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The Toxic Dangers of Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners

December 28th, 2008 14 comments

Are Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners Toxic?

This topic goes straight to one of the issues that aggravates me most about modern society… it challenges a belief that so many otherwise intelligent, health and environmentally aware people have bought into. Throughout the Western world, people have been duped by extensive advertising campaigns into believing they have to use fragrance-laden dryer sheets and fabric softeners to be clean and acceptable to society.

What they don’t seem to realize is that those dryer sheets and fabric softeners are loaded with TOXIC CHEMICALS that can seriously harm their health and the health of their children.

People today think that hanging clothes out to dry in the sun is old-fashioned and not done anymore. Throwing them in the dryer is so much more convenient and faster.

Using a dryer may be faster and more convenient, but if you’re using toxic dryer sheets, you are going to pay with your health.

Ever wonder why more Americans are getting Alzheimer’s earlier than ever before? I suspect it’s all the toxic chemicals they are breathing in all day on their clothes, and all night from their sheets and blankets. These toxins go straight to their brain’s most sensitive neurological centers and wreck havoc. You simply can’t assault the most delicate and sensitive part of your body – the mastermind of all your body’s other functions -and not affect your health.

The truth is, thinking your clothes are cleaner when using chemically-fragranced dryer sheets is a complete fallacy. The sun’s rays act as disinfectancts – killing germs, bacteria and dust mites that might have survived the wash.

drying laundry in sun
In fact, a few hours in the sun is one of the best, and ONLY ways to get rid of dust mites. Dust mites are very tenacious -they survive both wash and dryer cycles.

I saw a question on “Ask Science Man” recently about which kills more germs – hanging clothes out in the sun, or drying them at high heat. Here’s Science Man’s answer:

“From the standpoint of the clothing, drying in the sun is far superior (less damage to fibers). From the standpoint of the environment, drying in the sunshine is better (less energy and associated greenhouse gases).

To my thinking, there is no reason to use the dryer if drying in the sun is an option.”

But the bigger reason to dry your clothes in the sun instead of the dryer is to avoid toxic dryer sheets.

Go ahead and read the ingredients on your dryer sheets – if you can find them. For some reason, dryer sheets seem to have escaped having to list their ingredients on the package. Could it be the manufacturers are trying to hide something?

…Like the fact that those innocent-looking dryer sheets are saturated with chemical fragrance and synthetic coloring. They wouldn’t want you to know that what is in them is lethal.

Most people are fooled – the fragrances smell fresh and clean to them. Some, (like my neighbors), pollute the entire neighborhood every time they do laundry!

To me, dryer sheets smell like sappy gunk covering up the smell of puke. After the first whiff, the odor gets worse and worse until my skin crawls, my head aches and my stomach churns.

For good reason. The toxins in dryer sheets are intense. Chemically sensitive people need to stay away from them. Using them is a double-whamy because the toxic chemicals enter your body two ways:

  1. Through your skin – when you wear clothes dried with dryer sheets, your body warmth and moisture “dissolves” the
    chemicals. Your skin then “takes them up” – they are absorbed directly into your bloodstream through your skin. It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways people get poisoned with cancer-causing chemicals.
  2. Through your brain – the synthetic fragrances in dryer sheets enter through your olefactory system and plug up
    receptor sites in your brain -Receptor sites that are sitting there waiting for healthy substances to enter get plugged up, so that when the healthy substances do come by, the receptors cannot take them up. There are many other negative health effects as well.

Chemicals Found In Fabric Softeners And Dryer Sheets

Here is a list of just some of the chemicals found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets from this website and their effects:
http://www.ghchealth.com/forum/post-325.html:

- 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

- Limonene: The synthetic version is a known carcinogen

- 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

So how could products with pretty names like ‘Soft Ocean Mist,’
‘Summer Orchard’ and ‘April Fresh’ be so dangerous?

The chemicals in fabric softeners are pungent and strong smelling — so strong that they require the use of these heavy fragrances (think 50 times as much fragrance) just to cover up the smells. Furthermore, synthetic fabrics, which are the reason fabric softeners were created in the first place, do not smell good either when heated in a dryer or heated by our bodies … hence the need for even more hefty fragrances.

In other words, remove all the added fragrance that endears people to fabric softeners and — like the cliché wolf in sheep’s clothing — the real smells of the chemical-laced fabric softener and the synthetic fabrics they were designed around may prompt people to shoot their laundry machines and be done with it.

Are “Soft” Clothes Worth It?

Fabric softeners are made to stay in your clothing for long periods of time. As such, chemicals are slowly released either into the air for you to inhale or onto your skin for you to absorb. Dryer sheets are particularly noxious because they are heated in the dryer and the chemicals are released through dryer vents and out into the environment. Health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include:

Central nervous system disorders:

    Headaches
    Nausea
    Vomiting
    Dizziness
    Blood pressure reduction
    Irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract
    Pancreatic cancer

Don’t wrap your family in chemical-coated fabric-softened towels! Simple baking soda will leave your laundry soft and your health intact.

Soften Your Clothes Safely With These Tips

Even if you don’t feel the effects of these chemicals today, they can affect you gradually over time, and children, whose systems are still developing, are particularly at risk. There’s really no reason to expose yourself to these risky chemicals when natural alternatives exist. Not only are they safer for you, your family and the environment, but they’re much more economical too:

- Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabric

- Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to wash soften fabric and eliminate cling

- Check out your local health food store for a natural fabric
softener that uses a natural base like soy instead of chemicals

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Using dryer sheets destroys your natural sense of smell over time. I have noticed that my relatives (who use two dryer sheets per load) can’t smell anything. They can’t smell good food cooking or flowers blooming. Nor can they smell rancid towels that go sour from being too damp too long. It’s as if they have no sense of smell left.

I have also noticed that this affects people’s intelligence and ability to make good decisions. Anything that affects the brain so directly, affects reasoning ability and many other abilities.

My advice is, don’t ever use conventional dryer sheets. I’ve been air drying my clothes for years and love it. I love the truly fresh, clean scent of sun-and-breeze-dried laundry. In the winter, I dry clothes on dryer racks in the house. It works great, you just have to plan ahead. 

If you must dry in a dryer, get fragrance- and chemical-free dryer sheets at your local health food store.

And another thing – did you realize the the odor from the chemicals in the sheets does not not fade for years? If any of my clothing gets “contaminated” with synthetic fragrance, I have to boil it, air it out, then bag it up for 3-4 years before the article can be wearable. Sometimes the odor never comes out and I have to discard or give the item away.

I used to have a big problem when I stayed at relatives whose bedding and towels reeked with toxic dryer sheet fragrance. Normally, I bring my own towels and sheets, but once in a while, I got stuck with theirs.

How To Remove Chemical Fragrances From Clothes

In the past, I would have to boil all the laundry and clothes that could be boiled (this destroyed only some of the odor), then put the clothes away for years. But I’ve recently discovered a fantastic de-odorizer that works better than anything. It’s Thieves Household Cleaner – it’s a blend of odor destroying essential oils in a non-toxic cleaning base.

All I do now is mix a little bit of Thieves Household Cleaner into a bucket of warm water and soak the items overnight. In the morning, I wash them as usual and dry. Usually all the smell is gone. If I encounter an especially stubborn odor, I repeat the soaking.

It has made a huge difference in my life to be able to safely and effectively remove toxic odors.