Fabric Softners


The smell of fabric softeners is on the minds of many Americans, or so I assume from the volume of email I receive on the subject. Many are frantic to get the smell out of their driers, others out of their clothes, and most want alternatives.


A recent study from Anderson Laboratories gives a clue as to why this particular household product has become a bee in so many people’s bonnets. Here are the details:

Anderson Laboratories’ chemical analysis of the airborne emissions of five different kinds of commonly available fabric softeners was reported in the May, 2000 issue of The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Their study revealed that the fabric softeners emitted toluene, styrene, phenol, thymol, xylene, and trimethylbenzene, among other chemicals, many of which cause acute respiratory tract irritation and inflammation.

What You Can Do
Fabric softeners are static cling busters; that is their main function. They reduce static cling by coating fabric with a waxy film that fluffs up clothes and changes the negative electrical charge from the detergent.

Interestingly, natural fabrics don’t develop static the way synthetics do, so step-by-step switching to all natural fabrics such as organic cotton sheets will help. You can also shake out the clothes to reduce the static. Fortunately, "green" fabric softeners are now on the market from brands such as Seventh Generation and Ecover, that are made of vegetable-based surfactants, salt, and natural ingredients for scent.

To read the Anderson Laboratories study, click here.

by Annie Berthold-Bond, Care2.com Producer, G.L. Channels

  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns