Fabric Softeners – Cuddly At Any Cost?

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Fabric Softeners
Cuddly at any Cost?

Jenn Farrell

Sunny alpine meadows, cuddly teddy bears, pristine streams…

These compelling images are all used to promote commercial fabric softeners.

All promise to make our clothes, bedding and towels softer, better smelling and free of static cling.

Fabric softeners have been around for more than 50 years but it was in the 1970′s, when synthetic fibers were popular, that single-use dryer sheets were introduced to battle static cling. Fabric softener usage became common in North American households.

Fabric softeners work by changing a detergent’s negative electrical charge back into a positive, reducing static. They also coat fibers with a film that fluffs fibers and often scents the fabric.

Sounds simple enough, but the use of dryer sheets can create xenoestrogens, a synthetic estrogen that builds up in fatty tissue and may affect the natural function of our hormone-producing glands. Research has linked xenoestrogens to the increase of breast, testicular, and other cancers. Liquid softener and dryer sheets also contain neurotoxins and carcinogens. These hazardous chemicals are a danger to the central nervous system, according to the data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and are slowly released as we wear our clothes and use our towels and sheets. In addition, when we tumble-dry laundry containing fabric softener, those toxins are released into the environment through the dryer vent. Top it all off with recent news that fabric softeners may increase the flammability of clothing and sleepwear, and suddenly those alpine meadows and cute teddy bears don’t seem quite as appealing.

Fortunately, by changing the type of fabric softener we use, as well as by following a few laundry-room tips, we can enjoy soft, fresh-smelling clothes without resorting to hazardous chemicals.

It’s time to question the value of commercial fabric softeners versus their cost to our health. By breaking the cycle of “soft at any cost” you’ll improve your health and the health of our planet, one load at a time.

Alternative to Commercial Fabric Softener
Dryer Balls – a pair of spiky balls that you place in the dryer with your clothes to tumble and separate items, reducing drying time, static and wrinkles. Editors note: I’ve personally used these balls for two years now and they help clothes to dry more quickly and with less static.

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9 comments or questions have been added, but if you still need more help, add your own below.
  • How do you know what is in the Liquid Fabric Softeners? While I trust what you are writing, I would like the source and any other information you can provide to back your statements and claims regarding the chemicals. I am trying to get rid of this stuff and need some data to back me up. It is not that I do not trust what your stating, just wanting to learn more and be able to cite sources.Thank you for your poted information and for your reply!
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  • If you simply read the label on the bottle, the ingredients will be listed. Among these ingredients are known neurotoxins and carcinogens. If you go to epa.gov, there are many case studies involving the chemicals in detergents and softeners, and the possible harm they may cause.
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  • hi! i’ve recently started buying dryer sheets from mrs. meyer’s, because i was under the impression that these are better than your run-of-the mill dryer sheets. their website says they use a vegetable-derived sofening agent. in fact, the ingredients on the box i have list: vegetable-derived softening agent, essential oils of lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, geranium and fir needle, fragrance, non woven substrate.i’m wondering if what you’ve written applies to fabric softeners made by companies by mrs. meyer’s and seventh generation, or if this post is specifically targeting fabric softeners made by the larger corporations?
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  • Mostly we are refering to larger name brands. There are probably some good ones out there that don’t contain any chemicals, but most of the ones that are widely used contain strong chemicals. Just be sure to read the ingredients. Although it is always better to add nothing at all, some people need to add some sort of scent to their drying clothes. Naturally derived scents will always be far better for you than powerful purfumes and harsh chemical softeners.
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  • where on the epa website does it have where softners are harmful. i can’t find it but i have similar things. i love how our clothes smell but hate knowing we are putting chemicals on our body so i think it’s time for a dryer ball. what is the feedback on these?
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  • feedback has been great. Everyone who uses them, loves them. Plus they are so simple, just leave them in the dryer. Try them for yourself, and you will wonder how you evr lived without them.
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  • I’ve been using dryer balls for about a month now – and they do dry faster and softer BUT there has been about twice as much lint with each dryer load. I’ve been wondering if they make fabrics (except terry cloth-type) wear out alot faster – seems like the lint would be the fibers leaving the cloth!Any thoughts?Thanks!
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  • That is actually one of the benefits of the dryer balls. They actually are more efficient at removing the lint from your laundry. More ends up in the lint catcher because there is less deposited on your clothes. Rest assured your clothes aren’t wearing out any faster than usual.
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  • [...] glad to see natural dryer sheets since I just learned about some of the ill effects.  “dryer sheets can create xenoestrogens, a synthetic estrogen that builds up in fatty tissue and may affect the [...]
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