The use of fabric softener is often seen as an essential part of good housekeeping. It’s the attentive detail that makes wearing clean clothes that much more enjoyable. And while bottles of fabric softener may depict peaceful sleeping babies, sweet stuffed animals or clean clothes gently rocked by the wind, these images are far more misleading than you’d expect.
Fabric softeners actually contain numerous toxic substances that can be particularly harmful to children.
In fact, some labels now bear a warning not to use on children’s sleepwear because its ingredients makes pajamas more flammable (1).
When these chemicals are used on your sheets, clothes and towels, you’re constantly exposed to toxins: from the moment you wake, to the moment you sleep, and all throughout the night.
Toxins Found in Fabric Softener
Chloroform:Believe it or not, chloroform used to be used as anesthesia to knock patients unconscious for surgery. Nowadays, chloroform is most often present in small dose in chlorinated water. Short-term inhalation causes central nervous system depression while long-term exposure is known to cause impaired liver function, hepatitis and jaundice, arrhythmia, central nervous system dysfunction and may even cause cancer (2).
A-Terpineol:This chemical acts as a neurotoxin that can cause seizures and stroke. It’s also a moderate irritant whose fumes affect the eyes, nose, throat and skin. When inhaled, the toxic substance is known to cause pneumonia and other respiratory conditions (3).
Ethanol:Ethanol is a type of alcohol which acts as a carcinogen and can be absorbed into the body by the inhalation of toxic fumes. It’s known to cause, cough, headache, liver damage, anemia and reproductive problems (4).
Benzyl Alcohol: This substance can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory stimulation followed by respiratory and muscular paralysis, convulsions, narcosis and death (5).
Ethyl Acetate: High concentrations if this chemical can cause depression of the central nervous system and congestion of the liver and kidneys. It’s also linked to anemia, leucocytosis (an inmmune response), hypothermia, high blood pressure and exposure can even cause a comatose state (6).
Phthalates: Phthalates are plastics used to preserve the scent of laundry products. They are believed to be carcinogenic but know to be endocrine disruptors and to cause liver tumours and fertility problems (7).
Limonene: Is a carcinogen known to causes pain and swelling of the skin. It can also significantly damage and increase permeability of membranes in your lungs and leave you prone to infection and poisoning (8).
Pentane: Exposure to this chemical can cause irritation of the eyes and nose as well as nausea,vomiting, headache, dermatitis, dizziness and unconsciousness (9) .
Camphor: This substance can cause headaches, nausea, stomach pain, coughing and mental confusion. Over time, it can contribute to the development of seizures and affects kidneys and nervous system (10).
Benzyl Acetate: Is Is a floral scent that can cause a burning sensation on the skin as well as confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, sore throat and labored breathing (11).
Linalool: This chemical is skin allergen that is know to cause irritation, contact dermatitis (rashes), and acanthosis, a thickening of the skin (12).
Homemade Fabric Softener
You’ll need :
- 1-gallon of organic white vinegar*
- 30 drops of essential oil (lavender or citrus fruits work well)
* Vinegar is non-toxic & inexpensive and it can reduce static and get rid of soap scum.
- Mix all the ingredients in a suitable container and store in a dark, cool place.
- To use, dilute 1/4 cup of the mixture into ¾ cups of water.
- Pour the natural fabric softener into the washer during the last rinse cycle.
If you are sensitive to the smell of vinegar, you can always try reusable wool dryer balls, which eliminate wrinkles, prevent static, soften clothes and reduce drying time (13). They are generally sold online in health food stores.