8 Toxins Lurking in Your Fabric Softener

If you enjoy the smell of clean clothes straight out of the dryer you may be shocked to learn that smell comes at a cost.  Most commercial fabric softeners–dryer sheets or the liquid variety–contain many toxic chemicals.  Here are eight toxins found in most fabric softeners (and eight reasons to switch to natural options.)  Not sure about your natural options?  Stay posted for my next blog.

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

2.  Benzyl acetate–Benzyl acetate has been linked to cancer of the pancreas

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

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

5.  Ethanol–also on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list for its ability to cause brain and nervous system disorder

6.  Ethyl Acetate–causes headaches and is on the EPA Hazardous Waste list

7.  Linalool–in studies, this chemical caused loss of muscle coordination, nervous system and brain disorders, and depression

8.  Pentane–causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, and depression

The standard argument in favor of using fabric softeners is that the amount of the chemicals to which a person is exposed is insufficient to cause harm.  Studies are showing that even small amounts of these toxins can have serious effects.  So, think twice before you add that dryer sheet or liquid fabric softener to your laundry, particularly for children whose developing brains are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins.

Read about effective natural options to use in place of harmful chemical-laden fabric softeners.

Adapted from The Brain Wash by Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM (John Wiley & Sons)

If you missed my article on The Toxic Effects of Perfume, be sure to check it out.  And, if you want to give your liver a boost to help it detoxify these toxic chemicals, check out my article, Spring Cleanse Your Liver.

Michelle Schoffro Cook, BSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM


Mary P
Mary Pabout a year ago

(People don't understand that companies don't disclose all of their ingredients on labels and there is no government agency out there making sure products are safe. These things are not regulated and no, they don't even have to disclose toxic chemicals on MSDS sheets. Companies don't care that people are getting sick. They use chemicals and fragrances that are addicting so people want more and more. Where addiction begins, compassion ends.)
There ought to be a law -- against toxic dryer vent emissions. I moved my family to Colorado for fresh air and wide open spaces. It's gone! I took my grandson to the park today and we had to leave because of dryer fumes being emitted by a neighboring house. This is a very large park but the polluted air stream wafted over the entire area. The concentration was so strong that I started retching (and we were across the park from the houses).
Dryer sheets and laundry products with chemicals that are activated in the dryer and sent out into our air must be banned! They are polluting our air more than cars. (note University of Colorado and NOAA study). We have reduced auto emissions -- we need to eliminate toxic emissions from dryer vents.
If you don't know what is in dryer sheets please go to ewg.org and learn! Read the studies at http://www.drsteinemann.com/publications.html. A person's right to smell fragrant ends where other peoples' right to breathe (and live without being poisoned by what their neighbor is

Paola S
Past Member about a year ago


Silk F.
Silk F2 years ago

A very BIG Thank you to all contributor for this knowledge to be available here.

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks Michelle for sharing this important information.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Tehnee J.
Tehnee J.5 years ago

Ok there are toxins everywhere u go. You cant just live under a rock to hide from it all. Im sorry to say but my grandma has always used softener an soap an my dad an mom do too an i do. I am a bit obsessed with my clothes smelling like my softener. Im perfectly fine an so is my grandma. I will still use softener till its not sold anymore. I dont get headaches my kids an i a rarely ever sick. So i am fine. I guess we shldnt drive cars now since our car has lots of toxins in them. My point is there is toxins everywhere u go an u cnt hide from it all.

Rachel Elson-Ockwell
Rachel Ockwell6 years ago

I stopped using dryer sheets a while ago. I use a couple drops of essential oil in the wash instead, and that helps. I have a friend that made her own wool dryer balls, and loves them.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Dale Overall

Interesting, since so many modern day items are filled with toxic things. One person suggested hanging out the clothes to dry, works well when one have a yard to do this and not in a small apartment where there is little room (in my case) to use hanging racks and we are not supposed to hang clothing from the balcony.

Baking soda or vinegar sounds interesting to try in the wash. There is a past member up there with what, a Nazi flag on his photo icon, or at least it looks like that, uncharming I am sure...ewww!

janet T.
janet t6 years ago

I used to be able to smell dryer sheet use a block or so away. And perfumes from a mile off, or it seemed that way. I can also smell a smoker every time. I think it is the ammonia in the cigarettes. When my son heard there was ammonia, along with the dozens of other chemicals, he said, "No wonder you get headaches!" For the record, I am a non smoker.