Eco-friendly fabric softeners and dryer sheets cause allergic reactions and pose serious health hazards

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 by: JB Bardot
Tags: fabric softeners, allergies, fragrance

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(NaturalNews) Fabric softeners are meant to soften synthetic fabrics and reduce static cling. Most standard fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain noxious scents and chemicals such as quarternary ammonium compounds, which release toxic chemicals like formaldehyde into the environment. Formaldehyde causes a variety of serious allergic reactions including rashes, respiratory conditions and neurological disorders. Even eco-friendly fabric softeners are loaded with chemicals and fragrances that may cause a unacceptable reactions and may have a negative impact on your health.

Formaldehyde-free doesn't mean safe

Although newer, "green", products no longer include formaldehyde-containing chemicals, they are infused with other dangerous ingredients such as alpha-terpineol, camphor, benzyl acetatelimonene, ethyl acetate, pentane, benzyl alcohol, and chloroform. These products may help reduce static cling in your clothes, but at what cost? They also contribute to a long list of potential serious health problems ranging from nausea, vomiting, asthma, allergic skin reactions, liver and kidney disease, cancer and central nervous disorders, notes the Guide to Less Toxic Products, the website of the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia. Long-term use of fabric softeners and dryer sheets may contribute to chronic chemical over-exposure, building up slowly in the system, according to the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Allergic reactions

Use of laundry softeners may produce a variety of skin problems and the user may not recognize that they are related to exposure to dryer sheets. Itching, yeast infections, hives, rashes, cracking and dryness are all possible side effects from exposure to the topical effects of fabric softeners. In May 2000, Anderson Laboratories released a study in the "Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health," reporting that five common products used in dryer sheets emit the the chemicals styrene, phenol, toluene, thymol, xylene and trimethylbenzene. The study was performed on mice, and indicated that their entire upper respiratory systems were compromised, limiting airflow and normal respiration.

Fragrance fog

Many fragrances used in dryer sheets are considered toxic to humans, reports The Guide to Less Toxic Products; and may contribute to developing cancer, asthma, kidney, and brain damage. Other symptoms resulting from the fragrances used in all fabric sheets including eco-friendly brands, include headaches, coughing, dizziness, vomiting, and a range of upper respiratory difficulties. Artificial fragrances have a potent effect on the nervous system potentially causing depression, hyperactivity and other behavioral problems. Chemical additives including fragrances can be especially harmful to children and unborn fetuses.


Options besides commercial dryer sheets are available for reducing static cling in fabric and offer a safer way to do the laundry. Dry natural fabrics separately from synthetics. Natural fibers don't develop static. Don't allow clothes to dry completely in the dryer. Remove them while they are still slightly damp and hang them on the line to finish drying. The longer they remain in the dryer, the more static is developed. Line drying helps to prevent this from occurring. Green America suggests pre-soaking clothes in 1/2 cup of baking soda for 10 minutes if you have hard water. Baking soda acts as a natural fabric softener. Use natural laundry soaps with soy-based fabric softeners. Chose products that are scent free and have no dyes to limit any influence these chemicals may have. Make your own dryer sheets by soaking a small cloth in 1 tsp. of hair conditioner and allow it to dry. Toss in the dryer with clothing to remove static. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle before the wash is completed to soften clothes. Use chemical-free dryer balls to fluff fibers and remove static cling.

Sources for this article include:

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health: Respiratory Toxicity of Fabric Softener Emissions

Grinning Planet: Ahh, The Air is Filled with the Smells of the Season...and Dryer Sheets

DermNet NZ: Fabric Mix Allergy

Green America : Going Green with Your Laundry

GaiamLife: 6 Alternatives to Dryer Sheets + 2 Reasons You Should Care

Guide to Less Toxic Products -- Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia: Household Cleaners

US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational Dermatitis

About the author:

The JB Bardot Archives:
Natural News:

JB Bardot is an herbalist and a classical homeopath, and has a post graduate degree in holistic nutrition. Bardot cares for both people and animals, using alternative approaches to health care and lifestyle. She writes about wellness, green living, alternative medicine, holistic nutrition, homeopathy, herbs and naturopathic medicine. You can find her at The JB Bardot Archives at and on Facebook at or on Twitter at jbbardot23 or

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