Fabric Softeners

Fabric softeners may make your clothes feel soft and smell fresh, but they are some of the most toxic products produced for daily household use. Most of the well known brands of fabric softeners contain many neurotoxins which could cause cancer and brain damage.

What are these toxic chemicals and how do they harm us?

Some of them are:

  • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
  • Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
  • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
  • Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list
  • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
  • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
  • Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
  • Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled

How do these chemicals work on us?

Fabric softeners remain in your clothing for prolonged periods. During this period, these chemicals are slowly released either into the air which we inhale or get absorbed into our skin.

What are the health effects on us?

There is a wide range of health effects which include central nervous system disorders, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lowering of blood pressure, irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract, pancreatic cancer etc.

Are these chemicals mentioned on the labels?

Most often ingredients are not listed on the labels of household products. Chemical ingredients often fall under the broad umbrella of the "trade secret" classification, making it difficult to identify them specifically. Terms normally used are "bio-degradable fabric softening agents", "fragrances", and "perfumed.Ē

Will fabric softeners ruin my clothes too?

Though fabric softener will not break down the fibers in your clothes, the chemicals used in them do build up over time and can cause yellowing in clothes and can reduce the absorbency of fabrics. Sometimes your old towels donít soak up water like they used to because of this reason.

What are the alternatives to fabric softeners?

There are quite a few, but the safest option appears to be adding a cup of vinegar or baking soda to the rinse cycle. Vinegar will help to remove detergent from fabrics which is an added bonus. Adding a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine and letting it dissolve prior to adding your clothes is also a safe method. There are also natural fabric softeners available in most health food stores.

Do green fabric softeners mention ingredients on labels?

Do fabric softeners cause crib death?