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6 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Toxic Dryer Sheets

6 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Toxic Dryer Sheets

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There is only one reason why fabric softeners and dryer sheets are added to the washing machine or dryer: To eliminate static cling.

Dryer sheets are generally made of a polyester sheet that’s been covered in a fabric softener chemical and, usually, fragrance chemicals. The amount of fragrance used in dryer sheets can be significant, representing up to 10 percent of the product's contents. These chemicals rub off the dryer sheet and coat your clothing in a slimy layer that has the effect of making your clothes feel softer.

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These commercial fabric softeners can make you sick. Many formulas emit chemical fumes like toluene, styrene and phenol that can cause acute respiratory tract inflammation and irritation, says an oft-cited study by Anderson Laboratories.

But what to do when dry winter air makes static-laden skirts scrunch and bunch and pants creep up to your knees?

Here are six easy, all-natural ways to banish static cling from your laundry:

  1. Add 1/4 cup (or less) of either vinegar or borax to your laundry wash cycle or add 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle.
  2. Switch to a green fabric softener, like those made by Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyer’s, or look for brands made with vegetable-based surfactants, salt and natural scents.
  3. Choose clothing made from natural fibers, which don’t get static cling as readily.
  4. Shake out your clothes when you remove them from the dryer.
  5. For clothes that are already clean, put on the garment. If it is a skirt or dress, reach up underneath the garment and brush the inside of the garment with a metal hanger, top to bottom. If the item is a pair of pants, elongate the hanger by flattening it, then reach up inside each pant leg and brush downward.
  6. Make your own wool dryer balls.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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