If you enjoy the smell of clean clothes straight out of the dryer you may be shocked to learn that smell comes at a cost. Most commercial fabric softeners–dryer sheets or the liquid variety–contain many toxic chemicals. Here are eight toxins found in most fabric softeners (and eight reasons to switch to natural options.)
8 Toxins Lurking in Your Fabric Softener
1. Alpha-Terpineol–This chemical has been linked to disorders of the brain and nervous system, loss of muscle control, depression, and headaches
2. Benzyl acetate–Benzyl acetate has been linked to cancer of the pancreas
3. Benzyl alcohol–Linked to headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, depression, as well as disorders of the brain and nervous system
4. Chloroform–Chloroform is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazardous Waste list because it has been identified as a carcinogen and neurotoxin (toxic to the brain and nervous system)
5. Ethanol–also on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list for its ability to cause brain and nervous system disorder
6. Ethyl Acetate–causes headaches and is on the EPA Hazardous Waste list
7. Linalool–in studies, this chemical caused loss of muscle coordination, nervous system and brain disorders, and depression
8. Pentane–causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, and depression
The standard argument in favor of using fabric softeners is that the amount of the chemicals to which a person is exposed is insufficient to cause harm. Studies are showing that even small amounts of these toxins can have serious effects. So, think twice before you add that dryer sheet or liquid fabric softener to your laundry, particularly for children whose developing brains are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins.
6 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Fabric Softeners
1. Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine and let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes. This is preferred method since the baking soda acts as a water softener and helps makes clothes super soft.
2. Some people toss tennis balls or other rubber balls into the dryer with clothes. I’m not a huge fan of this method since the heat of the dryer can cause the rubber to off-gas onto your clothing. If you have an allergy to latex, this is definitely not the method for you. Plus, I wouldn’t choose this method if you’re drying delicate clothing items.
3. Adding a cup of vinegar to the wash water can also soften clothes but I don’t find this method as effective as the baking soda technique.
4. To help with static, there’s the aluminum foil ball technique. Tightly scrunch a piece of foil to form a ball. Throw it in with clothes in the dryer. There is some possible concern with increasing your exposure to aluminum (which has been linked to some brain disorders). It can also snag delicate clothes.
5. Try to keep synthetic fabrics out of the dryer since they are the culprits when it comes to static. Natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, hemp, and linen are best dried on their own.
6. And, of course there are natural fabric softeners available in most health food stores. I must admit, though, that I don’t find them necessary. I try to purchase clothing made of natural fibers as much as possible and find my clothes are soft regardless whether they go through the dryer (free of fabric softeners) or are hung to dry.