We all love our clothes fluffy, soft, and smelling nice. Doing the laundry can be a dull task, so things like fragrant detergents and softeners make it much easier.
It means a lot to be able to get your clothes clean, soft, warm, and fresh, especially on cold days, and I know that you love the smell and feel of your laundry after you have added fabric softener.
Yet, apparently, it is time to rethink your washing and drying routine. Half a century ago, the use of a fabric softener was more than necessary, as detergents then left the clothes scratchy.
Yet, do you think modern detergents now leave you in need of anything else to clean and soften your clothes?
Ethical fashion blogger Verena Erin explains why we all fell in love with softeners in the first place:
“They [cover] the fabric in a thin, lubricating film. This coating prevents static by making the garments slippery to reduce friction and the softener adds a positive charge to neutralize the negative static charge. It also helps to separate the fibres making things like towels fluffier. Additionally, they are typically scented and designed so the scent will remain in the fabric.”
Yet, she explains that everything comes with a price, and this is no exception. Millennials have started to avoid fabric softeners for various reasons, the main being its numerous health and safety concerns.
Over the last several years, numerous researchers have revealed the negative effects of fabric softeners on the clothes, environment, and even our health.
First of all, fabric softener works by applying a thin, waxy coating to the material, and in order not to rinse off during the washing, it has to be water-resistant. In this way, the clothes cannot absorb water and detergent well, and they come out less clean.
Moreover, natural fibers such as cotton, bamboo, and hemp, can lock in bad odors in this way.
A softener should never be used when you wash athletic clothing, as it will eventually impede their ability to absorb sweat. Similarly, never use fabric softener on baby clothes.
Baby pajamas are made with flame-resistant materials, and fabric softeners might reduce this ability. The sensitive skin of babies will easily be irritated by the numerous chemicals in the softener, too.
In the case of synthetic materials, softeners can leave a residue that locks in smells, and make them look dull. On the other hand, a fabric softener is a combination of non-renewable, petroleum-based, non-biodegradable chemicals.
The compounds that make our clothes soft are known as quaternary ammonium compounds, which are known to be toxic to aquatic organisms.
Glutaral, another chemical in this product, is toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms as well. When they are toxic to animals, these chemicals are surely no better for us.
Quats can trigger asthma, and some researchers suspect it can also damage our reproductive systems. The fragrance in fabric softeners is a mixture of over three thousand ingredients, including phthalates, that endanger our health and harm male reproductive health.
Galaxolides, synthetic musks, buildup in our body over time, glutaral triggers skin allergies and asthma, Methylisothiazolinone, a common preservative, is a skin allergen, and other preservatives and colors also endanger our well-being in various ways.
So, it would be best to avoid softeners completely.
Start air-drying your clothes more, and you will boost their longevity and reduce static. In this way, the clothes will remain less damaged, the color will fade less, and they will not shrink. If you want them fluffier, you can just leave them in the dryer for a few minutes.
If you are determined to use a dryer, try using aluminum foil balls, wool or felt dryer balls, or add a cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle instead.
You can also visit the nearest health store and ask for an organic, all-natural alternative to the traditional softener, that does not include ingredients like distearyldimonium chloride, diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride, hydroxyethyl methyl ammonium methyl sulfate or misleading items like “biodegradable fabric softening agents” and “cationic surfactant.”
Or, you can also make your DIY softener at home:
- 2 cups of Epsom salts or coarse sea salt
- 20 to 30 drops essential oil
- 1/2 cup baking soda
Mix the essential oils with the Epsom salts in a larger bowl, and then add the baking soda. Pour the mixture into a suitable container with a tight-fitting lid.