Break The Habit! The Toxic Chemicals Hidden In Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softeners
By Marilee Nelson |
Here's the kicker: The Environmental Working Group studied 171 individual fabric softeners and gave 83.33% of fabric softeners a D or F rating. Sadly, of the 3-10 gallons of toxic household cleaning products in a home, the chemicals in dryer sheets and fabric softeners are considered to be among the most toxic.
The Truth About Fragrance
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are made up of harmful chemicals, combined with a hefty dose of fragrance. We have a lot of research and information about fragrance on our blog, see Fragrance Is The New Secondhand Smoke, How To Remove Synthetic Fragrance From Your Home, Stop Using The F Word if you want to learn more. Overall, fragrance in these products is particularly difficult to remove because they have been designed to cling to fabric so the signature scent stays in the clothing. This is called “fragrance substantivity,” which describes how long a fragrance lasts on a particular surface and how it is affected by temperature, humidity and other conditions.
Lingering chemical residues in clothing enters the body through our skin, which is actually equivalent to eating these chemicals! Many of these fragrant chemicals are harmful; according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study, 72% of products with the ingredient "fragrance" contained endocrine disruptors called phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to diabetes, obesity, liver and breast cancer, hormone disruption affecting fertility and development as well as linked to ADHD and Autism in first and third trimester prenatal exposure.
Since the term “fragrance” on a label can mean up to hundreds of synthetic chemicals, the body is provided a cocktail of poison 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Up to 95% of the synthetic chemicals used to make fragrance recipes are derived from petrochemicals. These particular ingredients are known carcinogens (cause cancer), neurotoxins (cause nervous system disorders), asthmagens (cause asthma), obesogens (cause weight gain and metabolic disorders), endocrine disruptors, and cause birth defects, and allergies.
Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the issue with fragrance because their constant exposure to these chemicals makes it impossible for them to realize the impact it makes on their health and the health of those around them. The non-stop exposure has dulled their sense of smell as a warning mechanism, their ability to perceive the specific fragrance in many cases is lost, or they actually get a high and crave the smell of the clothing.
Toxic Chemicals & Ingredients To Avoid
Check out The Toxicity of Dryer Sheets, Fabric Softeners, and Laundry Detergents for a breakdown of the most common ingredients in these products (and as a note, this list doesn’t include the synthetic fragrances that are added to these products!). In general, ingredients to avoid are: benzyl acetate, limonene, chloroform, dichlorobenzene, benzyl alcohol, camphor, biodegradable cationic softeners, alpha terpineol, pentane and linalool. These ingredients each have their own pool of symptoms, but overall they are mostly known to irritate eyes and skin, cause respiratory issues and damage to the nervous system. A quick search on each will show you all of the ways these ingredients are harmful to our health!
Healthy Home = Healthy Air Quality
Even if your fabric softener is under a counter and only used occasionally, it is still harming your health - the chemicals in the bottles and boxes are off-gassing into your living environment. These chemicals are accompanying you day and night through your skin and your lungs as you wear your clothes, sleep in your sheets, and breathe the air in your home! That’s another reason using fabric softeners, dryer sheets or laundry detergent with fragrance is dangerous. Air quality is SO important. Check out our article Better Air Means Better Health: Enhance Your Immunity by Improving Indoor Air Quality to really dig in.
Tip: If you can smell detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets in the laundry room when you’re not using them, that’s a sign that they’re off-gassing chemicals and degrading your indoor air quality!
Breaking Down Your Clothing
If you need another reason to ditch your fabric softener, aside from being bad for your health, harsh chemicals soften fabrics by breaking down the fibers in your clothes. This means that you are actually wearing out your clothes faster each time you use fabric softeners and dryer sheets!
Removing dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners with harmful chemicals from your home will go a long way towards immediately improving your indoor air quality. Ditching toxic products is a powerful first step in a deep cleaning process! Once you’ve gotten rid of dryer sheets and fabric softeners, we recommend you find a non-toxic alternative. If you have Branch Basics, it not only cleans clothes, but it can remove the toxic residues from products.
It may take some time, but it is worth it. To fully detox (remove the fragrance) from your clothes, turn your clothes inside out and sun them until odors are gone. After the sun has cleared the clothes (could take weeks for some chemicals) wash in Branch Basics and Oxygen Boost. We suggest buying a new set of pajamas and sheets, if you can, so you can start sleeping in a chemical free environment right away! Read more on why to use Branch Basics for laundry and if you already have our product, here’s Branch Basics laundry instructions. You really can do it all with BB, including laundry stripping - the non-toxic way!
There are alternatives to dryer sheets and fabric softener, such as our 100% wool dryer balls, which don't leave behind harmful chemicals in your "clean" laundry. Plus, dryer balls can even speed up the time it takes to get your clothes dry!
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.