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Fabric Softeners

Fabric Softeners

Fabric softeners make me feel so sick! Help! What is with them? What do I use instead?

Join the crowd! I receive so many similar emails about this! Maybe one reason is that the smell so many hate covers up some quite toxic materials, as well as being a synthetic blend of chemicals itself. I have never used fabric softeners. I think this is because I wear mostly natural fibers, which don’t get static cling, the main fabric softener fix. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and lycra, are prone to get full of static.

Also, the actual scouring of the fabric in the washing machine will soften the fabric, and the dryer fluffs the fabric even more. Fabric softeners add a chemical to the fabric to “soften” them even more, even when there is no need.

Most fabric softeners add a film to the fabric, which can actually accumulate and dull the colors. Many complain that clothes are left greasy because of this. Fabric softeners also add a huge toxic load to the environment of your home and clothing, from powerful fragrances to suspected cancer-causing neurotoxic chemicals such as toluene and styrene.

The three main ingredients found in fabric softeners are surfactants (used in detergents), fragrance, and undenatured ethyl alcohol. The later is suspected of causing many health problems, from being a liver toxicant to an endocrine disrupter.

The chemicals in fabric softener chemically manipulate the fabric to be softer, and many of you like that. What to Do?

Choose Green Products

Happily there are some green fabric softeners on the market from companies full of integrity. Products include those from Seventh Generation and Ecover, and are found in health food stores and some supermarkets.


Fabric softeners are acidic, so adding ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse water is one way to experiment with replacing commercial fabric softeners. Another idea floating around the internet is to saturate 1 teaspoon of a natural hair conditioner on a small rag, and put that into the dryer as a homemade dryer sheet. We would love your feedback about whether these work, and what other ideas you have. Please add to the comments on this article!

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.


+ add your own
7:02AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

thank you, great ideas...

12:49AM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

Very interesting, thanks

2:37AM PDT on Oct 2, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

6:08AM PDT on Oct 22, 2011


6:07AM PDT on Oct 22, 2011


8:42PM PDT on Oct 2, 2011

I only use vinegar. It works great!!!

1:30AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

Lots of great tips here.

12:14PM PDT on Aug 16, 2010

I have found some products that are Soft Fabric Fragrance-Free Dryer Sheets that are made by the Shaklee Corporation. They're veggie-based. They're biodegradable.
Clean Credentials
No fragrance
Biodegradable sheets
Recyclable sheets
If you want to learn more:
Shaklee has been around for over 50 years and has NEVER had a recall of any of their products. My children and I have allergies and their products are great!

7:59AM PDT on Aug 1, 2010

Living the clothing dry to the winds in a polluted city doesn't work much. Never let them overnight! They'll stink. Leave them just the right time to sun dry and then take them inside. VInegar as softener has worked wonders, especially because water in my region is very alcaline. Check the pH of the water in your region, before deciding whether to use baking soda or vinegar.

2:40PM PDT on Jul 30, 2010

I agree we should be able to know every ingredient. However the way the law is written only products which are used commercially must supply a list of all ingredients. Per OSHA regulations an MSDS must be posted. items marketed to end consumers do not carry the same regulations. The key for the consumer is to find a responsible manufacturer who does not use toxic or harmful ingredients. Once again, this link might

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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