Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softner – A Household Toxin

I’ve written about changes I’ve made around the house after Isabella experienced her first eczema outbreak.  Two household items that needed immediate action were my laundry detergent and dryer sheets.  These are the top recommendations when talking to a doctor about what can trigger an atopic eczema outbreak.  It was initially hard for me to part with my Bounce dryer sheets because of years enjoying that smell, but after researching just how harmful dryer sheets are, I’m happy to have eliminated them from my house.  Not only are they a skin irritant…they are actually toxic!  Parents need to think of these sheets as rubbing chemicals on their family’s clothes.  

I never stopped to think what, other than the scent from the Bounce sheets, was being left as residue on our clothes.  I shudder to think that I used dryer sheets on my newborn baby’s clothes.  Here are some hidden ingredients: alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, camphor, benzyl alcohol, limonene, ethyl acetate, pentane, and chloroform.  Those words sound like Greek? . . . well here are these ingredients potential side-effects:

cause central nervous system disorders, headaches, and loss of muscle coordination;
irritate mucous membranes and impair respiratory function;
cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or drowsiness;
cause liver or kidney damage;
cause skin disorders and allergic reactions;
cause cancer

The chemicals from dryer sheets are air-born and then the double whammy of having direct contact with our skin.  A natural fabric softener to eliminate static is vinegar.  See my previous post on handmade household cleaners.  I’ve also talked about my Eco laundry detergent that I love…it has a built-in Soy fabric softener.  Finding a detergent with soy is such an easy alternative to using these sheets because it’s built into the detergent.  I was surprised that after discontinuing the use of the dryer sheets, my clothes really didn’t have much static.  With our climate and soft water quality, it really isn’t an issue.  But if your clothes do have static, here are a few things to try:

♦ Remove clothes when slightly damp and hang dry to complete the drying process.  This small amount of moisture will keep static cling from becoming a problem in the first place.

♦ Only use the dryer for cotton fabrics.  Dry all other types of fabric by air drying – other fabrics are ideal candidates for these alternative drying techniques.  

♦ Vinegar to replace fabric softener and laundry detergent with soy fabric softener as previously mentioned.

 Just like understanding that an adult tolerating BPA from a plastic drinking cup is different that a small baby ingesting BPA from a bottle, we need to protect our babies and children from chemicals.  Eliminate a toxin in your home today and say goodbye to dryer sheets and fabric softener.  You’ll soon discover that you’ll save money and won’t miss the smell.  Actually, now when I’m out walking in neighborhoods, I can walk by a house and smell which dryer vents are propelling the smell from dryer sheets into the air.  The fact the odor is still so strong outside of the house makes you wonder how many chemicals need to be added to retain the fragrance.  Think about eliminating a step in washing/drying clothes that is doing more harm than good.

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8 Responses to Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softner – A Household Toxin

  1. ash May 29, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    YES! I too figured this out when I first got pregnant and eliminated them forever. YUCK.

  2. Ronna "Jake" Ellwing March 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Laundry Pure – cleans clothes with NO detergents. Clothes don’t need any type of fabric softener!

  3. Lynn McCollum August 1, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    I am looking to find out information about 10 to 12 year olds playing tackle football. They wear the eqiptment, helmets, pads etc..but they are pushed to be agressive. I read somewhere a long time ago about this age groups’ vulnerability to brain injuries. My grandson is playing and I am so worried. He really does not like it but his dad..and I think Mom, are pushing him and he wants to please them of course. any thoughts??

  4. Jeanne March 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I really appreciate this post, but I’m wondering about your choice of detergents. Although fragrances are not all equal, lots of people are impacted by strong smells in general, especially people with nervous system conditions, sensory disorders, etc. Why not take it a step further and seek out detergents that are NO fragrance? I’d be interested in your thoughts about that. I, myself have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, as do my kids who have congenital lyme disease and related infections. Keeping them out of harm’s way from fragrance is SUCH a challenge. Especially the teenager who is constantly surrounded by AXE and perfume. I wish more people understand the dangers in our kids’ environment. Thanks for the blog.

  5. suzanne March 23, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Thank you for the post Jeanne! The only detergents I’ve seen marketed as ‘fragrance free’ are from big box stores that I normally don’t support such as Tide, etc. I will research if soap nuts have any sort of scent. Also, I’ve been using Dr. Bronners liquid soap in my wash and they do have a non-scented baby mild version of the soap that would be a great fit for those with chemical sensitivity…there is absolutely no scent. We have very soft water where I live so I’ve mixed 1 cup of dr. bronners with 10 cups of water for washing clothes. If your water is harder I would recommend less water. Ugg! I can’t imagine the challenges you and your family face, there is so much education needing to be done regarding scent. I’m chemically sensitive and it’s a topic that hasn’t had the exposure yet…especially in the teenager world. The focus always tends to be with babies for chemical reduction and we need to change this.

    Suzanne
    Mommy Footprint

  6. Lauren March 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Another good soap that is free of any fragrance is Charlie’s Soap. I switched to it after even the “free and clear” brand of laundry soaps were making my daughter have eczema flairs.

    You have to wash out your machine and run your clothes a few times through first to get out any lingering “stuff” from other soaps, but once you do that you should find that your clothes come out very clean without the use of any chemicals.

  7. Rhonda Wariner April 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Appreciating the commitment you put into your site and detailed information you offer.

  8. crista July 28, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    I stubbled upon this information while watching strange addictions on TLC a lady was eating them!!! that;s right eating them gross!! we are now ridding them from our home. how is it possible that these companys are allowed to produce such harmful products & as consumers we think we are do right by our families & loved ones. So wrong!!!

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