’t use them on clothing either, they’ll cause more pilling).

  • Jennie

    I find the wool balls are great at reducing static cling, but don’t see any difference in terms of fluffiness.

  • Delora

    What eco-friendly soap do you use? We started using Charlie’s Soap about 8 years ago since it’s fragrance-free and was good for cloth diapers, and one of the best side-effects is it doesn’t cause crunchy towels or any static cling at all.

  • Jennie

    I saw this in the food co-op today, and was curious about it. I’m never consistent with dish detergent (for hand washing, I don’t have a dishwasher), but only because I’ve never found one that I felt was amazing. I usually buy what’s the least expensive at the health food store base don what seems to have an okay ingredient list. As for hand soap, I’ve mostly use Mrs. Meyers, but I’m not convinced it’s the best eco-friendly choice. Regarding laundry soap, I use Seventh Generation.

  • Zoe

    Hello! This is rather off topic but I have been trying to do some baking with cassava flour and came across your brownies recipe. I don’t have such a large brownie pan but do have a silicone 8×8 pan which can be adjusted to be made smaller! Do you think halving the recipe might work? If so, how might you approach the 3 eggs situation? Apologies for all the questions and not to worry if you haven’t the time to think about old recipes 🙂 t

  • Jennie

    Hi Zoe,

    Not a bother asking, and I’m sure someone else has been wondering the same thing about that brownie recipe. I’d recommended scaling it down to 2/3 the recipe for an 8×8 pan, so that makes the egg issue easy (you’ll only need 2 eggs instead of three). For future recipes where you need to halve 3 eggs, buying local, farm fresh eggs sometimes makes this easier for me. I find there’s a variety of sizes in the container, and some are medium (you can by medium eggs in the grocery store, too, I believe). Using 2 medium eggs will equal roughly 1 1/2 large eggs. Hope that helps!


  • Zoe

    Thank you so much for your response! Very kind of you to reply to a question about an old recipe as I’m sure you would rather focus on new content for the blog! Looking forward to trying out the brownies 😀 Will be experimenting with your pancakes too!
    I would be interested to hear if you ever experimented more with cassava flour – I saw a cookie picture on your Food52 article but couldn’t track down the recipe, and would be intrigued to hear if you had any opinions on whether it could ever successfully make up part of a gluten free scone recipe too. I’ve been searching what to do with it, but most recipes seem to be those for quite specialist diets (nut and egg free on top off gluten free) and in my experience they can be a little less successful. Really appreciate what you have provided already though so no worries if you haven’t the time to reply to this extra query!
    Thank you again for your response!