Toxic Fabric Softener -- Natural Alternatives to Keep Your Family Healthy

Ever wonder why your dryer sheets have such aromatic names as "Ocean Breeze," "Summer Orchard," and "Spring Garden"? It's not just a marketing ploy -- it's a necessity. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are heavily scented because they contain extremely smelly chemicals -- extremely smelly, toxic chemicals. In fact, recent studies reveal that among all household products, one of the most toxic is fabric softener. 

So, what makes fabric softeners toxic?

Many of the chemicals contained in dryer sheets and fabric softeners are carcinogens, and still others are linked to central nervous system disorders and respiratory problems. A couple (ethanol and ethyl acetate) are even on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list!

We know what you're thinking: how can a product once hocked by a snuggly teddy bear be so bad?

According to recent reports, the chemicals found in most fabric softeners and dryer sheets stick to clothes when they're heated (as they are in the clothes-drying process) and affect not only the wearer, but those around them as well. Symptoms of fabric-softener-induced ailments include headaches, dizziness, nausea, faintness, difficulty breathing, rashes, twitching, and even such non-physical presentations as anxiety and difficulty concentrating or remembering.

We're sure most people agree that softer clothes aren't worth long-term physical and neurological damage.

If you're looking for natural alternatives to toxic fabric softener, try using white vinegar; it's a natural fabric softener. Add about a half-cup to your wash cycle, but don't mix it with bleach -- this may create toxic fumes!

To prevent static cling, try washing cotton and synthetic fabrics separately. It's the synthetic fabrics that cause most of the static cling problems. In fact, try hanging synthetic fabrics to air dry -- most dry quite quickly this way. For cotton products, use the dryer to remove most of the moisture and then hang-dry the items to finish drying completely. Use drying racks or hang plastic hangers from your shower rod, curtain rods, and even exposed pipes.

Of course, the most environmentally friendly thing to do is air dry all of your clothes whenever possible. Clotheslines make great alternatives to dryers in the warmer months, and indoor clotheslines, drying racks, and hangers can be utilized indoors all winter.

We've been pushing less dryer use as a way to go green for some time now, but with the advent of studies showing that fabric softener may indeed be toxic, it may also be a way to stay healthy.

2 comments
Posted by chieko on September 5,2009 at 9:40 AM

I have never used fabric softener.  The fragrance always made me feel ill.  Now I know why!

Well, since I have cats, there is always cat hair on clothing/towels/sheets that just doesn't always wash off.  Therefore, I use my dryer on just the air setting which helps to remove the cat fuzz.  After about 10 - 15 minutes, I start removing the items and hang them on hangers.  I even hang towels on hangers.  The clothing items when tumbled lose wrinkles.  Since I hate ironing (another electricity waster) I stretch seams and smooth out items after hanging.  Then when they are dry, I just put them in the closet and they're ready to go!

Posted by mary q contrarie on June 13,2009 at 9:43 AM

I stopped using fabric softeners and dryer sheets a couple years ago when I stopped using my electric dryer.  Now I use  drying racks that I can easily use outside in the summer and inside on rainy or cold days.  

The best part besides saving money is that I know my clothes are lasting much longer and they smell better than the artificial smells that come out of those chemical solutions.