You’ve likely found yourself wondering if liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets is the better choice, but it may be time to think beyond options you can buy at the store. From the kitchen and bathroom to the junk drawer and Fido’s toy basket, there are several items around the house that can be used as fabric softener alternatives. Learn more about these eco-friendly and cost-effective substitutes for fabric softener.

The Simple Solution: Aluminum Foil

Looking for an affordable option made with only one item that can be found in most kitchens? Here is your answer. To make aluminum foil balls for the dryer, follow these steps:

  • Tear a sheet of aluminum foil about as large as the width of the dryer. 
  • Fold corners and edges in before balling to prevent snagging. 
  • Roll the aluminum to create a ball shape. Note: Balls should be 3-4 inches in diameter once complete.
  • Toss in the dryer.
  • Replace every few months or as you start to see them fall apart.

The Dog-Owner Option: Tennis Balls

For a seriously simple substitute for fabric softener, look no further than a tennis ball. In addition to softening clothes and eliminating static, they can also help reduce wrinkles, fluff up stuffed items and speed up dry times. Just be sure you’re using clean tennis balls and not one from your pup’s toy basket.

The Handmade Helper: Wool Dryer Balls

Feeling crafty? Creating wool dryer balls requires a bit more effort than the first two fabric softener alternatives but with some wool yarn and a pair of nylons, you’ll be on your way. 

  • Using 100% wool yarn, loop yarn around your fingers until it’s large enough to be wrapped into a ball.
  • Keep the ball round by wrapping the yarn from various angles until it’s the size of a tennis ball.
  • Cut the yarn and use a crochet hook to pull the end through the ball to keep it from unwinding in the dryer.
  • Cut one of the legs off your pair of nylons, stuff the ball inside and knot the ends. Note: Two or three dryer balls can be added to each piece of nylon, just be sure to knot the nylon between the balls. 
  • Wash the balls in the nylon in hot water and dry on high heat. That will felt the wool, making the balls are ready to use.

The Kitchen Concoction: Baking Soda & Vinegar

With a few items found in your kitchen pantry, you can mix up your own natural fabric softener. All you need is water, baking soda and vinegar, plus a few drops of essential oils if you’d like it scented.

  • Mix two parts warm water (ex: one cup) to one-part baking soda (ex: one-half cup) in a bowl 
  • Stir until mixed and add in one-part vinegar (ex: one-half cup). 
  • Optional: add in a few drops of essential oils until your mixture is scented as desired. 
  • For each load of laundry, use one-quarter cup of your mixture in the washer.

The DIY Recipe: Hair Conditioner

Another budget-friendly, natural fabric softener alternative can be made using water, vinegar and hair conditioner. Yes, you read that right—hair conditioner. To create this DIY recipe, follow these simple steps: 

  • Mix six cups of hot water and two cups of conditioner. Stir until smooth. Note: don’t shake the mixture or it will become foamy.
  • Add vinegar and pour into a container to store.
  • To use, add the mixture to your washer where you normally add liquid fabric softener.
  • Note: This recipe creates roughly a gallon, so ingredients can be halved to create a smaller batch.

Whether you’ve run out of dryer sheets or are looking to make a permanent change from store-bought options, these easy and affordable fabric softener alternatives will keep your clothes soft and fresh.