Alternative fabric softener and laundry de-static stuff

Hey! Here’s a little discovery: hair conditioner works in the laundry just like fabric softener!

I’ve always disliked fabric softener, because it gums up the washer (or dryer, if it comes in the form of dryer sheets) and because IMHO it smells ungodly awful. I really, really, really dislike industrial-strength perfumes. Weirdly, I want my wash to smell clean, not like some chemist’s idea of what some vague consumer imagines stinks pretty. So, as you might surmise, I don’t keep any of the gunk on hand.

Cassie the Corgi, a furry little character, sleeps on the bed on top of two throws, laid over the blankets to collect her hair. And collect hair they do!

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Washing the doggy bedding often doesn’t get all the hair out. Then the throws get staticky in the washer, and the darned dog hair glues itself to the fabric. Sunday afternoon the throws were especially furry; two turns through the washer and dryer did nothing to remove the dog hair. Called La Maya to see if I could mooch a dryer sheet; no answer. The second-to-last thing I wanted to do was buy a package of fabric softener gunk that I’ll never use; last thing was to sleep with bedding that stinks of industrial chemicals. {gag!}

After much cerebration, the light finally dawned:
Hair conditioner works very much like fabric softener. One of the things it’s supposed to do is defuse static in your long, flowing locks. And because I buy the mildest-smelling hair products I can find, the stuff in my shower doesn’t stink!

So I poured about an eighth of a cup of Kirkland’s best into the washer with the doggy throws. And darned if it didn’t work! Between the washer and the dryer, almost all the magnetic dog hair rinsed or shook out.

Turns out I’m not the first to think of this. E-how recommends diluting hair conditioner 1:10 and using it just like fabric softener. Experience shows this is a good plan: dumping it in undiluted left some blobs on the throws, so I had to run them through the rinse cycle a second time.

Another site, Creative Homemaking, suggests working a tablespoon of hair conditioner into a damp washrag and tossing it into the dryer, just like a fabric softener sheet.

A third idea, which is all over the Web, proposes that the happy homemaker toss a wadded-up ball of aluminum foil into the dryer with the clothing. I could find only one person reporting that this didn’t work. I haven’t tried it, but I may in the future. Doesn’t look like it would do any harm, anyway. One possible problem with hair conditioner is that if fabric softener gums up your washer or your dryer, hair conditioner may do the same. Tinfoil presumably wouldn’t do that.

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Trevor @ Financial Nut March 9, 2009 at 9:00 am

Wow… really? Conditioner?

That’s cool. Found your site via Wisebread’s top 100 pf blogs.

Great stuff!

Cathy Bolger March 9, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Good to know about the hair conditioner. I make my own laundry detergent and it smells clean, just clean! 2 bars Fels Naptha soap grated in the food processer. 2 cups Arm and Hammer washing soda and 2 cups 20 Mule Team Borax. Use only 2 tablespoons per load. I make this amount every 4 months and it lasts for my husband and I. I spend appx $10 a year on laundry detergent!

Lisa K June 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Cathy this is how I started and then my maintenance man saw me making it and told me a cheaper way to make it. You cook 1 T real soap with 1/8 cup ea. soda and borax and a cup or two of water. Mix with cool water to make a gallon. It actually gels overnight! I’ve done it his way ever since. It works just like the concentrated powder did. I use Vinegar in the rinse and it neutralizes and freshens everything. I’m going to try conditioner to see what it does.

Chance March 10, 2009 at 2:50 am

Wow! Great tip! I’ve been experimenting with home made laundry powder (like the commenter above) but the problem of electrified german shepard dog hair remains. Problem solved and many thanks to you.

I think I will dilute and place in a dedicated bottle that is a recycled fabric softener bottle so that other household members will use it – they are leery of my homebrew stuff but putting it in the regular bottle would work like a charm.

kcrobert March 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Try a Fur-Zoff to remove hair from fabric. It is a great eco-friendly product and won’t cost you much money, $10 and lasts forever! Works great – http://www.furzoff.net

RecycleCindy March 18, 2009 at 8:57 am

Some very interesting ideas as alternatives to store bought fabric softeners. I want to try the foil ball. I wonder if you can use it over and over again? I’m going to try this idea tonight.

funnyaboutmoney1 March 18, 2009 at 4:38 pm

They say you can use the foil ball time after time. It will be interesting to see if it works!

Pam March 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I use vinegar in my ‘Downy ball’ automatic dispenser. It works great–no static and NO SMELL at all. It rinses out and if there is a faint odor the dryer takes care of it!

Kate April 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I have heard that tennis balls work well in the dryer to keep static down and fluff up clothes. Haven’t tried it myself though…

funny April 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm

@ Kate: Yes. So does a very clean white tennis shoe.

Joyce October 22, 2011 at 9:45 am

The aluminum all thing is scary I think. We are just now getting aluminum out of baking powder and other things because of it’s probable link to Alzheimer’s. In some Alzheimer groups they say that the link is quite definite – so watch your deodorants. FYI just to let you know, not only is fabric softener, liquid and sheets, the most toxic thing in your household tool-chest, it is made from horses usually and sometimes cows. I don’t think that using animals is exactly environmentally friendly. Good old Proctor & Gamble are still testing on animals, too. So beware of that if you want to make your footprint small. :)

Tracy March 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Thanks for this. I have a polar-tech (all polyester) blanket and microfiber sheets (all new, trying them out) and boy, do they attract dog, cat, and people hair. So I just tried the conditioner in the washer, and (in the dryer) rubbed some on a damp washcloth, and put in a ball of foil. All together they helped quite a bit. Part of the solution is to not overdry your items and build up static on them. Use low heat and barely dry them. I feel much better about my bed now!

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