7 Substitute for Fabric Softener: Safe and Eco-Friendly

man holding fabric softener and clothes

Fabric softener has been an essential part of our laundry routine for decades, leaving our clothes soft, fresh, and static-free. The brands and their advertisements always promote it as necessary for keeping our clothes soft and wrinkle-free. Recently, a discussion has been around about “Fabric softeners are dangerous to the environment.” But is this true?

The answer is Yes. 70% of the fabric softeners have a D or F rating. As per the EWG, multiple chemicals in the softener, such as Quaternary Compound Fabrics, Artificial fragrances, Preservatives, and colors, harm the environment and the people using it. 

While you could opt for an eco-friendly fabric softener, there are products available across your kitchen and bathroom that you can use as a fabric softener alternative. Here are seven products you can use as a substitute for fabric softeners.

Has your fabric softener become thick? If yes, you must read: How to fix thick fabric softener?

Best Substitutes for Fabric Softeners?

We have seven of the best alternatives if you’re out of fabric softener or looking for eco-friendly alternatives. 

  1. Vinegar
  2. Baking soda
  3. Wool dryer balls
  4. Aluminum foil
  5. Air drying
  6. Hair conditioner
  7. Tennis ball

1. Vinegar

White vinegar is a popular alternative to fabric softeners; it helps reduce static cling and keeps the fabric soft. The Vinegar smell also dissipates after some time when you air-dry your clothes.

Vinegar, specifically white vinegar, contains acetic acid, which helps to break down mineral deposits and residue that can make fabrics feel stiff and rough. Vinegar comes to the rescue by neutralizing the electric charge that causes static cling. Here’s how you can use it –

  • Mix one cup of water with half a cup of vinegar.
  • Stir until mixed.
  • You can also add a few drops of essential oils if you like scented clothes.
  • Add this mixture to the final rinse cycle.
  • For garments with stubborn odors, pre-soak them in a mixture of water and vinegar for about 30 minutes before washing.
white vinegar bottle

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda also known as sodium bicarbonate is another readily available alternative and a good substitute for fabric softeners. The alkaline nature of baking soda makes it an effective fabric softener. It helps to regulate the pH level of the water, which in turn aids in the softening process.

It works wonders by keeping the fabric soft and eliminating odor. Add ½ cup of baking soda to the final rinse cycle.

baking soda powder

3. Wool Dryer Balls

Wool-dryer balls are reusable balls made of 100% wool. Here’s how you can use them –

  • Take a 100% wool yarn, wrap it around your fingers, and make a ball approximately double the size of your fist.
  • Make sure to tightly secure the end of the wool so that it doesn’t unwind in the machine.
  • As a first step, wash the woolen ball in hot water; this will remove any lint in the wool and make it ready for use.

Experiment with the number of dryer balls based on the size of your load and personal preference.

Related: What do dryer balls do?

Related: Dryer Balls vs. Dryer Sheets.

wool dryer balls for soften clothes

4. Aluminum Foils

The aluminum foil acts as a conductor of electricity, dissipating the static charges that build up in the dryer. As a result, your clothes come out with fewer static cling issues, making them easier to handle and wear. Tear a sheet of aluminum foil and roll it to create a ball-like shape. The ball should be around 3 inches in diameter. Toss the ball in at your final rinse cycle and watch it work magic.

aluminum foil balls

5. Air Drying

Air-drying clothes results in less damage to clothes which help to keep the clothes softer. The absence of heat also helps prevent fading the color of the clothes.

Related: Minimum temperature for drying clothes outside

air dry clothes in garden

6. Hair Conditioner

Yes, a hair conditioner can also be used as a fabric softener. The same properties that make hair conditioners effective in smoothing and softening hair can be applied to your clothes as well. Follow the steps below to use this fantastic alternative.

  • Mix four cups of hot water with ½ cup of hair conditioner in a bowl.
  • Stir until it’s mixed. Do not shake or stir vigorously; otherwise, the mixture will become foamy.
  • Add just one cup of this mixture to the last wash cycle. 
  • You can store the leftovers in a bottle and use it for up to 6 months.
hair conditioners

7. Tennis Ball

For the simplest alternative, you can use a tennis ball as a substitute for a fabric softener. It helps in reducing static and wrinkles from clothes. It’s also important to be careful and use a clean tennis ball, not the one lying in your garage for years.

adding tennis ball for softening clothes

Why Should You Choose Substitute for Fabric Softener?

Choosing a substitute for fabric softener offers several benefits: eco-friendly options reduce chemical exposure, save money, and are gentle on sensitive skin.

Fabric softeners available in the market use a range of chemicals to maintain the colors in your clothes and keep them wrinkle-free, which weakens the fibers in your clothes. You can achieve the same results by using at-home products and protecting the environment and yourself.

Is Fabric Softener Necessary for Clothes?

The straight answer is No. If you still need to enhance the softness of your clothes, you can use the alternatives for it. Synthetic fabric softeners can harm your skin and health over time, so avoiding the softeners sold in the market is best.

Related: Can you use fabric softener as a detergent?

Can You Use Fabric Softener Alternatives on All Clothes?

Whether or not to use these alternatives on a particular fabric depends upon the type of the fabric. Here are a few things you can consider:

1. Fabric Type

Some fabrics, such as cotton or linen, benefit from fabric softener or their alternatives, as they can help reduce static, soften the fibers, and make the fabric feel softer. On the other hand, since synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon are less prone to wrinkling, it’s not advisable to use any softeners for them.

2. Sensitivities or Allergies

While using the alternatives, it’s good to consider any skin allergies you have. If you think using vinegar or baking soda is causing itching, it’s good to dilute them before use.

3. Specific Garment Requirements

Some fabrics, such as towels and sportswear, may not work well with fabric softeners as they can reduce their absorbency rate and affect their performance. So, it’s good to check the wash care label on clothes before using fabric softeners or their alternatives.

  • Does vinegar act like fabric softener?

    Yes, vinegar act as a natural fabric softener, reducing static cling and making clothes softer.

  • Can you substitute detergent for fabric softener?

    No, detergent cannot be directly substituted for fabric softener as they serve different purposes in the laundry process.


Let’s ditch the harsh chemicals, switch to healthier alternatives for fabric softeners, and protect the environment one wash-cycle at a time.

Several substitutes for fabric softeners are vinegar, baking soda, aluminum foil, and hair conditioner. These alternatives can help soften clothes and reduce static cling.

Related: Can I put fabric softener in the bleach dispenser?

Related: Can you wash clothes without detergent?

Related: Can you use body wash as laundry detergent?

Related: Substitute for laundry detergent