Upon a recent store brand purchase of a perfume and dye free fabric softener, I opened the bottle to add it to my laundry. There was a very strong chemical smell that I had not noted with the brand I usually purchase, and I experienced an immediate sensation in my brain that is very hard to describe, so I’ll just call it a headache. I know it to be the feeling of neurotoxicity based upon past experience and it felt like a tingling throughout my brain. After a few minutes, I noted a tightness in my chest/lungs and throat. Since I knew why this was happening and what had triggered the event, I knew how to help myself and took a couple whole food supplements to support my body in processing this chemical challenge and within a few hours I was back to normal.
Because of this experience, I was initially upset that the product packaging indicated it was free of perfumes and dyes and yet had such a clear and strong smell of noxious chemicals. Then I got online and looked up the ingredients. To be fair, the first ingredient was water, but the second ingredient was Dialkylester Ammonium Methosulfate. This ingredient is member of a chemical group known as “Quats” or ammonium salts that are used as a disinfectant in many cleaning products and in fabric softener is used as the softener and antistatic aspect. This type of chemical is associated with symptoms such as mild skin and respiratory irritation and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. In addition, “Quats” have been determined to have a probable connection to birth defects and fertility issues.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_ammonium_cation and for further investigation, https://www.womensvoices.org/cleaning-with-pesticides-quit-the-quats/)
Another ingredient listed is Methylisothiazolinone. This is a powerful biocide and preservative, often used as a method for controlling microbial growth in water containing solutions. This ingredient is often associated with allergic contact dermatitis and is identified as a cytotoxin which means this is a substance known to be harmful to cells. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylisothiazolinone ; https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/703935-METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE/
Once I knew the ingredients in this store brand fabric softener, I looked up my usual brand. They had very similar ingredients and it was listed with a failing rate on the Environmental Working Group website. You can check that out here: https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/1752-DownyUltraLiquidFabricConditionerFreeGentle?formulation=7339
I was left feeling like I had been living under a rock, and simply not paying attention to this one aspect of lifestyle and how it may be impacting my own health. At this moment, I can not be sure what will be different now that I will no longer be using any fabric softeners, but I hope to become aware of changes in the coming weeks and months.
The information that I have provided within the links above was more than enough information for me to decide to kick my fabric softener habit; however, there are some good reasons people use this type of product. If you have hard water and your clothes feel rough and scratchy after they are washed, then fabric softener can be a solution. Some people, like me, just like having that extra softness. Others, use the scented products to leave a scent on their clothes they might like and may make them feel like their clothes are cleaner?
So, here are some solutions: If you have hard water, own your own home, and can afford to do so, invest in a whole house water filtration system that softens and filters the water. This is an amazing solution to address all the hard water issues in the house, dishwasher, shower, bath and washing machine and the benefits are usually noted very quickly. This is not a solution for everyone so the two solutions below are simple, effective, and easy on the wallet!
Adding Distilled White Vinegar to your washing machine when doing a load of laundry will do the trick and then some! I have used this vinegar hack for some time and the laundry I did this weekend was just as soft, if not more so, than it would have been with fabric softener. Vinegar also acts as a natural deodorizer, it cleans your washer while it washes your clothes, helps maintain the color of clothes, helps fight stains and more! https://www.thespruce.com/top-uses-for-vinegar-in-laundry-2147286
Dryer balls can be a great option to using chemical dryer sheets and they work very well. You can buy them at many locations now days. One of my favorite makers and retailers is a local Rochester company: Impact Earth. You can find them at the Brighton Farmers Market on Sundays and you can find them here: https://impactearthroc.com/store/wool-dryer-balls The dryer balls will soften and assist with reducing the static cling! You can also add a few drops of your favorite Essential Oil fragrance to the balls to scent your clothes.
In addition, one of my favorite product lines is a small, family run company called Branch Basics. They have created a non-toxic cleaning product that WORKS! It’s a concentrated cleaning product that can be used for every household cleaning task you have. I have been amazed with the results and have been using Branch Basics for all my cleaning needs for about 2.5 years now. They have an informative blog and have done extensive research into the chemicals in cleaning products. https://branchbasics.com/blog/12-toxic-chemicals-in-dryer-sheets-fabric-softeners/ and https://branchbasics.com/?s=dryer
And if you are interested in checking out Branch Basics products, here is a discount on your first-time order! http://branchbasics.refr.cc/michelelaw
Click this link for further research completed by The Environmental Working Group: https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/11/dont-get-slimed-skip-fabric-softener
Now that you know more about fabric softener are you ready to kick fabric softener to the curb? Let me know in the comment section below.