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The following is part of an Organic Journey Guest Post Series written by Amy, a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.
Without doing an ounce more of research, I’m going to predict that fabric softeners aren’t that great for one simple reason: they are loaded with fragrances. From everything that we learned earlier about synthetic fragrances, we know that we need to avoid them. A quick glance over at the EWG’s database reveals that only one fabric softener that they’ve reviewed gets an A. In fact, they have a whole section devoted on why we should avoid fabric softeners-especially since they really aren’t necessary to get clothes clean. Here are their top three reasons.
One, fabric softeners (including dryer sheets) coat our clothes with a layer of chemicals. These chemicals are often referred to as “quats,” and quats are known to cause asthma in otherwise healthy people. Two, many quats are antibacterial. While that sounds good in theory, the EWG says that this is another case where we are ramping ourselves up for superbugs, not to mention that clean clothes really don’t need to be treated with antibacterial agents. Third, fabric softeners are laden with fragrances. Enough said, right?
So, what are the alternatives? I’m going to let you in on the easiest solution first. Just don’t use anything. I know that might sound outrageous to those of you who have been using fabric softeners since you first learned how to do laundry; it did to me when I first heard it. Years ago though, when I was trying to make laundry better for my daughter that struggled with eczema, I tried all kinds of alternatives and realized that not using any type of fabric softener or dryer sheet was not only the easiest solution, but it was free and eliminating it really didn’t seem to make a difference. In fact, all of our towels say not to use fabric softener as it negatively affects their ability to absorb water. But, take heart, there are some alternatives if you want soft, fragrant, and static free clothing.
Add ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your wash. One blogger mentioned that she found vinegar to be great at softening clothes but not so great at eliminating static. She also recommended using a fabric softener dispensing ball if you are worried about missing the rinse cycle.
Wear clothes with natural fibers as opposed to nylons, spandex and the likes. Natural fibers won’t have as much static to contend with. (This might be the biggest factor in our success in eliminating fabric softeners…minus, of course, those silky princess nightgowns my girls love!)
Wool Dryer Balls
Wool dryer balls are an option we tried early on in our experimentation. You can buy them or easily make your own. The theory is that they speed up drying time by bouncing around in your dryer and allowing air to flow more freely through your clothes, and they are supposed to soften your clothes by the felted wool’s gentle friction against your clothes. I honestly didn’t notice a difference when I used them, but maybe you have had better success than I have.
Reusable Dryer Sheets
Another option is reusable dryer sheets. They vary in price, but are around $15 for two. You put both sheets in the dryer, and they claim to eliminate static and soften fabric. Some claim to last for 1,000 loads which makes it quite economical. A friend of mine uses these and says that she likes to add a drop or two of essential oils to them every couple of loads to get her clothes smelling good too.
A quick heads up, there are several other alternatives that don’t sound too great to me if you start looking for options. Some people recommend wadding up some aluminum foil and tossing it into your dryer. This just sounds like a recipe for burns or for snagging your clothes. Another alternative is to use a tennis ball or rubber ball in the dryer. I tried this years ago and there was alot of racket while my clothes were drying. There are PVC free balls that are made specifically for this purpose which might make a difference.
Next week, we are doing what many of you have been asking for: a complete list of all the previous organic living posts! Hopefully, this will make it easier to find what you are looking for and catch up on any that you have missed.
For now, have you found a way to get your clothes smelling good and static free without using toxic chemicals? If so, please share with us! We’d love to learn from your experiences.