You’re outside, minding your own business when suddenly you are hit by the strong scent of flowers… a few steps later, it’s baby powder that is assaulting you. What is this? It’s the scent of people doing their laundry. Hopefully it’s the scent of other people doing their laundry and not yours but, in any case, you should know that fabric softener is the leading cause of indoor pollution! That scent you are inhaling, it’s not the smell of clean laundry, it is actually toxic VOCs.
What is in Fabric Softener?
- Alpha Terpineol: can cause central nervous damage and respiratory problems
- Camphor: causes central nervous disorders, is easily absorbed through skin
- Chloroform: a carcinogenic neurotoxin preferred by Ted Bundy
- Benzyl Acetate: linked to pancreatic cancer
- Benyl Alcohol: respiratory tract irritant
- Ethanol: on the EPA’s ‘hazardous waste’ list, can cause central nervous system disorders
- Ethyl Acetate: a narcotic on the EPA’s ‘hazardous waste’ list
- Limonene: a known carcinogen that irritates eyes and skin
- Linalool: causes central nervous system disorders and depresses heart activity
- Fragrance: Legally hides an untold number of chemicals (“trade secret”) *Phthalates just one of many chemicals legally hidden in the ingredient “fragrance”, are linked with birth defects, breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism and ADHD (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – 2002 “Not Too Pretty” Report)
- It’s important to point out right now that this applies even to your Free & Clear laundry products. Often those also contain chemicals to mask scents and it’s particularly important to make note of this if you suffer from eczema or respiratory issues like asthma. Check out this post on Facebook where I share the health ratings of some of those popular products (and if you need true, clean laundry detergent, click here).
Also, fabric softener and dryer sheets end up leaving a residue in your dryer that can increase the risks of fire.
But if I stop using fabric softener, I will be a staticky mess…. and my clothes won’t smell clean!
Let’s start with the “clothes won’t smell clean” statement:
That scent we refer to as “clean” is actually the chemicals left on your clothes. “Clean” should have no scent. Zero. Zilch. I know, it’s so ingrained in our culture but truly, clean should equal no scent at all.
What about the staticky mess?
A far bigger problem in my book! No one wants to walk around with clothes sticking in all the wrong places and giving electric jolts to everyone and everything they touch! So here are a few things you can do to alleviate this:
- If and when possible, dry your clothes outside on a clothesline! It’s good for you AND the environment.
- Use wool dryer balls in your dryer. 3 to 6, depending on the size of your usual loads will be helpful. You can purchase Wool Dryer Balls on amazon. Just make sure they are 100% pure wool. You can also make your own but, that is for another post.
- If wool dryer balls don’t sound good. You can also purchase Pur Reusable Eco Sheets. They work the same way as dryer balls. You just throw them in your dryer with your wet clothes.
- In conjunction with the dryer balls (or eco sheets), you can also add about 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to your load of laundry. I promise your clothes will not smell of vinegar and the vinegar also has some added benefits: It will soften your clothes, restore and maintain the whiteness and brightness of white clothes and help maintain the darkness of dark clothes.
- You can also add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your wash cycle. Baking soda will soften your water and assist in keeping your whites whiter and your bright colors brighter.
- And finally, you can make your own Liquid Fabric Softener really easily. Here’s my favorite DIY recipe:
Homemade Fabric Softener:
- 5 cups hot water
- 3 cups of white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup hair conditioner
Mix 5 cups of hot water and 1 cup of conditioner together in medium bowl. Make sure that the water is very hot so it can smooth any clumps that may be in the conditioner. Mix in vinegar and pour in container to store. This is equivalent to store bought fabric softener, so use as you would regular fabric softener.
You still prefer the dryer sheet concept?
Here’s a recipe for Homemade Dryer Sheets:
- Cloth baby wipes (or old scraps of cloth)
- Essential oils of choice
- White vinegar
- A glass jar with a wide lid or other storage container
Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 25+ drops of essential oils of choice (some ideas… citrus, lavender, mint…). Fold the wipes or cloth scraps and place in your jar or storage container. Moisten but don’t saturate the cloth with the vinegar mixture (store extra in a bottle if you don’t need the entire mixture). Use one wipe/cloth per dryer load to freshen laundry. The vinegar smell will evaporate during drying and the essential oil scent will remain.
Other tips for static free laundry:
Take your clothes out of the dryer when they are still slightly damp.
Do not dry your fleece clothing or microfiber in the dryer. This increases static on all the clothing.
No one likes to do laundry (right?) but there is no reason this daunting task should also be hazardous to your health! Remember, you wear those clothes 24/7 so what remains on them is important! Happy Laundry!