More people are trying to live a more “natural” or “green” life. There is so much information today about the dangers and side affects of the far-too-many chemicals lurching in our piles of products. Nobody wants to put dangerous toxins in their body. And thankfully, as a society we are finally starting to realize that toxic intruders can get into our body in a number of ways–from the air we breathe, to the chemicals sprayed on our food, to the stuff we use to clean our counters.
So you want to live a toxic free life…
Of course, because there is so much information out there it can easily become incredibly overwhelming.
Where do I start?
How do I get rid of the toxic chemicals?
Which ones are the worse?
Whenever someone asks me any of these questions, my answer is always pretty much summed up in the simple phrase: Baby steps.
You don’t have to change everything at once.
That doesn’t mean you can’t, of course. If you have the knowledge, will-power, and resources to make every change you ever wanted to right now… well, I say “go for it.” The rest of us mere-mortals will watch in amazement while we continue our journey. Step by step.
If you really are new to this whole idea of toxic free living, and you don’t know where to start, let me suggest the following as your inroad to a more greener you:
Ditch the toxic fabric softener and dryer sheets
Why is this such a good first step? Well, because it’s pretty easy. I mean, maybe you really really love the way your fabric softener makes your clothes feel. Maybe the thought of getting rid of it makes you sick to your stomach. But chances are, this is a pretty easy starting point. And there’s an extra bonus: It is one less thing to spend money on! Yippee!
If you are one of those people who really love their fabric softeners, or think that there is no other way to get rid of static cling without a little dryer sheet, here are some things to consider about these products:
Back in the “good ol’ days,” fabric softeners were made from a combination of soap and olive oil (or other natural oils). Unfortunately, today’s fabric softeners are made of noxious chemicals combined with a massive amount of fragrance that masks the toxic odors. These chemicals coat the surface of textiles with a thin layer of lubrication. This makes the clothes feel smoother and helps them resist the buildup of static electricity.
Fabric softener actually makes material less absorbent, which is not a good thing for some of your laundry, such as your bath towels. Oh, and that same film that is put on your clothes… it ends up on your lint trap as an invisible film, increasing your chance of catching fire.
What sort of toxic chemicals are we talking about?
I’m glad you asked! Here are just some of the chemicals inside fabric softeners and what they’ve been linked to:
- Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
- Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
- Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
- A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
- Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
- Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
- Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
- Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
- Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
(for more information on this list, go here.)
Okay, so what should I do about my clothes?
The most “green” thing you can do (and the thing that will make your clothes awesome) is to line dry. But for a lot of us that’s just not feasible. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options, many of which are super easy and super inexpensive:
1. Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine and let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes. This baking soda acts as a water softener and helps makes clothes super soft.
2. Make your own felt wool dryer balls. Crunchy Betty has a great DIY tutorial on her blog. The balls are simple, frugal, and help dry your clothes faster and get rid of static cling.
3. Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 1 1/2 tsp Eucalyptus Essential Oil. Shake well and then spray 10 – 15 times on your wet clothes before starting the dryer. Don’t worry, there will be no vinegar smell left when they are done. Occasionally I will find an item or two that will still have some static cling, but it’s gone if I shake the clothing once or twice.
4. Try to keep synthetic fabrics out of the dryer since they are the culprits when it comes to static. Natural fibers are best dried on their own. When possible, avoid synthetic fabrics, period.
5. And, of course there are natural fabric softeners available in most health food stores. But do you really need them? I don’t think so (and they are usually pricey).
Update (9/12): 6. So it’s been many moons since I stopped using fabric softener, but over the past seven or so months I’ve found the easiest way to keep your clothes softer: Use the low heat setting! Seriously, I haven’t had a single “static cling” issue, my clothes are just as soft as when I was using the toxic stuff, and it’s better for the environment. It take a little longer to dry, but no more effort. Win!
So there you have it…
Simple solutions to one big toxic problem. It won’t be long until you wonder why you bought that gross toxic stuff in the first place. (Not to mention, from here on out, whenever you see some sort of “squishy” bear selling fabric softener you’ll probably find it very creepy. Or is that just me?)
Do you have any other great alternative to fabric softener?
Looking for great all natural and toxic free recipes? Check out my book Toxic Free.
(Image source 2)