We all have our dark secrets. One of mine is that when living in France, I earned my crust by managing the fabric softener business for a big global company. At the time the morality of this never gave me a moment's pause (it was 20 years ago and I didn't have much environmental awareness) and I have always had a weakenss for nice soft fluffy towels.
Lately however, since pursuing a make it and mend it strategy, I have not been able to square my conscience with pouring chemicals down the drain, just so that my towels don't feel scratchy.
But now I have discovered the power of white vinegar. Every wash, I pour a dose of vinegar into the fabric softener compartment and I've been amazed at the results. Not only is vinegar an effective stain remover (great for pre-treating if you mix it to a paste with some detergent and rub it into the stain) but it leaves everything incredibly soft and smalling fantastic. The last point amazed me as I expected the washing to come out smelling like the local chippy - not a bit of it.
I already knew of some of the other numerous benefits of vinegar - such as getting rid of limescale and as an ingredient in a variety of home-made household cleaners, but it's the effect on my washing that has blown me away. And not to mention the fact that a litre of vinegar costs substantially less then the same of a fabric softener. Give it a try - I promise you won't be disappointed with this top tip.