Quantcast

3 Reasons You Should Skip Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets

Popular

Using fabric softeners sounds like a no-brainer. These common laundry products promise soft, fresh-smelling clothes, free of static and wrinkles, along with less stretching, fading and pilling.

But in-wash fabric softeners and heat-activated dryer sheets pack a powerful combination of chemicals that can harm your health, damage the environment and pollute the air, both inside and outside your home.


Healthy Child Healthy World recommends skipping fabric softeners entirely.

Healthy Child Healthy World recommends skipping fabric softeners entirely. Here are the worst chemicals to watch for in your laundry basket—and what to use instead.

“Quats"

Quaternary ammonium compounds make clothes feel soft and wearable right out of the wash, but they're known to trigger asthma and may be toxic to our reproductive systems.

Check labels and product websites for these ingredients: distearyldimonium chloride, diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride, variants of hydroxyethyl methyl ammonium methyl sulfate or the vague terms “biodegradable fabric softening agents" and “cationic surfactant." Avoid them all.

Fragrance

There are more than 3,000 fragrance ingredients in common household products—and scarcely any way to know what they are.

Your fabric softener may contain phthalates, which disperse the scent; synthetic musks such as galaxolide, which accumulate in the body; and much more. Fragrance mixes can cause allergies, skin irritations such as dermatitis, difficulty breathing and potential reproductive harm. Research indicates that scents also cause irritation when vented outdoors, especially for asthmatics and those sensitive to chemicals. Not worth it.

Preservatives and Colors

Like fragrance, the terms “preservatives" and “colors" or “colorants" on an ingredient label may refer to any number of chemicals. The most worrisome preservatives in fabric softeners include methylisothiazolinone, a potent skin allergen and glutaral, known to trigger asthma and skin allergies. Glutaral (or glutaraldehyde) is also toxic to marine life. Among artificial colors, D&C violet 2 has been linked to cancer. Others may contain impurities that can cause cancer.

So skip fabric softeners and conditioners in any form—pellets, crystals, bars or single-dose packs. You won't notice the difference.

Or you can try these ideas instead:

  • Try adding half a cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle. Don't worry: the smell doesn't linger on clothes.
  • If you're not line-drying, run the drying machine with just your clothes inside. (To reduce static, do not over-dry.) Not only do dryer sheets contain a variety of chemicals, but neither plant-based nor polyester types are reusable, creating extra waste.
  • Try 100 percent wool dryer balls. Makers of these solid balls of felted wool or felted wool wrapped around a fiber core, say wool or its natural lanolin soften laundry and reduce static. Generally safe for sensitive skin and babies, the balls also lift and separate clothes in the dryer, shortening drying time and saving energy.You can buy ready-made balls or make your own with wool batting or wool yarn. Look for unscented versions and always be leery of essential oils, which can cause allergic reactions after just few contacts.

Learn more about laundry products and other home cleaners in the 2016 edition of EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.

Read More Show Less
Valerie / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A coalition of some of the largest environmental groups in the country joined forces to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Trump administration's maneuver to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
beyond foto / Getty Images

By Kimberly Holland

Children who eat a lot of gluten in their earliest years may have an increased risk of developing celiac disease and gluten intolerance, according to a new study published in JAMATrusted Source.

Read More Show Less
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Calling the global climate crisis both the greatest threat facing the U.S. and the greatest opportunity for transformative change, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled today a comprehensive Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million well-paying union jobs over a decade.

Read More Show Less
orientalizing / Flickr

The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.

Read More Show Less

Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is giving President Trump a run for his money in the alternative facts department.

Read More Show Less
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2019 State of the State address on Jan. 15. Governor Jay and First Lady Trudi Inslee / Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made solving the climate crisis the center of his presidential campaign, is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic primary race.

Read More Show Less