Fabric Softeners, Harsh with Chemicals
Fabric softeners are an essential when it comes to laundry. The rich, cozy aroma of a mountain breeze, spring bouquet or vanilla and lavender is the final touch on the behind the scenes chore we all endure. But what if something else is going on behind the scenes of our health, because of the ‘snuggly’ softeners?
Do you know that most fabric softeners contain a grim list of known toxins which can enter your body through the skin and by inhalation, causing a wide range of health problems? Below is a list of some of the harmful ingredients commonly found in liquid or sheet fabric softeners:
• Chloroform: This substance was used as an anesthesia in the 1800s up through the early 1900s when its potential for causing fatal cardiac arrhythmia was discovered. A carcinogenic neurotoxin, it is on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Inhaling its vapors may cause loss of consciousness, nausea, headache, vomiting, and/or dizziness, drowsiness. It may aggravate disorders of the heart, kidneys or liver. Its effects worsen when subjected to heat.
• A-Terpineol: Causes Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders, meaning problems relating to the brain and spine such as Alzheimer’s disease, ADD, dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, strokes, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Early symptoms of CNS problems include aphasia, blurred vision, disorientation, dizziness, headaches, hunger, memory loss, numbness in face, pain in neck and spine. A-Terpineol also irritates the mucous membranes and, if aspirated into the lungs, can cause respiratory depression, pneumonia or fatal edema.
• Benzyl Alcohol: This upper respiratory tract irritant can cause central nervous system (CNS) disorders, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and dramatic drops in blood pressure.
• Benzyl Acetate: This substance has been linked to pancreatic cancer. Its vapors can be irritating to eyes and respiratory passages and it can also be absorbed through the skin.
• Ethanol: Another fabric softener ingredient which is on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and linked to CNS disorders.
• Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled.
• Ethyl Acetate: This substance, which is on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, can be irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. It may also cause severe headaches and loss of consciousness, as well as damage to the liver and kidneys.
• Camphor: Another substance on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. It is easily absorbed through body tissue, causing irritation of eyes, nose and throat. Camphor can also cause dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions.
• Linalool: A narcotic known to cause respiratory problems and CNS disorders. In animal testing, exposure to linalool has resulted in death.
• Phthalates: Used in scented products to help the scent last longer, phthalates have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive system problems.
• Limonene: This known carcinogen can cause irritation to eyes and skin.
• Also, if you follow a vegan lifestyle, you should be aware that many fabric softener sheets are made using tallow, a form of animal fat.
From that list of 12 ingredients 4 are on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, 3 are linked to Central Nervous System disorders (CNS) and 1 is an animal product. It seems like this ‘essential’ tool in warm, cuddly laundry is more dangerous that sweet.
If you do use fabric softeners, then note that you are breathing and wearing some of these poisons. So you are absorbing these chemically “softened” clothes through your skin, the largest organ of the body and inhaling them. As someone who suffered from asthma and allergies most my childhood, this is upsetting info.
There are a few alternatives to the fabric softeners while maintaining fresh, clean clothes. Fabrics air dried outside on a line do not develop static cling and are more likely to have a natural pleasant smell. You can also eliminate many clothing odors by thoroughly dissolving a cup of baking soda in the water before putting your clothes in the washing machine. Some natural retailers offer dryer bags, like large tea bags, containing dried lavender. You can also make your own version of these bags by sewing laundry sachets using cotton muslin and filling them with your favorite dried herbs.
For more information on the dangers of many fabric softeners, please visit