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Fabric Softeners: What you need to know!

Are you tired of spending money on dryer sheets and fabric softeners? Not only are these laundry additives costly, but they are also bad fro both the environment and your health, so let’s talk about it.

Toxins Found in Traditional Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners

When you use traditional dryer sheets, you might first notice their strong scent. These sheets are full of synthetic fragrances, which include phthalates. Phthalates are hormone disruptors that have been linked to issues such as obesity and reproductive development. In addition to synthetic fragrances, most dryer sheets also contain animal fat (tallow), which gives clothes that soft feel most of us are familiar with. When fabric softeners are heated and evaporated into the air, they release chemicals that can be harmful when inhaled.

Fabric Softeners According to the EPA

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of the harmful chemicals found in traditional fabric softeners (see below) can cause skin irritation, respiratory issues, and even cancer.

  • alpha-Terpineol: Can cause inflammation of the skin on contact for some people.  Open cuts, abraded or irritated skin should not be exposed to this material.
  • Benzyl Acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.  Skin irritant.
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Skin irritant irritant, respiratory irritant.
  • Camphor: May cause mild skin, eye or respiratory irritation. Some sources suggest that it is possible that epileptic-like seizures may be caused through exposure.
  • Chloroform: Carcinogenic.  Causes skin irritation resulting in redness and pain. Removes natural oils. Respiratory irritant. Causes central nervous system effects, including headache, drowsiness, dizziness.  Prolonged exposure may lead to death due to irregular heart beat and kidney and liver disorders.
  • Ethanol: Can cause central nervous system disorders.
  • Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list.  Skin irritant. Symptoms include redness, itching, and pain. Repeated or prolonged contact with the skin has a defatting effect and may cause dryness, cracking, and possibly dermatitis.
  • Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system & respiratory disorders.
  • Pentane: Causes skin irritation, cracking or flaking due to dehydration and defatting action.  Vapors have a mild narcotic effect. Symptoms of overexposure may include drowsiness and irritation of the respiratory passages. Greater exposure may cause unconsciousness and death.

Anyone else noticing that these products, which are meant to keep our clothes soft, are seriously damaging and drying out our skin?

Safe Fabric Softeners & Alternatives

Plant Based Softeners

Some safe brands include (& personally I really like the sheets):

  1. Ecover Liquid Fabric Softener
  2. Seventh Generation Liquid Fabric Softener & Seventh Generation Dryer Sheets
  3. Method Liquid Fabric Softener & Method Dryer Sheets
  4. Mrs. Meyers Liquid Fabric Softener & Mrs. Meyers Dryer Sheets


You can pick up gallons of this stuff for a couple dollars.  Use about a 1/4 cup per load in your rinse cycle. I like to use a Downy ball (you can find these for a couple dollars at your local store). I fill it about half full and toss it in with my load. If your machine has a compartment for softener, you can put it in there.

This will not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar! I was hesitant to try it at first because I thought it would. So, I tried it out on a load of my husband’s work laundry. I’m terrible, I know.  But it worked, no smell and everything was softer! For fun scents, you can add essential oils to your vinegar.

Dryer Balls

I love dryer balls! They work and they’re always there. No need to remember to toss them in. I mostly prefer and use wool dyer balls, but there are non-wool dryer ball options as well. As a bonus it helps keep clothes from clumping and I notice that my clothes dry faster and everything gets so soft. It even helps with wrinkles.

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