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 abouteffective 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


Paola S
Paola S3 months ago


Silk F.
Silk Fabout a year ago

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

John B.
John B4 years ago

Thanks Michelle for sharing this important information.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Tehnee J.
Tehnee J.4 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 Ockwell5 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 Hamilton5 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 t5 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.

Dorothy Chamberlain
5 years ago

Thanks for the info. I'll be definitely using an alternative when I've used up all the softener I have at the moment...