Did you know that fabric softener products (liquid/dryer sheets) are concentrated with chemicals and heavy fragrances? And that there are many non-toxic alternatives to conventional dryer sheets? I personally don’t use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets, but if I do on the rare occasion I always reach for non-toxic alternatives to conventional dryer sheets. On the other hand, I am too lazy to add another step to my laundry routine and I don’t really like the idea of chemicals on my clothing. I like my jeans stiff and quite frankly enjoy the sandpaper feel of my towels.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) from the 1990s, the following is a list of chemicals in fabric softener products, most in untested combinations. Liquid fabric softeners additionally may contain formaldehyde.
- Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.
- Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant.
- Ethanol: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.
- Limonene: Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant, Kidney Toxicant, Neurotoxicant, Respiratory Toxicant, and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.
- A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage.
- Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list.
- Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders.
- Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic.
- Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders.
- Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled.
Fabric softeners were designed to reduce static in synthetic fabrics and serve no purpose with natural fabrics. They stay in your clothing for extended periods and leave a residue, which never really completely washes out. When fabric softeners are exposed to heat such as hot water or a dryer or an iron, vapors can be released into the environment. These chemicals can be inhaled and absorbed by your skin- further impacting human welfare along with the environment.
Dryer sheets when heated are noxious for the release of chemicals through dryer vents out into the environment. Some health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include:
- Central nervous system disorders
- Blood pressure reduction
- Irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract
- Pancreatic cancer
Is it really necessary to add fabric softener to your wash or dryer sheets to your dryer? Is it worth the risk? So how come products with pretty names like Snuggle, Blue Touch and Cuddle Fluff be so dangerous? I am thinking the cuddly little brown bear, isn’t looking so sweet anymore.
7 Non-toxic alternatives to conventional dryer sheets
- Add 1/4-1/2 cup of vinegar (where to buy) to your wash.
- Add baking soda to the wash-cycle.
- Air dry your clothing.
- Try adding a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer. (I have never personally tried this method, so I can’t vouch for their effectiveness.)
- Use wool balls (where to buy) to use in place of dryer sheets. You can add a safety pin to the wool ball to also help with the static.
- Make your own. Grab a cloth, spray vinegar with vinegar and/or essential oils (where to buy) such as lemon or lavender (where to buy therapeutic grade essential oils) and toss in the dryer with your clothing. Additionally, you can add a safety pin as well.
- Lastly, if you feel that you still need to buy some dryer sheets, there are a number of green fabric softer (where to buy) on the market that are made with natural scents or are scent-free.
I think I am going to skip the bear and stick to my vinegar! Seriously, vinegar really is that versatile!
Will you be going all-natural in the name of static-cling?
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