Fabric Softener

 By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  Use 1/4 to 1 cup of white vinegar to soften your clothes instead of commercial fabric softener.

It is unbelievable the chemicals contained in the products we are supposed to know and trust.  The cuddly, fabric softeners and dryer sheets you use to make your family’s clothes smell nice and feel soft are full of chemicals that could make everyone in your home very sick. 

When I was pregnant with our first baby, I began to use a non-toxic, bio-degradable laundry detergent.  And when she was born, I never used dryer sheets on her clothes.  I thought I was being good to her skin and to the environment. 

But by using dryer sheets with all the other laundry, I might as well have made a blanket of them and wrapped her in it because they have a chemical that makes them spew their “fresh” scent over and over again! 

According to the Allergy and Environmental Health Association (AEHA), the “product is designed to impregnate fibres and slowly re-release for an extended period of time.  That re-releasing affects the health not only of users, but those around them.”  Wonderful.  And apparently the fabric softener/dryer sheet-makers took a page out of the cigarette makers’ playbook and made sure to add “neurostimulant/irritants and central nervous system toxins”; they are added to produce “an addictive-type response that may cause the user to experience a feeling of pleasure when the product is directly inhaled.” 

The nicotine of the laundry industry. 

This wouldn’t be so terrible if the potential health effects of the chemicals used to make these products weren’t unbelievably awful.  I will list just a few:  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Alzheimer’s, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dementia, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis.  And, incredibly, there are even more. 

Health Recipes.com warns that “most of the dangerous chemicals in fabric softeners are most dangerous when inhaled.”  Does anyone test these products before they are beautifully packaged and mercilessly marketed?  I did find a test performed by Anderson JH Anderson Laboratories, Inc.  Their findings conclude that “the results provide a toxicological basis to explain some of the human complaints of adverse reactions to fabric softener emissions.”  Apparently not enough of a deterrent to the companies selling these delightful products!

Be good, beware and shop smart.

For additional safe alternatives to common household products, the AEHA’s website has a great list for you to check out.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. angelbags’s avatar

    That’s quiet scare. I have two young children one 2yrs of are and the other 8months.

  2. Stamford Talk’s avatar

    Wow- that’s awful. What a great tip- I will certainly use it. My foolish husband likes fabric softener- or wait, does he like dryer sheets?
    Do you think dryer sheets have some of the same problems? I’d assume they do. I’d assume any fake chemical smells can be a problem.
    For some reason I have never used fabric softener. I don’t think my clothes need it, but maybe since I’ve never used it, I am used to not so fuzzy clothes.

  3. blythelight’s avatar

    My husband is also addicted to the dryer sheets to reduce static cling – plus he has a lot of allergies, and I am wondering whether there is some connection. I was in the store today looking for simplified cleaning products – like baking soda, vinegar, ammonia. A floor cleaning recipe I have calls for “washing soda” and I am not sure if that is the same as baking soda or not. I stopped to read the ingredients on the dryer sheets and guess what – they don’t have to tell us. It appears to be patented. Even generic brands without perfumes. So what is in these things anyway, how are they able to reduce static cling, and what is a safe alternative? The vinegar is a great idea in the wash water. We have very hard well water, so vinegar is ideal. (very cute kid, by the way!)

  4. seahorse’s avatar

    I bet the “washing soda” they refer to is BOROX. It is the old fashioned natural laundry cleaner that I add to my baby cloths and whites. It works like baking soda but doesn’t seem to leave that film.

  5. Merri’s avatar

    MY husband still begs me to buy dryer sheets but I steadfastly refuse.
    He talks about the scent; could it be he was hooked on it?
    Yikes, “the nicotine of the laundry industry!”
    I love using vinegar for cleaning and think that’s a great tip; using it for ones’ laundry!

  6. Sharon J’s avatar

    My daughter still buys fabric conditioner even though I’ve been using vinegar for ages now. She knows it doesn’t make the clothes smell like a chip shop and that a few drops of essential oil will give them as good a fragrance as any commercial product but she still insists on using it. Oh well… you can only try I suppose. Sigh.

  7. w b’s avatar

    Help. An answer please. I have searched the net why would anyone reccomend using baking soda when inhalation of the powder and mixture is toxic as well? I have searched the net and found manufacturers listing it as toxic when inhaled and eyes and skin are affected as well. Then I find a site that totes making baby powder with baking soda. Wouldn’t the baby inhale the powder also?

  8. Wendy Gabriel’s avatar

    We must be careful when using any cleaning products, using extra care not to inhale any of them.

    Here’s a great article about baking soda: http://news.cnet.com/Can-baking-soda-curb-global-warming/2100-13838_3-6220127.html

  9. denzil’s avatar

    Borax is what you mean. Its good I use it.
    I had mercury poisoning from 17 fillings & had multiple chemical sensitivity.
    Washing powders, perfumes etc give me instant blinding headache and nausea. Life has changed so much in the past 3-4 years and its only just getting starting to improve.
    I now buy borax in bulk (5 Liter tub) and buy ecover washing powder.
    I use a 5 liter tub, pour in the washing powder and add the same quantity of soda crystals and half the quantity of borax so that’s a ratio of 1:1:0.5 respectively. No fabric conditioner – as other posters have said vinegar is good and the acetic smell soon disappears and it softens the water so the fabrics are not encrusted with scale.

    I have noticed that every time I go outside I can smell the chemicals from other peoples washing and that when shopping some people smell so bad its untrue.

    As i become nauseous & develop a headache with these chemical smells , then surely it indicates that they can in no way be good for you and that long term exposure is very bad for health.
    I even avoid certain family members and no-one seems to notice that these smells are so pervasive nowadays.

  10. Laura’s avatar

    Great info here but the first link (for AEHA) is, um… not working properly. Yikes.

  11. Wendy Gabriel’s avatar

    Thanks! I’ve fixed the link.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge