Natural Laundry Fragrance and Softener

A natural and green method to replace dryer sheets, fabric softener AND add some heavenly fragrance to your freshly washed clothes. And it’s so terribly easy!


Natural Ideas for Laundry Detergent and Softener - No toxins!

Once I made the switch from commercial laundry detergent to making my own green, natural detergent for a fraction of the cost, I have really missed the lovely fragrance that came with commercial detergents. There is something truly comforting when taking scented clothes out of the dryer – I think it makes us think they are more clean. Even though I add lavender essential oil (where to buy high quality essential oils) to my laundry detergent , the clothes currently come out devoid of scent, smelling more like a hot dryer drum. Not unpleasant, but I’d rather have a pleasant smell since I’m facing a huge load of clothes to fold and put away.

So, how do you add fragrance without the chemicals to keep it natural and green? I now employ an extremely easy and very effective way to add some fragrance – it’s 100% natural, non-toxic and oh so heavenly!

Fabric Softener

  • Wool Dryer Balls (Buy them on Amazon here or make them yourself with my tutorial)
  • AND/OR add white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine (don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar once dry!)
  • I usually use both and find the combo is pretty effective.
  • Your favorite essential oils if you’d like a scent – my favs are Purification, Citrus Fresh, Lavender, Lemon and Thieves for laundry (where to buy high quality essential oils)

Natural Laundry Fragrance

  • You need wool dryer balls or 2 rags or wash cloths
  • A glass spray bottle (like this pretty glass one) and water
  • Your favorite essential oils – my favs are Purification, Citrus Fresh, Lavender, Lemon and Thieves for laundry (where to buy high quality essential oils)

Sprinkle the Oil Directly Out of the Bottle

I’ve done this two different ways. One, is to take the wool dryer balls or wash cloths and sprinkle the oil directly out of the bottle, like in the picture. The pros are that it’s really easy and leaves the strongest scent. Only con is that it uses more of the oil at a time, thus, more money.

Natural Laundry Scent using Diluted Lavender

Dilute the Oil and Spray It On

Another method, which makes the essential oil last longer but the scent isn’t as strong, is to dilute the oil in water and spray it on the dryer balls or wash cloths using a spray bottle. It’s also easy to do. I fill up the bottle with water about 3/4 full, then add the oil until it smells strong enough for me. I think this might be different for everyone, so I didn’t want to write a “recipe” for it.

I’m crazy about the lavender fragrance – while my clothes are drying, the whole house fills with the heavenly scent and is really calming and soothing. Then, I get to smell it all day long on mine and my kids’ clothes! Now I feel complete – I wash my clothes without chemicals and they come out smelling fresh and wonderful. It almost makes the laundry chore bearable, almost.

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life


See my other laundry posts!

Homemade Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent (it really works!)

Homemade Fabric Stain Remover

About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. Cassandra says:

    Love this! I use this same method and it works great! I have been using sweet orange oil and I just love the scent it leaves on our clothes. I have only have 3 dryer balls (will be making more soon) and I put about 8-10 drops on each and the scent lasts for about 2-3 loads. A bottle (I think it’s a 2 oz bottle??) only cost me about $3.50 which was super cheap especially if you compare it to those expensive and toxic dryer sheets!

  2. doesn’t this method leave oil stains on clothing?

  3. Michele Lusk says:

    This sounded so good that I just ordered the dryer balls and lavender and orange essential oils on Amazon. Love my Amazon Prime. No shipping and it will be here in two days.

  4. Great idea! If you use the washcloths, a couple of safety pins will also help reduce static cling. Remember that all essential oils are not created alike, and many of them are just as synthetic as the fragrances in commercial detergents and fabric softeners.

    • This is a great idea,but I currently am not using a dryer. Do you have suggestions for a liquid fabric softener for the washer ?

      • Leticia Ensley says:

        for liquid fabric softener use 1 bottle of conditioner your choice 1/2 cup to 1 cup white vinegar and 4 to 6 cups of water mix together and use apx 1/8 cup or med line on a downy ball this is what I use no static and cheap cause with coupons I pay very little for the conditioner oh and I put it in an old Hawaiian Punch container hope this helps you can also find other alternatives if ya want on yotube as well

    • Great tip, Lindsey! Another tip from Woolzies is to throw in some balls of aluminum foil – great way to reuse the foil, too, instead of throwing it in the recycling or trash.

      • I love your blog, but I don’t quite see the ‘green’ when you’re using a dryer, doesn’t the usage of electricity to dry clothes kinda cancle out the ‘green’ benefits we’re all striving for? Clothes dry quite well on a washing line, indoors as well as outdoors.

  5. Barb, the article mentions using vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser in your washer. She says it doesn’t make your clothing smell like vinegar and deodorizes / softens clothes. I hope that helps.

    I’ve also heard adding a few drops of essential oils to the mix works well, too

  6. Does anyone know if this leaves oil marks on the clothing?

    • I have found that sometimes Dr. Bronner’s in the laundry detergent can leave oil marks, as Castile Soap is made of olive oil. So, I try to make sure the washer isn’t overfilled so the clothes get rinsed thoroughly. But I have not seen oil marks from the wool dryer balls and oil.

  7. I am wondering how much oil you put directly onto your wool balls and how often. I would love to try this.

  8. I too am wondering about any oil marks on clothing…..nobody has addressed this question yet.

  9. The link to your tutorial on how to make a dryer ball talks all about the lovely Woolsies, but I don’t see any instructions on how to make your own at home?

  10. Bridget…I did a little searching, and here is the correct link for the DIY wool dryer balls 🙂

  11. Seems everyone uses a tumble dryer. Isn’t that defeating the ‘green’ idea? I haven’t used one for a good 20 years now, but you can still use the lavender oil drops in your rinse water with a similar result.

    • Hi Kate! You are very green if you haven’t used a dryer in 20 years – do you live in a warm, dry climate? That would certainly make it easier. During the spring and summer, I hang my wash outside as much as possible, but with two small children and a third on the way, I know for me living without a dryer would just add an incredible amount of work that isn’t worth it to me. To each his own, I suppose!

  12. I am having trouble with static cling when I use the wool dryer balls. Any suggestions for this?

  13. I’ve tried the foil and still have static cling. Do you use a new ball of foil every time? Should I just keep trying more balls? I’ve tried two or three.

    • Liz, I use 6 to 8 balls per load and no aluminum foil and have no trouble with static cling, so it might be that you need to use more balls.

    • I find I get static cling if I mix synthetics and natural fibres (cottons and such). I have 12 dryer balls and still get static if I mix synthetics and natural fibers. If you don’t wash these together there shouldn’t be any static.

  14. I love my wool dryer balls, so much that I will be making them for friends and family once my hands recover from the six I made for my use. I do the oil directly on the balls then store them in a ziploc bag between uses… seems to help the scent stay stronger longer… 🙂

  15. I have never used dryer balls, because I don’t use my dryer much, but I do add essential oil to the vinegar in the fabric softener department of washing machine. Eucalyptus oil is great for socks, helps stinky feet.

  16. Where is the tutorial? The hyperlink takes me to a Woolzie giveaway that has ended …

  17. I love this idea…so many scents to choose from…Did I say I love this idea! I do! 🙂 I am a downy freak…but will change happily now.

  18. Burgundy says:

    I get stains every time I use essential oils in my laundry soap or as a laundry fragrance. I tried the oil directly on a rag in the dryer. Ended up with stains. 🙁 they do wash out over time, but its just not worth it.

  19. Thanks for sharing! I have Woolzies and had wondered if it would be ok to put some essential oil on them because that’s the only thing I miss about dryer sheets! (I LOVE lavender as well!)

  20. Dianne says:

    Can’t wait to try vinegar as a softener – does it matter how much you use per load? We have the most basic of HE machines, and it doesn’t have a softener dispenser.

  21. mari condelee says:

    Hi.. I would like too know by usin the Wool Balls/Rag or Washcloth does these items leave lint balls on the clothing.. Especially the dark clothing.. Like if you dry a towel with some clothin.. Does this also help with static cling and if not what is a solution….

    • Hi Mari! I have not had any lint left on my clothing, but I’ve only had my balls a year. That might start to happen once they deteriorate after two years or so. They don’t really help with static cling with towels – what I’ve heard really works is balls of aluminum foil!

  22. This sounds easy, for senting ,which I prefer not to sent my clothes, but how does it soften? I use dryer balls and as they soften ok, I am plagued with static cling and hate it. I have tried putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer but does not seem to help. any suggestions? thank you.

    • Hi Suzi! The best thing I’ve found to soften my clothes is using vinegar as a fabric softener in the wash. The dryer balls do okay at softening – mostly they seem to help with drying time and wrinkles. I have never experienced bad static cling, so I don’t have any solutions other than the aluminum balls. I will post your question to my readers on Facebook and see if they have any ideas for natural options!

    • Suzi – I posed the question to my followers on my Facebook page and there are some great answers for your problem! Click here to see the post.

  23. Hi.newbie to this site . And I love it! I have a question, my hand towels smell when they get wet , so bad like urine! I thought it was because they were old, but it’s happening even with fairly new ones. I use vinegar in the wash..I have tried everything. .I only buy cotton towels. I would appreciate it if anyone has any ideas! I am desperate!

    • I have the same issue, Fatima, unless I hang them up to dry after getting wet. The mildew and bacteria are what make them smell awful. So, after using, make sure they hang to dry before throwing them in the dirty laundry pile. Do you do that already? If so, then I suggest spraying them with vinegar before hanging to dry.

  24. Can you tell me what about the risk of these catching fire? I have hear never to put anything in the dryer with oil on it because of risk of fire? I love this idea if it’s safe?

  25. Just thinking out loud….how about Rosewater Hydrosol for fragrance?

  26. Hi! Love this idea, but am wondering if it is compatible with HE dryers.

    • Yes! Mine is an HE dryer and it works just fine!

      • Regarding the dryer balls and essential oil staining clothes:
        We first put the essential oils directly on the dryer balls and the oil comes off on my hands. We then put it on a kraft paper towel the oil came off on the paper towel. We had put about 8 drops of lavender and jasmine directly on the dryer balls so I’m confused why it goes on my hands, it goes on the kraft paper towels but people say it doesn’t go on their clothes? Also, someone said that the wool absorbs the oil. Actually, that is incorrect. This wool has lanolin in it which naturally repels oils, water and other stains so it is has a lower capacity to absorb the essential oils.
        No one has any issues with the essential oils going on their clothes in the dryer using the woolzies balls?
        Please let me know if I’m totally wrong on this but in our test the oil came off on everything.

        Thank you all for any help you can give on this.

        • Hi Todd! I have had the oils come off the balls and onto the clothes, but just a little bit. You’re supposed to get out oils with lemon oil, though. I’ve had more luck with the washcloth and essential oils – the washcloth absorbs them well and just gives off the scent.

  27. Jamie Jones says:

    Sara, since you shouldn’t mix Castille Soap and Vinegar as they cancel each other out, is it safe to say that you should not use vingear in the wash as a fabric softner/freshner if you are also using the homemade laundry soap recipe?

    • Well, that does make logical sense, but I find that when I add vinegar my towels and clothes still come out much softer. I’m pretty sure the vinegar is dispense AFTER the clothes are washed.

  28. Ryan Petersen says:

    Great Share!!!

    This can be one of the most helpful blogs I have ever come across on this subject.I think it’s just very good.

    Keep sharing….!!!!

  29. Lisa Hladnik says:

    Hello, I have a (silly!) question! Are dryer balls just for the dryer or can you put them in the washing machine and have the same affect? I’m looking for something to put in the washing machine not the dryer 🙂

    Thank you!

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