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Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Fabric Softeners

Category Laundry
Eco-Friendly Fabric Softener
Reducing static and softening your laundry can be accomplished with natural products without perfumes and dyes. This is a guide about eco-friendly alternatives to fabric softeners.

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By 4 found this helpful
January 11, 2010

Many people use commercial fabric softeners or dryer sheets to reduce static cling and maker their clothes feel softer. Ironically, most people that use these products don't realize that they are essentially trading dirty clothes for clothes that are covered in a thin layer of toxic chemicals, which are then inhaled and worn next to the skin for hours at a time. Here are some not-so-friendly facts about fabric softeners, and information on some eco-friendly alternatives.

How Fabric Softeners Work

Fabric softeners work by coating the surface of clothing fibers with a thin layer of chemicals. These chemicals contain properties that make the fibers feel smooth and prevent the buildup of static electricity. They also reduce friction during ironing, increase stain resistance, and reduce wrinkling. Because they are designed to stay on fabric for a long time, they are easily inhaled and absorbed by our skin.

Just a few of the toxic chemicals commonly found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets:

These chemicals have been linked to certain types of cancer, kidney and liver damage, birth defects, central nervous disorders, edema, severe respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and skin allergies. Most of these chemicals are not easily biodegradable and are also hazardous to the environment, especially chemicals on dryer sheets, which are heated up before being released into the air.

Fabric Softener and Flammability

According to the Department of Chemistry at McGill University, studies have shown that when liquid fabric softener is added to the rinse cycle, certain fabrics become up to 7 times more flammable. The fabrics most at risk are flannel, terrycloth, and fleece (especially when made of cotton). They have a greater surface area (and therefore hold more fabric softener) due to their soft fluffy texture. Liquid fabric softener should never be used on these types of fabrics or on children's clothing, even if the fabric has been treated with flame retardants, because fabric softener reduces their effectiveness.

Safe Alternatives for Softening Clothes

Commercially-Made Brands

There are now dozens of eco-friendly fabric softeners and dryer sheets available. Here is a short list of some popular brands:

FS = fabric softener DS = dryer sheets

Do-It-Yourself Fabric Softeners

Do-It Yourself Dryer Sheets

Comment Was this helpful? 4

March 17, 2008

Here's a simple recipe for keeping your fabrics soft and fluffy. It's a lot gentler on your clothes, than commercial fabric softeners and much easier on your wallet as well.

Ingredients

Directions

Fill washing machine with water. Add baking soda and then the clothes. During the final rinse cycle, add the vinegar into your fabric softener dispenser if your washing machine has one (or add directly during the rinse cycle.)

Comment Was this helpful? 2
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