Education, Go Green, Personal Care, Toxins

Toxins in Fabric Softener

Pulling soft cozy clothes out of the dyer is one of those satisfying moments that make us believe that everything the Snuggle bear represents is true. But have you ever taken a second to think about how those clothes get so soft? Yep, I didn’t either until I started to get curious about all of the 12 plus lettered words on the back of the bottle. So what exactly is Alpha-Terpineol? or Benzyl acetate? Chemicals. The chemicals found in fabric softener have been found to cause everything from cancer to depression and we wear them all day, every day. And do not be fooled that just because your not eating or drinking it, doesn’t mean that it is not getting into your body. The skin has the ability to absorb what it comes in contact with and therefore we must be just as aware of what we are putting ON our body as what we are putting IN our body. Without further ado, let’s take a look at these nasty little toxins.

Toxins in Fabric Softener to Avoid:

1. Alpha-Terpineol–This chemical has been linked to disorders of the brain and nervous system, loss of muscle control, depression, and headaches.

2. Ethanol–Ethanol is on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list for its ability to cause brain and nervous system disorders.

3. Linalool–Studies have shown that linalool causes loss of muscle coordination, nervous system and brain disorders, and depression.

4. Chloroform–Chloroform is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazardous Waste list and has been identified as a carcinogen and neurotoxin (toxic to the brain and nervous system). Inhalation of chloroform is fatal.

5. Ethyl Acetate–Ethyl Acetate is on the EPA Hazardous Waste list and can cause headaches, stupor, and may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys.

6. Benzyl Acetate–Benzyl acetate has been linked to cancer of the pancreas and the EPA warns ” can be absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects.”

7. Pentane–Pentane causes nausea, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and depression. Prolonged exposure may cause dermatitis (skin rash).

8. Benzyl alcohol–Linked to depression, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, as well as disorders of the brain and nervous system.

Yukk! So now that my possible headaches and skin irritation could be from my fabric softener… what in the world do I do?

While you can always purchase the natural fabric softener sheets, I have done that already and I am not so in love with the idea. For one, they are not that effective, and two its an expensive that I might as well not have if there is an easier, more effective alternative.

My favorite natural fabric softener:

The best way to soften your clothes is to add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in the washing machine and let it dissolve before adding your clothes in. I also like to add a few drops of essential oils such as lavender to keep my clothes smelling fresh as well. Plain and simple. Easy way to avoid the toxins in fabric softener.

I would definitely recommend purchasing an aluminum-free baking soda such as Bob’s Red Mills in order to avoid any possibly effects of aluminum intake. While studies are varied on the matter, its better to be on the safe side.




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  • Reply Jenna March 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Baking soda does not have aluminum. Baking Powder does, unless it says aluminum free! 🙂

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Yes exactly! You can find aluminum-free at Whole Foods.

  • Reply Lorrie M. March 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Where can I buy Aluminum free baking soda. I’m going to take a wild guess that Arm and Hammer has aluminum in it. I live in North East Ohio, about 45 miles from Cleveland.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Yes that is true. I would check at Whole Foods. If not, check online at some health superstores like

  • Reply Ron & Nancy Gosselin March 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Lauren,

    Great article! We have been providing this information to clients for YEARS… about 39 to be exact. We have some excellent test data showing how these chemicals effect motor skills, dyslexic tendencies, etc in school children. We use and recommend Shaklee’s “Get Clean” line… available since 1960! No newcomer to the green movement. You might like our short video caled “The Healthy Home”. Email for the link if you’d like to see it.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Awesome thank you for the recommendation! I will definitely check that out.

  • Reply Lisa Maynard March 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Great article.
    How does it work for front loaders?
    I had heard vinegar worked well for that but it really doesn’t, especially on fleece the static is terrible.
    Any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Try just adding it to the laundry load dry. This has worked for me in the past. Let us know how it goes!

  • Reply Sarah Mace March 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I’m wondering what you do if you have front loaders? You can’t add anything to the water. the water comes in after the door is locked. Thanks!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      You can just put it in dry. It will turn into a soluble once the water comes in.

  • Reply Carol Beard March 22, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I just found your article on fabric softener. Thanks for the information.

  • Reply donna harcrow March 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I knew nothing about this. Is downy also full of these products>

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Donna, yes downy and all conventional brands do. Here are the ingredients in downy April scent:
      Water process aid
      diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride Softening agent
      Starch Structuring agent
      Ammonium chloride Chlorine scavenger
      Calcium chloride process aid
      Formic acid pH modifier
      Polydimethylsiloxane Anti-foam agent
      Liquitint™ Blue colorant
      Benzisothiazolinone preservative
      diethylenetriamine pentaacetate, sodium salt

  • Reply Are Your Children Snuggling with Toxins? | | Healthy News and Information May 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

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