Fabric softener was introduced in the days of yore when laundry detergents were hash and left clothes scratchy, stiff and uncomfortable. Yore was a long time ago and since then, laundry detergents have improved significantly, rendering fabric softeners moot. Here’s how and why to ditch fabric softeners. They’re bad for you, for the planet and for your wallet.
Fabric softeners work by coating your clothing in a lubricating film. This helps to prevent static by reducing friction and adding a positive charge to fabrics. Softeners help to separate fibers in the fabric too, but perhaps their most important function is that fresh laundry scent.
Sadly all of these good things are overshadowed by the chemical composition of softeners which are bad for you and the environment. The great laundry smell comes from phthalates which are endocrine disruptors as well as quaternary ammonium compounds which are associated with skin irritations and respiratory issues. The preservatives and colors contribute to skin ailments and cancer. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the chemicals in softeners make your clothing more flammable.
Laundry softeners may not even be vegan! Many contain Dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride which comes from animal fat. Some also contain palm oil and ingredients from the petroleum industry.
To be honest, I didn’t know all of this when I gave up fabric softeners. I just didn’t like the idea of spending money or dousing my clothing in chemicals. Sure, my towels aren’t as fluffy nor do I have that fresh laundry smell, but there are ways to improve softness.
If you have a dryer, your clothes should be pretty soft already. Using felt balls or balls of aluminium foil can help reduce static and improve softness. I put a half a cup of white vinegar in during the rinse cycle of a small load. That really does the trick. I add a couple of drops of essential oil for yummy smelling clothing. It’s cheaper, greener and less flammable.