Homemade Febreze: Testing Several Recipes

For Homemade Febreze Post


The elderly dog lies on his bed emanating old-dog smell.  He gets up from his bed and rolls around on the floor.  Sunshine hugs him, and the odor passes to her.

Sunshine gets up and runs off, her dirty feet leaving little tracks through the hallway.  She leaves a trail of odor on her way back to the bedroom as I call her to change her diaper. 

After I finish changing the stinky diaper, I track mud, grass, and leaves back out to the garden where I am working compost into the fertile but funky soil. 

At the end of the day, Sailor comes home reeking of his job.  He kisses his wife, hugs his daughter, changes his clothes, and goes out to the garage to tinker with his car.  He comes in for supper reeking of JP5 (a kind of fuel), gasoline, and old grease.

Supper is a pungent mix of garlic chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh rolls with garlic butter.

At the end of the day, my house stinks of a life well-lived, but it stinks nonetheless.  Of course I clean regularly, but the good smell invariably wars off to reveal some of the underlying funk.  The problem is that we like living in a good-smelling environment.  I like to not have to be concerned if my guests are concentrating on my conversation or on the stench emanating from the dog bed.  I like to relax in a room that smells good.  I don’t want to smell last night’s supper at lunchtime (unless we have left-overs).

 To combat the stench, I use a lot of Febreze.  It is good for extending the time between washings of the washable things, and it is especially good for the things that cannot be washed.  The difficulty with Febreze is the cost.  I can go through a small bottle in about two days.  One bottle costs $2.47.  I go through about 15 bottles a month.  2.47×15=37.05.  That is a LOT of money spent on something that is not strictly necessary.

There are some things that I can do to help offset my costs: 

  • Use Less:  Since I made the initial calculations, this household’s Febreze usage has absolutely decreased.  I am down to about 1 bottle per week.  Now my house smells funny, and I find myself doing more washing.  Obviously, this situation is not ideal.
  • Coupon to Bring Down Costs:  Couponing has been the most beneficial tactic so far.  I lucked into a sale when I had a lot of Febreze coupons.  I built up a pretty good stockpile, but I am using it quickly.
  • Make My Own:  This idea is the best one. Homemade fabric deodorizer is cheaper, and I can control the ingredients in the solution.  This is important because we are a family with sensitive skin.    

So, I went, a-google-ing, and I found four recipes for Homemade Febreze at Tipnut.  I tried them all and made up one of my own.  Here is a review of all five recipes.

Recipe #1 (My recipe)

Fill the bottle with 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water.  Add about a tablespoon of fabric softener. 

This recipe mostly failed.  The vinegar cut the smell, but it was a little like living in a pickle jar.  Obviously, I put too much vinegar it in, and not enough of the stuff that smells good.  Even though I wouldn’t use it daily, I would use it again if I had a major deodorization project (think Sailor coming home from deployment).

Recipe #2

1 Part fabric softener

1 Part white vinegar

1 Part water

I liked this recipe best.  I used it the longest, but the solution had some deal-breaking flaws.  First the things I liked:

  • It did cut the smell with a minimum of vinegar smell.
  • The vinegar smell went away quickly
  • I can choose which fabric softener to buy, and some of them smell great.
  • It cost significantly less per bottle than store bought Febreze.

I had some problems with it, too.  The biggest problem was the high concentration of fabric softener.    Fabric softener really exacerbates Sunshine’s eczema, so I had to stop using it.  I also worry about the cost of the fabric softener and the long term build-up that it will cause on my fabrics.

Recipe #3

2 Parts water

1 Part fabric softener

This recipe was good at masking odors, but it didn’t have the same odor-killing power as the ones with vinegar in the recipe.  Also, I have the same issues as above with the fabric softener.

Recipe #4

16 parts water

1 part rubbing alcohol

1 part fabric softener

This recipe was my least favorite recipe.  I didn’t understand why rubbing alcohol was an ingredient.  The spray was also very weak.  I felt like I was spraying my couch with water.  There was no noticeable difference in smell.  It wasn’t very effective. 

Recipe #5

2 cups water

¼ cup fabric softener

1 TBS baking soda

I liked this recipe.  It was my second favorite.  The baking soda does almost a good of a job as vinegar at neutralizing odor without the smell.  It was a little weak, though.  As always, I have concerns with the fabric softener.

This was a good experiment.  While I have not found my Febreze replacement, I did learn a lot.  In the coming weeks, I plan on researching and devising my own Febreze substitute.  This first little foray into making my own deodorizer has definitely put me on the right path in my quest to replace Febreze.

How do you keep the funk from your home?  Do you have any good advice? 

Linked to Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family


  1. Pary Moppins says:

    I love that you reviewed all of the recipes you tried.
    Have you tried using essential oils instead of fabric softener? What about using rose or orange flower water or even linen freshener (basically scented water) in place of fabric softener?
    Frankly, when it comes right down to it, you could probably use flavored vodka as a scent base – not the most economical alternative, but it would also aid in killing germs.
    Good luck on your quest for deodorizing!

    • Kara says:

      Thanks for the suggestions. I am going to try some recipes with essential oils next. I hadn’t thought of the vodka, though. I’ll have to look into that too.

  2. Laurie says:

    I second the idea for essential oils…or making a tonic with herbs. I make a carpet deodorizer with just baking soda and lavender (shake on the carpet and let sit for a bit to fill the house with the lovely smell) – love the way it makes the house smell! :)

    • Kara says:

      Thank you for your comment. I am going to make something up with essential oils or herbs. I put essential oils in my vaccuum cleaner bag for the same effect….so good!

  3. Anne says:

    Thank you for this post! I have been scouring the internet looking at all the different recipes for homemade Febreze, but I, too, have concerns about buildup of fabric softener on upholstery, curtains, etc. I have yet to find any explanation as to how these people are coming up with the ingredients. Is there fabric softener in store-bought Febreze? I absolutely LOVE using Febreze but would be thrilled to find a cheaper, homemade version–but I want to be confident that a homemade product is not inferior. I look forward to seeing what other recipes you cup up with!

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