Fabric Softener Alternatives and Other Safe Approaches to Laundry

Why should you ditch your fabric softener? Lots of reasons. Learn how to keep your home safer with these easy fabric softener alternatives.

Why would you need fabric softener alternatives? I mean, when I think of doing laundry I think of:

Fuzzy bears bouncing into piles of colorful towels.

Sunshine swirls dancing around a clothesline.

Warm-from-the-dryer blankets wrapped tenderly around your family.

I mean, this stuff is cozy and heart-warming. The array of products marketed to the masses would lead anyone to believe that laundry day is the best day of the week. From the dreamy scents to the promises of the soft clothes, why would anyone think about looking for fabric softener alternatives?

Once upon a time I was duped into thinking conventional laundry practices were clean and refreshing.

Boy how times have changed.

Now when people ask me how they can live a healthier, more non-toxic life, I always start with laundry. In fact, my first tip for newbies is almost always to ditch the toxic fabric softener or dryer sheet and look for better fabric softener alternatives. Why? Because that stuff is full of scary toxins that get into the air we breathe and linger on the clothes that sit on our skin.

Ditch your fabric softener. Just do it. Trust me.

Alright, alright. Need more information? Fine.

Why you must consider new dryer sheet & fabric softener alternatives and dryer sheets: Because they are toxic.

And I’ll get into just how toxic in a moment. But even if the whole dangerous chemical thing wasn’t an issue, finding fabric softener alternatives is easy on your wallet. And just… well, 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. Most people never look back once they’ve found their ideal fabric softener alternative.

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.
Why should you ditch your fabric softener? Lots of reasons. Learn how to keep your home safer with these easy fabric softener alternatives.

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.)

Basically – It’s dangerous. And really, it’s SO easy to switch to something greener and safer. Take the humble (but wonderful) wool dryer ball: Not only does it help clothes dry faster and keep them soft, but using wool dryer balls also SAVES you money on your electrical bill, SAVES the landfill from collecting dryer sheets, and SAVES your skin from absorbing chemicals from conventional laundry products.

It’s a no brainer.

This list should be reason enough to want to ditch your fabric softener. But I get that some people loathe the idea of not having those soft fluffy towels or cuddly bears on bottles in their laundry room. Plus there’s the big question you’re probably wondering:

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.

6 Awesome Fabric Softener Alternatives:

  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 (learn how here). 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  (learn how to get my favorite essential oils at wholesale prices here.). 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).
  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. Super simple switches.

Ditch your fabric softener and bask in the freedom of reducing your toxin load. Simple solutions to one big chemical problem. It won’t be long until you wonder why you bought that gross toxic stuff in the first place. And you’ll be singing the praises of your fabric softener alternatives all day long. (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?)

But What About My Laundry Detergent?

Did you know:

“The detergent you’re using may contain a cocktail of potent cancer-causing chemicals, some of which the manufacturer doesn’t even have to list on the label. This loophole reduces the odds that you’ll ever discover what’s in there.

Four of the worst offenders are:

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)


NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate)


Not only are these chemicals potentially damaging to your health, but they are also contaminating waterways and harming the environment.”

And the scary story doesn’t stop there. Bleach, stain removers, dryer sheets are full of nasty toxins that are just hanging out in the typical American laundry room.

Don’t be fooled: Those “lavender” scents and “soft as a bear” feel are facades. Don’t breathe it. Don’t wear it. Don’t let it get into our soil. And definitely don’t buy it.

So what’ the best solution? What’s a safer, natural laundry detergent?

If you’re into making your own stuff, check out my homemade borax-free laundry detergent. It’s a simple way to for a safer, greener, more natural approach to laundry.

You can also try soap nuts. You can read about my experience with soap nuts here.

Now days I used Young Living’s Thieves Laundry Soap. Why? Because I’m super lazy and I love being able to get my non-toxic cleaning products from one place… and that one place just happens to ship to my door. You can check out the laundry detergent here. Or, if you’re really up for an easy big step toward greener cleaning, grab the whole Thieves Starter Kit at an incredible price. Check it out here.


Tell me, what are your favorite fabric softener alternatives and safe approaches to laundry?



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