6 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Fabric Softeners

According to the Allergy and Environmental Health Association, both liquid and dryer sheet fabric softeners are “the most toxic product produced for daily household use.”  Most of the popular brands of fabric softeners contain many neurotoxins (substances that are toxic to the brain and nervous system) and other types of toxins.  Read my article 8 Toxins Lurking in Your Fabric Softener to learn more.

So, you’re ready to forego commercial fabric softeners but you still want soft clothes.  What are your options?  Well, here are my 6 suggestions to detox your laundry:

1.  Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine and let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes.  This is my preferred method since the baking soda acts as a water softener and helps makes clothes super soft.

2.  Some people toss tennis balls or other rubber balls into the dryer with clothes.  I’m not a huge fan of this method since the heat of the dryer can cause the rubber to off-gas onto your clothing.  If you have an allergy to latex, this is definitely not the method for you.  Plus, I wouldn’t choose this method if you’re drying delicate clothing items.

3.  Adding a cup of vinegar to the wash water can also soften clothes but I don’t find this method as effective as the baking soda technique.

4.  To help with static, there’s the aluminum foil ball technique.  Tightly scrunch a piece of foil to form a ball.  Throw it in with clothes in the dryer.  There is some possible concern with increasing your exposure to aluminum (which has been linked to some brain disorders).  It can also snag delicate clothes.

5.  Try to keep synthetic fabrics out of the dryer since they are the culprits when it comes to static.  Natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, hemp, and linen are best dried on their own.

6.  And, of course there are natural fabric softeners available in most health food stores.  I must admit, though, that I don’t find them necessary.  I try to purchase clothing made of natural fibers as much as possible and find my clothes are soft regardless whether they go through the dryer (free of fabric softeners) or are hung to dry.

As you can see, there are plenty of options when you want soft clothes and to be free of toxins.

Related: Clean Clothes, Happier Planet

Michelle Schoffro Cook

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Johne B.
Johne B.3 months ago

This blog has very distinct features. Thanks mini washing machine

Sally B.
Sally B.about a year ago

I imagine #2 would be a good idea with wool dryer balls. As for vinegar, would plain vinegar have the same effect as apple cider?

Irma Sanchez-klassen

Add a capful of Avon Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil to wash water of clothes...acts as a fabric softener and keeps the bugs off clothes.


Kelly F.
Kelly F.3 years ago

I too use homemade laundry soap. I rinse with cider vinegar and then dry in the backyard on a line. Towels are very rough, but we have gotten accustomed to the feeling. I tell the family that it is a form of exfoliation. :)

Mandi Rose
Amanda Adams3 years ago

Angie H, I have noticed the same. I usually will just throw the towels and other clothes in the dryer for a short 2-5mins and they will soften up.

Angie Hamilton
Angela Pfuntner3 years ago

I make my own detergent for washing , but am finding that, with hanging them to dry , they are super stiff . The detergent already calls for baking soda ( castile soap , salt and water ) , is vinegar a viable option for a softener ?

Dale Overall

While I love drying clothes the old fashioned way on clothes lines as I have done much of my life this is no longer practical living in an apartment, nor is there room to attach clothes to the ceiling via pulleys since the ceiling is stucco and it is unlikely management would be thrilled about attaching stuff to the ceilings.

Baking soda sounds good and there are likely other alternatives out there as well.

Nirvana Jaganath
Nirvana Jaganath3 years ago

Thanks will try the baking soda!

Amber Beasley
Amber Beasley3 years ago


Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago