When using a standard automatic washer and dryer, a fabric softener is typically required for soft, static free clothes. Fabric softeners come in liquid or dryer sheet form, and work by coating the fabrics with a layer of chemicals. These chemicals increase the smooth feeling of fabrics and decrease static build up during tumble drying. The buildup of fabric softeners can lead to decreased absorbency, which is not ideal for items like towels and cloth diapers. Can White Vinegar be used as a fabric softener instead?
- Better for you – less chemicals on your clothes = less chemicals on your body
- Better for the Earth – natural vinegar is made from plants, a renewable resource
- Saves Money – using white vinegar costs much less per load than any liquid fabric softener*
- Clothes do not smell like vinegar after washing
- Vinegar does not impact the absorbency characteristics of fabrics
- Vinegar is better at softening clothes than at removing static
- Clothes do not have the heavy fragrance that some enjoy from fabric softener (this may be a good thing for some)
After my experimentation with aluminum foil dryer balls, I was left needing a natural fabric softener (the foil dryer balls did a great job fighting static, but some fabrics were left a little stiff). Many folks recommended using white vinegar in the rinse cycle, so I decided to try it out. I did laundry as usual with liquid detergent, but added a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. I dried the clothes with the foil dryer balls. The clothes came out soft and static free (and they didn’t smell like vinegar)! Using White Vinegar as a natural fabric softener worked great!
My only watch out with this method is to remember to add the vinegar to the rinse cycle as the water is filling, or already full. I made the silly mistake of adding the vinegar to the spin cycle, and some clothes were bleached, and smelled like vinegar when they were done. Oops!
If you don’t want to sit around waiting for the rinse cycle, you can use a fabric dispenser ball. Just pour the vinegar in the ball, and add to your wash as usual. It’s practically foolproof! Here’s a link to one if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
Have you ever tried using vinegar as a fabric softener? What other green laundry ideas do you recommend?
*By my calculations, white vinegar costs about $0.08 per load, liquid fabric softener averages around $0.12-$0.32 per load. Dryer sheets are about $0.05 each if you get the giant box at Costco.