While I was growing up, fabric softener was a normal part of laundry. All of my clothes had double scents – the faux fragrances of scented laundry detergent and scented fabric softener. I even had a Snuggle Bear stuffed toy.
I thought that fabric softener was a necessity when I first was on my own and establishing a new home. So I faithfully used it – until one day I stopped. I’m not sure if I simply forgot to add it to my grocery list or was trying to save money by reducing unnecessary products.
But I stopped cold turkey, never to return to a fabric softened life.
I’m glad I stopped. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets both contain toxic chemicals. Just guess where all of those chemicals end up – on your clothes, sheets and towels, and then on to your skin.
According to Scientific American, some of those chemicals include the carcinogens benzyl acetate, chloroform, and limonene; benzyl alcohol, a respiratory tract irritant; and ethanol, a toxin linked to central nervous system disorders.
When dryer sheets are heated, all of those volatile air pollutants are added to the air both inside and outside your home. [Source] (How many times have you noticed that your next door neighbor is doing laundry because the scent of dyer sheets wafts all over the neighborhood?)
Those scents can be very harmful for people dealing with chemical sensitivities. According to Claudia Miller, an allergist and immunologist, “The best smell is no smell.” [Source]
Fortunately, there are safe alternatives that are extremely simple and affordable.
My fabric softener alternative of choice is dryer balls. While plastic and PVC dryer balls are available, I use wool balls because they’re made of a natural material. (I definitely try to avoid using or heating up plastic or PVC … especially when the chemicals would leach on my laundry.)
Wool dryer balls are noisy in the dryer, but they greatly reduce drying time, they soften fabric and they reduce static. (In the driest times of winter, though, especially when we’re wearing fleece, there’s a lot of static.)
You can buy dryer balls or make your own.
Do it yourself
If you don’t want to use wool dryer balls, wad up a piece of clean aluminum foil and toss it in with your wet laundry.
Or, to reduce static, simply pin a metal safety pin on your laundry. (If you’re concerned about possible rusting issues, try an inconspicuous spot like the inside of a pants hem.)
You also can dissolve a quarter of a cup of baking soda in your washing machine before you add laundry for a natural water softening solution. Or, add a quarter of a cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. (Never use this method with bleach. I recommend avoiding bleach, anyway.)
To eliminate static cling, start line drying your laundry.
Or, if you’re committed to the quick convenience of your dryer, start separating synthetic fibers and natural fibers once you’re done washing them. If you have synthetic fibers, let them air dry (quite quickly) and toss the natural fabrics into your dryer.
To read more about my personal laundry preferences and routine, check out my post, How I Wash and Dry My Laundry.
If you avoid using chemical-filled fabric softeners, what safe fabric softener alternatives do you choose?
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