Do you always use fabric softener and dryer sheets? Do you know why? No shame! Before diving into the world of homecare, we just assumed they were an essential step of the laundry process. Now, we know better. Not only are softening nonessential (especially when you use Nature First® laundry pods instead), they’re also harmful to your clothes, your skin, your machine, and your environment. Here’s what you need to know.
Where do fabric softener and dryer sheets come from?
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets were popularized in the mid-1900’s as a solution for rough, scratchy linens that resulted from abrasive commercial fabric dye, detergent, and cleaning technology from the time. Though today we have finer dyes, detergent, garments, and cleaning machines, many of us still use these softening agents on laundry day.
How do fabric softener and dryer sheets work?
Both fabric softeners and dryer sheets are made from oils that melt during washing and drying, then permeate or are deposited on top of fabric to coat fibers. This slippery, waxy film reduces wrinkling and prevents cling by neutralizing negative static charge. In some cases, softener also helps to hold colors in fabrics. Many softening agents on the market are scented, which carries into the fabric after washing.
What is so bad about them?
1. YOUR LINENS/WASHER DRYER
The ingredients in softeners mat down fibers, ultimately clogging them and making fabrics less absorbent. They should never be used with towels (if you want them to be fluffy!), especially microfiber cloths designed to trap dirt, dust, and absorb spills. Waxes wear down water-resistant material and block moisture pathways built into technical and performance fabrics like those made for athletic apparel: they should not be used if you are wearing your athletic clothing to ‘wick’ sweat during a workout. As softeners are oil-based, they often leave stains on linens and even trap pre-existing stains!
Studies have shown that liquid fabric softeners can make fabrics – like baby clothing – more flammable. If all this wasn't enough, know, too, that softeners also collect in washing machines and dryers which interferes with the machine’s ability to drain properly while increasing wear and tear on the washing machine’s pump and motor.
2. YOUR HEALTH
Almost all fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain chemicals classified under federal law as carcinogenic, toxic, and hazardous to personal and environmental health including benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant), ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders), limonene (a known carcinogen), chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen), and others.
Synthetic fragrances in dryer sheets aerate in the heat of the dryer and can be inhaled immediately upon use triggering respiratory dysfunction. Because softener residue is designed to linger in fabrics, exposure to chemical scents and other ingredients that irritate sensitive skin (including babies) is prolonged.
3. YOUR ENVIRONMENT
These chemicals disperse into the air of your home, where you breathe it in. They also wash into the waters, ending up in ecosystems where they don’t belong and damaging aquatic environments for plants and animals.
How Nature First® Softens Naturally
Nature First® laundry pods soften fabrics naturally. How? Our laundry pod formula is a combination of wild-harvested soap berries and natural salts. Instead of dampening and congesting fabrics with man-made chemicals, the surfactants in soap berries open fabric fibers, making them feel softer and fluffier on their own, and more absorbent as well! The natural salts soften the fabrics – without being abrasive – and help to eliminate static cling. It’s all the benefits of fabric softener and dryer sheets without the harmful chemicals.