Cost Cutters: How To Stretch Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets

One way to save money and trim expenses from the household budget is to make DIY cleaning & laundry products. Most recipes require basic, everyday items you likely have in the cupboard already and in most cases, they are simple to mix, bottle and store for future use.

For those that have a favorite commercial product, you can also experiment and learn how to use them in a different way than suggested so that they last longer (which means you’ll be buying them less frequently).

Sometimes you just run out and need a quick DIY substitute until you can get to the store and replenish your stock. Whatever your motivation, there’s surely a solution for you on this page!

Over the years I’ve accumulated lots of tried & true homemade fabric softeners and dryer sheets (some scented too) along with ways to stretch preferred commercial products without losing their effectiveness.

Interested in taking a peek at what I have documented so far? I’ve organized a bunch of recommendations here for you in a quick tip list (because that’s how things roll here on Tipnut…so efficient!).

Towards the bottom of the page you’ll find a few recipes and projects that are more detailed but just as easy to whip up.

Lots of goodies, I’m sure you’ll find something here to add to your own tried & true repertoire of household hacks and budget savers :).

Homemade Solutions, Recipes & Tips

  1. Soak a washcloth in full strength liquid fabric softener. Wring out excess, then lay out to dry first before using–helps prevent staining garments the first time. When ready: toss in the dryer and use again and again until it no longer works. Resoak when needed (you should be able to do a few dozen loads per soak).
  2. Using 1/4 cup vinegar in your rinse cycle can do the job. You can set aside a jug just for this purpose and add about 2 dozen drops of your favorite essential oil to the jug if you’d like (or as much EO as you deem necessary for best results).
  3. In a pail combine 1 gallon of water and 1 cup concentrated fabric softener. Dip a sponge or washcloth in the liquid, squeeze out excess and toss in with the load. Seal pail tight when stored.
  4. Pour fabric softener and hot water in a spray bottle (50/50 ratio) and lightly mist wet laundry before starting the dryer. Two or three good shots should do it. You could also just spritz a clean washcloth and toss that in.
  5. Cut your favorite commercial dryer sheets in thirds or halves, one strip should be sufficient per load.
  6. Homemade Fabric Softener: So easy! Combine equal parts hair conditioner and water then store in spray bottle. Spritz a washcloth or sponge then toss in with a dryer load.
  7. Stretcher: Try about 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount that they recommend on the bottle.
  8. 1/8 cup baking soda added to laundry and 1/4 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle.
  9. Use a Downy ball if you have one–just use vinegar instead.

Here’s a more detailed recipe you can try for a homemade batch of softener:

1 part Vinegar
1 part Baking Soda
2 parts Hot Water

  • Place a pail large enough to hold double the amount of ingredients in the kitchen sink or bathtub. Mix the baking soda and water in the pail, stir till the powder is dissolved. Then add the vinegar.
  • There will be plenty of fizzing with this when first mixed, so a big pail will come in handy to account for this. Once it’s stopped fizzing, pour into clean bottles, cap, then use 1/4 cup per rinse cycle.
  • Updated Info: The baking soda won’t be completely dissolved, just shake the bottle to mix the batch up before adding to the rinse cycle.

A Lovely Scented Option:

Cheryl sent in this one that is enhanced with your favorite essential oils.

I’ve had good success with this recipe and enjoy trying different fragrances just to keep things interesting. The scent is light once clothes have been dried and you can increase the amount of essential oils if the fragrance isn’t strong enough for you.


1 C. baking soda
1 1/4 C. warm water
8 C. white vinegar
Essential Oils


  • First mix the vinegar and water together then add the baking soda gradually, stirring the whole time. You will want to make sure to use a large pail to accommodate the fizzing activity from the bicarb/vinegar reaction.
  • Use a funnel to pour this mixture into a washed, gallon sized milk jug (plastic), add 1/3 teaspoon of your favorite essential oil, cap and seal then shake well.
  • To use: Shake each time before use, adding 1/2 to 1 cup at the start of the rinse cycle.

Thanks for sharing Cheryl!

For essential oil ideas, consider germ fighting gems like Eucalyptus or Tea Tree. If scent is what you’re after, consider lavender or even citrus favorites like orange or lemon.

Flannel Strips Instructions:
(these can be reused over and over again)

Flannel pieces
4 TBS liquid softener
10 TBS water

  • Cut strips of flannel from old pajamas or leftover remnants from sewing and cut into 3″ x 5″ pieces (approximately).
  • Stack flannel strips in a cleaned margarine tub (large size) or plastic container (cleaned baby wipes container works well too). Combine the liquid ingredients together, then pour evenly over top of stacked flannel.
  • Seal container and shake well.

You can stack several dozen strips with this mixture. Leave sealed for 2 or 3 days, then add one flannel piece per load–squeeze out excess if necessary (it should be just damp). Keep container sealed at all times. Wash these each time after use, then keep them on hand to make another batch when needed.

Herbal Bags For Scented Laundry:
*First published September 27, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization

Fresh and fragrant scents can be achieved chemical free with easy to make lavender bags. Lavender buds give the benefit of a natural moth repellent, sleep aid and a natural antibacterial.

Use 1/4 cup vinegar in your rinse cycle (for static cling help, up the amount to 1/2 cup if needed) and toss the herbal sachets in the dryer for fresh smelling laundry. For optimal benefit, select organic lavender for this project.

Materials Needed:

5″ x 5″ cotton muslin or cheesecloth squares (2)


  • Make large “tea bags” out of the muslin or cheesecloth squares, leaving an opening at the top to fill with lavender. Stitch the top shut. No need to sew fancy, just place the squares together and sew a single seam along the top about 1/4″ from the edge.
  • Roughly squeeze the pouches before tossing in with wet laundry. When items are done the fragrance is light, not overwhelming at all. Especially nice to include with loads of bedding (sweet, fragrant dreams).
  • These are reusable! When the lavender is no longer doing its job, take a seam ripper and open about 2″ on one end, empty the bag, refill and sew shut. For one last kick at the can, crush the spent buds then toss around your carpet. Let sit for about an hour then vacuum.

Tip: Make more than one bag so that the same one isn’t in one load after another, alternate them so each pouch has a chance to cool down before being re-used.

Related Posts


    • Charlane

    I use dryer sheets to remove dog hair in my dryer and on the clothes, since I have 2 dogs. Any idea what would work for that?

      • Susan Butterfield

      i have found an old bath mitt with a rough loofah side slightly dampened, will sometimes work. hope this helps.

    • Chris

    I noticed some recipes say to mix vinegar and baking soda, but does mixing vinegar (an acid) and baking soda (a base) not create carbon dioxide? From what I know, mixing acids with bases just makes a neutral solution.

    • Susan Butterfield

    A great tip for using tumble dryer sheets is, when packing away bed linen after summer or winter, just pop a few sheets in with the items being stored before you close the bags, and when you come to reuse the items, they will have a lovely scent. any used sheets can be re-used by sprinkling some essential oils on them and use them the same way as the new sheets.

    • Sheila

    After reading these posts, vinegar seems to be the “magic” ingredient so I’m trying something new. I’m thinking it should help “stretch” my current bottle of fabric softener I bought by adding vinegar & water to dilute it. My thought is that it should eliminate fabric softener staining that sometimes occurs when you accidentally spill some directly on your clothes, the vinegar should help enhance the softening, and the extra water should make it less likely to clog up your dispenser. I’ll let you know how well it works after a few test loads!

    • Kathryn

    I hate my high efficiency washer. Whites are dingy after a few washes with detergent and bleach and highest water level allowed. Vinegar helps but I have to be there to Pause the washer and add it to the rinse. Borax helps but I know the clothes are not getting clean because the dryer lint
    seems to have dirt in it and the dryer barrel has dirt in the seams. I’ve
    followed the man’fctr’s directions carefully and contacted Customer Service
    once. Their reply was a phone number for contacting a further service. Have not done that yet. Anyone else having problems with HE washers not cleaning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *