On our neighborhood walk, I smelled an especially pungent fragrance (and it wasn’t roses!) as we went past someone’s house.  My husband said “dryer sheets!” and of course I then recognized the intense smell.  “I need to write a column on this”, I replied!

Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic household products.  The chemicals in fabric softeners and dryer sheets are so strong that in order to cover up their smell, they require heavy chemical perfumes (also toxic!).  According to, fabric softeners were created for synthetic fabrics, which also have an intense odor when heated, creating a greater need for more fragrance.

Image by trekkyandy

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners contain the following chemicals, known carcinogens, neurotoxins, allergens and respiratory irritants: Benzyl acetate, Benzyl Alcohol, Ethanol, A-Terpineol, Ethyl Acetate, Camphor, Chloroform, Linalool, Pentane. (I have felt tightness in my lungs and lightheadedness from dryer sheets.)  Fabric softeners are designed to stay in your clothes a long time, which means they slowly release chemicals into the air and through the skin.  Dryer sheets are particularly toxic because they are heated and then released through dryer vents into the environment, as I experienced.

Another problem with fabric softeners is that they can possibly build up in your dryer vent, thereby decreasing your dryer’s efficiency and possibly increasing the chance of a dryer fire.  To test it, see if the vent holds water. If it does, clean it with a mild soap and water with a toothbrush.

What can you use instead?  Baking soda added to the wash cycle or white vinegar to the rinse cycle.  Both will soften clothes, and vinegar eliminates static cling.  Or you can find non-toxic dry sheets and fabric softeners at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  Shaklee also makes super concentrated non-toxic laundry products called Get Clean using only biodegradable cleaning agents.   And, when the weather is nice, dry your clothes outside for a fresh, all natural smell.  You’ll be glad you made the switch!

Information compiled from,, The Joy of Green Cleaning by Leslie Reichert.

For more green tips, visit

Below is a great recipe for fabric softener from Leslie Reichert ‘s The Joy of Green Cleaning.

Fabric Softener

3 cups white vinegar 1⁄2 cup water 1⁄2 cup baking soda 8 drops of your favorite essential oil

Mix the water and the vinegar, and then heat in the microwave for 60 seconds. Dissolve the baking soda into the mixture. Add your choice of essential oils. Use in your wash, just like any store bought liquid fabric softener.


Add 1⁄2 cup of white vinegar, baking soda or borax to the rinse cycle to soften the water and reduce static cling.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Asking questions are genuinely good thing if you are
    nott understanding something totally, however thyis post offers nnice understanding yet.


  2. Great post. I was checking continuously this weblog and I’m inspired!
    Extremely helpful info particulafly the rekaining phase 🙂 I maintain such info
    much. I used to be looking for this ertain information for a long time.
    Thanks and best of luck.


    • Thank you for your kind words. Please let me know if there is a topic you would like me to write about!

      Good luck to you – keep going green!



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