If you are one of millions of Americans who uses regular fabric softener, you are also one of millions of Americans who is a) wearing out their clothes and linens faster, and b) exposing themselves to chemicals.
That’s right. Traditional fabric softener actually contains a variety of petroleum-based chemicals that ruin the quality of your textiles. The flammability of fabrics increases, and its ability to breathe and absorb water decreases, according to a study conducted by Jiangman Guo and Jessie Chen-Yu of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
These petroleum-based chemicals are put into fabric softener in order to coat fabrics so that there is less static electricity. However, this actually breaks down the original finish of the material. The finish of the fabric is an essential part of the textile-manufacturing process, and is part of what gives a fabric its look and feel. Once that finish begins to break down, the fabric itself begins to wear out much faster.
Those are just the immediate results of fabric softener.
Many of the chemicals in fabric softener are harmful to the human body. Some ingredients have a smaller effect, such as benzyl alcohol, which irritates the upper respiratory tract. However, there are some more potent and serious chemicals, such as phthalates and benzyl acetate, which are both linked to cancers. Benzyl acetate has actually been connected with pancreatic cancer, which has only a 7% five-year survival rate. Some chemicals like these are listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Lists.
Luckily, there is a much more natural solution: white vinegar.
White vinegar doesn’t contain chemicals, nor does it affect the quality of your fabrics. Even better, it’s a much cheaper alternative to traditional fabric softer — you can get a 128 oz. bottle for as little as $2.87 at Target. And there’s no reason to worry about that vinegar smell staying with your clothes, because it doesn’t leave a scent behind. For a personal review of vinegar as a fabric softener, read this blog post from Green Idea Reviews.
Now vinegar won’t prevent static, but there’s another home necessity that will — aluminum foil. Just crumple some aluminum foil into a ball and pop it into your dryer with your wet clothes. Green Idea Reviews has another personal account on using these as a replacement for dryer sheets.
It may seem a little odd to transition from traditional fabric softener, but considering the benefits of switching, it’s not a high price to pay at all. This one small change will help you live a healthier lifestyle without drastically changing any of your basic habits.