How To Soften Clothes Without Fabric Softener

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We’ve always been using fabric softeners to make our lives easier and our clothes ready to be folded instead of going to the ironing process. We don’t want to iron clothes all the time because it’s not only a hassle but it is also a waste of energy because of the used heat.

However, we might not realize that most commercial fabric softeners contain harsh chemicals that will get into our rivers and streams. These will be toxic to animals, including fish and livestock, and eventually, settle in our stomachs – a scary thought!

This is why many environmentalists are pushing on ways to soften our clothes without having to depend on a fabric softener all the time. Here’s an eco-friendly guide on how to make your clothing items soft without having to use any harsh chemicals.

How To Soften Clothes Without Fabric Softener


How To Soften Cotton Fabric

Cotton fabric is common in most clothing items, such as t-shirts. If your clothes are made of cotton or a cotton blend, you can use this recipe to make your shirt (or any item of clothing) soft again.

Vinegar Fabric Softener

Here’s a recipe that you can use for your stiff t-shirts that are made with 100% organic cotton. The materials and ingredients are easy to find at home so it’s simple to DIY without a lot of effort.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1 cup clear vinegar
  • bowl
  • measuring cup and spoon


  1. On the large bowl, add baking soda using the measuring cups and spoons.
  2. Slowly pour in the vinegar, which will cause an effervescence effect.
  3. Stir the mixture using the spoon until it produces no lumps. This ensures that all of the baking soda dissolves into the mixture.
  4. Pour your mixture into the washing machine along with your t-shirt in question.
  5. Set the cycle to a normal wash. You can also set it to the right temperature if it’s a colored shirt to avoid losing the color or print. Reading the manufacturer labels on the shirt will help.
  6. Dry the t-shirt normally.

How To Soften Stiff Cotton

If your cotton fabric or shirt is very stiff, you’ll need to work with a salt solution. This method requires a lot of patience but if it pulls through, it is both eco-friendly and economical. Salt is easily available in the supermarket or grocery store so it’s a convenient homemade DIY cloth softener without the use of commercial fabric softeners.

Simple Salt Fabric Softener

In this recipe, we use salt to soften cotton and other similar natural fibers. Most of the materials and ingredients here are also simple that you can find at home or your local grocery store.

What you’ll need:

  • salt
  • lukewarm water
  • bucket


  1. For every quart of water, add 1/2 cup of salt to your bucket.
  2. Put in your laundry and soak it for 2 to 3 days.

Stronger Salt Solution as Fabric Softener

If your clothes are simply too stiff, you can try this stronger recipe, which also uses salt and hot water. Most of the time, hot water not only softens fabrics but also helps disinfect items, so it’s a great choice if you suspect that your clothes are a little moldy. This recipe also has more detailed procedures.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup salt
  • large pot with lid
  • water
  • stove
  • wooden spoon
  • colander
  • t-shirt or item of clothing to soften


  1. Pour water into the pot.
  2. Add your salt and stir using the wooden spoon.
  3. When the salt has dissolved after stirring, boil the solution.
  4. After reaching the boiling point, wet your shirt or item of clothing into your sink.
  5. Gently place the shirt into the salt solution in the pot. Using a wooden spoon will help you safely put the shirt inside.
  6. Turn the flame to low.
  7. Leave the shirt in the pot for 30 to 45 minutes with the lid on.
  8. Carefully take out the shirt from the pot and place it in a colander to drain.
  9. Let the shirt cool down for a few minutes.
  10. Rinse the shirt to get rid of the excess salt.
  11. Toss it in the washing machine and wash as usual.

While we’re already using eco-friendly and natural methods to soften your clothes, we’d prefer that you use eco-friendly detergent for your washing machine to maintain the natural theme.

Other Softening Methods

For extra strength, you can also use these other DIY methods of softening your clothes:

  1. Pumice stone. All you need to do is to rub the pumice stone onto the clothes as needed before you soak it into any of the solutions mentioned above. Wash the clothes as you regularly would.
  2. Sandpaper or scouring pads. This method works well for shirts with prints because it allows you to manually target the shirt fabric without ruining the print. Start with the hemline and avoid the printed area. Soak it in the salt solution and then wash as normal.

Dry Clothes Without Dryer Sheet

Although an economical choice for some household owners, dryer sheets are linked to various health problems, such as cancer, asthma, and respiratory issues. That’s because VOCs, such as acetaldehyde and benzene, were detected from dryer sheets when used with a dryer vent.

So, is it possible to dry your clothes without having to resort to dryer sheets? We say that it is – with the help of the following natural alternatives:


A common household favorite when it comes to going green with cleaning, vinegar, specifically either apple cider or white vinegar, is a great way to replace your dryer sheets. All you need to do is to add a quarter cup of vinegar to your regular wash cycle and presto – it will help soften your clothes!

You can also add vinegar to a washcloth and toss it into the dryer with your other clothes. If you are worried about the scent, don’t be – vinegar scent will quickly dissipate just as if you used it to clean and mop your flooring.

Baking soda

Add 1 tsp. of baking soda to your regular wash cycle to help soften your clothes naturally. Baking soda is yet another common household favorite when it comes to DIY and eco-friendly ways to cleaning the home. Aside from that, baking soda also gets rid of bad odors and is technically odorless!

With that said, don’t combine baking soda with vinegar because you’ll get a volcano-like chemical reaction, which is an inconvenient mess. Only use either of the two if you want to soften your clothes naturally.

Dryer balls

Removing static is the primary purpose of using dryer balls. Many alternative dryer balls out there can be used as a replacement for dryer sheets. Because dryer balls are typically reusable, they won’t end up in the landfill and will do the job nicely for your laundry. Here are two common kinds of dryer balls to consider

Wool dryer balls

Because wool is natural, organic, and sustainable, they’re a great alternative for softening your clothes. Although wool isn’t exactly a vegan choice, it will work for about a year with regular usage. Just pop in your wool dryer balls into the dryer and it will do its job.

Essential oil dryer balls

For people who are fans of natural fragrances, you might want to try dryer balls that have essential oils in them. Essential oils do not have VOCs or harsh chemicals since they were processed naturally and from organic ingredients (make sure you buy authentic essential oils, which are pricier than cheap imitations!).

Add about 2 to 3 drops of your favorite essential oil onto your dryer balls and let them dry. Then, you can use them as normal in your dryer. Not only will it help you dry your clothes faster, but it will also add natural fragrances that will last for 3 to 6 washes.

Aluminum Foil balls

If you’re a vegan and you don’t prefer the wool type, you can use aluminum foil balls for removing static. All you need to do is make a ball out of regular aluminum foil and put it in the dryer. This is a cost-effective way of taking out static from your clothes.

Reusable dryer sheets

If you still prefer using dryer sheets but want to lessen the impact on the environment, you can use reusable types. They are made of cloths and natural fabrics, which are eco-friendlier since they don’t contain harsh chemicals or artificial fragrances.

Another fact that makes them environment-friendly is that they will last for months, as compared to disposable types. This means that less waste goes into the landfill when you switch to these reusable items.

Fragrance-free dryer sheets

One common complaint about dryer sheets is that their scents are artificial and are harmful to the environment. Not to mention, most people might have allergies to strong chemical smells.

If there are your concerns, you can opt for a scent-free dryer sheet. Many dryer sheets out there are becoming eco-friendlier and have an unscented version, which not only appeals to people with scent allergies but also the environment.

When a dryer sheet doesn’t contain artificial fragrances, it will less likely harm the environment since you are leaking out fewer harsh chemicals.

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