The Toxic Danger of Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets:

Continuing on with my blogs on toxic chemicals in perfumes, colognes and deodorants, I bring you some scary but important information on the toxic chemicals in liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets. I actually haven’t used either one for years and my clothes are soft and (most of the time) static free. If I do get a bit of static, there are simple ways to get rid of it safely.

Fabric softener and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic products around. And chances are that the staggering 99.8 percent of Americans and Canadians who use common commercial detergents, fabric softeners, bleaches, and stain removers would think twice if they knew they contained chemicals that could cause cancer and brain damage.

Here is a list of just some of the chemicals found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets:

Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant.
Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage.
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list.
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders.
Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic.
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders.
Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled.

So how could products with pretty names like Soft Ocean Mist, Summer Orchard and April Fresh be so dangerous?

The chemicals in fabric softeners are pungent and strong smelling — so strong that they require the use of these heavy fragrances (think 50 times as much fragrance) just to cover up the smells. Furthermore, synthetic fabrics, which are the reason fabric softeners were created in the first place, do not smell good either when heated in a dryer or heated by our bodies … hence the need for even more hefty fragrances.

In other words, remove all the added fragrance that endears people to fabric softeners and — like the cliche- wolf in sheep’s clothing — the real smells of the chemical-laced fabric softener and the synthetic fabrics they were designed around may prompt people to shoot their laundry machines and be done with it.

Are “Soft” Clothes Worth It?

Fabric softeners are made to stay in your clothing for long periods of time. As such, chemicals are slowly released either into the air for you to inhale or onto your skin for you to absorb. Dryer sheets are particularly noxious because they are heated in the dryer and the chemicals are released through dryer vents and out into the environment.

Health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include:

Central nervous system disorders
Blood pressure reduction
Irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract
Pancreatic cancer

Soften Your Clothes Safely With These Tips:

Even if you don’t feel the effects of these chemicals today, they can affect you gradually over time, and children, whose systems are still developing, are particularly at risk. There’s really no reason to expose yourself to these risky chemicals when natural alternatives exist. Not only are they safer for you, your family and the environment, but they’re much more economical too:

1. Add either 1/4 cup of vinegar or 1/4 cup of borax to your wash cycle.

2. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to your rinse cycle.

3. Use an eco-friendly fabric softener (seventh Generation and Ecover make good ones). These are made with vegetable-based surfactants, salt, and natural scents rather than chemicals that cause headaches and other health woes, and environmental damage. (Be sure to read the labels carefully though!)

4. Natural-fiber clothing is less susceptible to static cling, so purchase natural materials as much as possible.

5. As soon as you take your clothes out of the drier, shake them out.

6. If your clothes are already clean and dry and they’re clinging, use the metal hanger trick:

For skirts or dresses, put the garment on, then reach up inside it with a metal hanger and brush the inside of the garment, top to bottom.

For pants, elongate the hanger and reach up inside each pant leg, brushing downward.


It’s likely that fabric softeners and dryer sheets aren’t the only toxic products in your home. Many household products that consumers regard as safe are also full of toxic chemicals. More to think about in our journey towards a healthy lifestyle. 🙂


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5 thoughts on “The Toxic Danger of Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets:

  1. Dryer sheets and other scented laundry products don’t just affect you but they affect everyone around you, long after you stop smelling them. They affect people who get headaches or sneeze or have asthma attacks from the chemicals in those products. Do you want to be responsible for an asthma attack because you think your clothes have to smell like “Perfect Primrose” or something?

    Then there’s the way it affects people like me. I have to go shopping. I have to think about my list, keep my budget in mind, try to figure out what I’m spending and drive home just like you do. And when I get stuck in a crowded line with you – wearing something done in Tide with Bounce sheets – I get a headache, I get nauseous, my vision gets blurry and I lose the ability to think all the way straight. That means my reflexes are slower and I may not be looking at everything I should be looking at on my drive home. You, plus the person in produce who is trying to smell a melon through her perfume, plus the bathroom I had to visit that has a horrifically strong air freshener equals to be technically being too incapacitated to drive.

    Then there’s your kids, wearing such products. If you’re horrified about how they’re affecting you, think about what they’re doing to those little brains. :/

    Ah guilt. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? My point isn’t to make you feel guilty though. It’s to make you think about the consequences of what you’re doing. If you’re using scented body products, adding perfume/cologne and then putting on clothes with chemicals burned into them, what are you doing to yourself?

    The same thing I used to. And while my MCS came on slowly, the majority of people get sick with a SMACK! upside the head. I’m not saying mine, or anybody’s, is the result of the scents you layer on your body or your home, but there are other things to consider. More life threatening things.

    Just think about it.


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