Skip the Softener

Reviewed: November 7, 2019

Fabric softeners come with a lot of promises – soft, fresh-smelling clothes, free of static and wrinkles, along with less stretching, fading and pilling.

Unfortunately, in-wash softeners and heat-activated dryer sheets pack a powerful combination of chemicals that can harm your health, pollute the air, and damage the environment. The chemicals of most concern include:

While you may opt to avoid diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride even if you don’t know it is a quat, product labels often contain vague terms such as “biodegradable fabric softening agents,” “perfume,” “color,” “fragrance,” or “preservative.” These terms may sound innocuous, but you have no idea what chemicals they are describing. With over 3,000 “fragrance” ingredients alone appearing in various and often vague forms on product labels it is almost impossible to know what is really going into your laundry basket.

Best advice is to skip fabric softeners and conditioners in any form – pellets, crystals, bars or single-dose packs.  Try adding half a cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle (don’t worry: the smell doesn’t linger on clothes) or using unscented100 percent wool dryer balls which can soften clothes, reduce static and even shorten drying time (by lifting and separating clothes as they dry).


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Dana Sundblad
Dana is a seasoned marketing and communications professional with over 20 years experience helping companies achieve awareness and financial goals in consumer, technology, and non-profit industries. Most recently she was Director of Communications at Castilleja School and began her career in brand marketing with Clorox. She received her MBA from Harvard University and BA from Wellesley College.
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