Friday, May 31, 2013

Vinegar Friday and why you should avoid fabric softener at all costs!

On Monday morning, I was enjoying time on my back porch, until I was assaulted. Now, it wasn't an intruder, burglar, rapist, or any such monster. No. It was an assault by a seemingly innocent airborne toxin -- dryer sheets in someone else's dryer. And, yes, it was an assault. 

Within minutes, I started to develop a headache. I had no choice but to pack up my laptop, grab my coffee cup, and retreat into my house, where toxic fabric softener is banned. I can't tell you how upsetting it is for me to have to breathe in someone else's poor choices. Of course, everyone is aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke. But no one's saying much about the dangers of secondhand dryer sheets, which, I believe, are just as harmful to our health.

I addressed this issue several times on the blog, as well as in my book, Vinegar Fridays, but I feel so strongly about it, I'm writing about it once again. If you are still using fabric softener (liquid or dryer sheets), I beg you, for the health of your family and the environment, to stop! Fabric softener is one of the most toxic products in homes today, and its use can result in mild to devastating physical conditions. The chemicals in fabric softeners have been linked to central nervous system disorders, such as 
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Dementia
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Multiple Schlerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Would you wrap her in toxins?

SIDS!! While you may never dream of blowing cigarette smoke in your baby's face, have you laid her down on a sheet coated in fabric softener or dressed him in a snuggly soft onesie? The danger is real, folks.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, here is a list of chemicals found in most fabric softeners, followed by the disorders and diseases linked to them. You will notice there is more than just the CNS disorders listed above. 
  • Alpha-Terpineol
    • Pneumonitis or even fatal edema can be caused by aspiration into the lungs
    • Ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), CNS, excitement, headache, hypothermia and respiratory depression
    • There are warnings to avoid repeated or prolonged skin contact -- umm, wouldn't that be exactly what was happening when you wear clothing coated in fabric softener containing alpha-terpineol?
  • Benzyl Acetate
    • Pancreatic Cancer
    • Eye irritation and irritation to respiratory passages from the vapors
    • Systemic effects from skin absorption
    • Warnings involve not flushing this into the sewer
  • Benzyl Alcohol -- Again, we're seeing CNS disorders:
    • Upper respiratory tract irritation
    • CNS depression
    • Dizziness
    • Drop in blood pressure
    • Headache
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Respiratory failure leading to death (that cute little bear isn't look quite so snuggly now, is he?)
  • Camphor -- CNS disorders. This one's on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list and there are warnings to avoid inhaling the vapors. Here is a list of symptoms caused by exposure to camphor:
    • CNS stimulant
    • Local irritant
    • Absorption through body tissues
    • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
    • Confusion
    • Convulsions
    • Dizziness
    • Muscle twitching
    • Nausea
  • Chloroform -- Another one on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list. It is important to avoid inhaling the vapors which can lead to headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, irritation of respiratory tract, and loss of consciousness.
    • Neurotoxin
    • Anesthetic
    • Carcinogenic
    • Warning to "Avoid contact with eyes, skin, clothing. (Remember, we're talking fabric softener here!)
    • Warning: "Inhalation can be fatal."
    • Overexposure can cause chronic kidney and/or liver damage
    • Aggravation of the following medical disorders: heart, kidney, liver, and skin
    • Warning: Avoid heat 
  • Ethyl Acetate -- Yet another one on the EPA's list. This is a narcotic that can
    • Irritate the eyes and respiratory tract
    • Cause headache and stupor
    • Cause anemia with leukocytosis and liver and kidney damage
    • Warning: Wash thoroughly after handling
  • Limonene -- Another carcinogenic substance
    • Warning: Avoid contact with skin and eyes
    • Warning: Always wash thoroughly after using this material and before eating, drinking ... and applying cosmetics
    • Warning: Do not inhale vapor
  • Linalool -- This narcotic is linked to CNS disorders
    • Respiratory disturbances
    • Attracts bees
  • Pentane -- "Danger -- Harmful if inhaled... Avoid breathing vapors." Wonderful.
    • Inhalation of vapors may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, irritation of respiratory tract, and loss of consciousness. Repeated inhalation of vapors may cause CNS depression.
    • Possible eye irritation with contact
    • Dermatitis possible with prolonged exposure
CNS exposure symptoms include: aphasia, blurred vision, disorientation, dizziness, headaches, hunger, memory loss, numbness in face, and pain in neck and spine.

Are you feeling sick yet? 

So, what do you do? First, STOP USING FABRIC SOFTENER!!! I cannot stress that enough. Even if you don't care about your own health, stop and think about the health of your neighbors who end up breathing the toxic vapors released into the air through your dryer vent.

And now here is where we fit this post into a Vinegar Friday -- substitute fabric softener in your wash cycle with distilled white vinegar. Sure, it doesn't smell like a mountain stream, but rest assured, the smell of vinegar in your wash dissipates quickly and your laundry will not smell like vinegar once it is dry. It will simply smell clean. Adding a half cup of DWV to your rinse cycle will soften and whiten your laundry, and significantly reduce static cling. 

Toss some dryer balls into your dryer for added benefit.

If you are still using fabric softener after reading this post, I can only wonder what it will take to convince you of the dangers and risks, not only to you, but to all the people around you. Do you care? I certainly hope so.

Keeping it green and healthy with vinegar,

For more tips on reducing your exposure to toxins, check out my book, Vinegar Fridays, available through Amazon or Lulu.


  1. Nothing will convince me to stop using it, because all of this just sounds plain stupid, where is the link to solid research done on this, sorry, making conclusions like this is wrong and not backed up by reasearch

  2. I'm truly sorry you feel that way, Anonymous. However, I do site research and link to it, so your comment that there is no link to solid research is unwarranted. I didn't make the conclusions; a team of experts did.


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