Although they may make your clothes seem soft and smell "sweet", fabric softener and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic products around. And chances are that the staggering 99.8 percent of Americans who use common commercial detergents, fabric softeners, bleaches, and stain removers would think twice if they knew they contained chemicals that could cause cancer and brain damage.

Here is a list of just some of the chemicals found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets:

  • 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

  • Limonene: Known carcinogen

  • 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

So how could products with pretty names like Soft Ocean Mist, Summer Orchard and April Fresh be so dangerous?

The chemicals in fabric softeners are pungent and strong smelling -- so strong that they require the use of these heavy fragrances (think 50 times as much fragrance) just to cover up the smells. Furthermore, synthetic fabrics, which are the reason fabric softeners were created in the first place, do not smell good either when heated in a dryer or heated by our bodies ... hence the need for even more hefty fragrances.

Fabric softeners leave an oil coating on clothes, which doesn’t really leave them softer or fluffy. This oil builds up on the fibers and takes the absorbency out (oil repels water). In the dryer, fabric softener leaves a sticky residue on all the components like the moisture sensors and drum of the dryer. This residue is very flammable, which is why on the back of some fabric softeners it tells you not to use on towels, terrycloth or fleece. The number one cause of house fires is the dryer. Fabric softeners even take the fire retardant out of baby’s clothes.

There are alternatives:

Anti-Static Ball (slightly different than dryer balls)
Dryer Balls
Here are some home-made DIY ideas
The Static Eliminator Dryer Sheet System

Do yourself and your family and your neighbors a big favor and skip the dryer sheets and fabric softener. Thanks, in advance, for your consideration.


I've just spent a whole lot of time on the road -- major relocation going on. So I found myself asking desk clerks across the country, "Does your hotel use air fresheners? Does your laundry service or housekeeping department use fabric softeners or dryer sheets?" And then the obligatory weird looks. You can see the wheels turning: "Is this some kind of nut? What's her problem?"

I found plenty of those automatic air freshener products. Sometimes the people who worked in the hotel didn't even know those products were being used. But in EVERY case, they were completely and totally unnecessary. There were no dogs lounging around the lobby, there was no kitty litter box under the table, I didn't see one unwashed bum in the area...nothing that would warrant the use of "air freshener". Nothing. No reason to use it. At. All. None. Not only was there nothing stinking up the place (except for the plug-ins), there was lovely fresh air pouring into the lobby every time a guest came in or went out.

The sad thing is that the advertising campaigns for these toxic little nasties are very very very good. Many people believe what they're told when they hear about the "freshness" or the "calming" or the "tropical" or the "citrus" -- the bullshit they're sold on.

I will never stop being angry about the use of these things. Especially in public places. These products are poisonous, dangerous, hazardous, toxic. How many ways can I say it?

So now I live in Portland, OR. I want to find like-minded people who want to make change happen. There are plenty of "clean air" laws. It's time for those laws to include air freshener products.

Join me. Let's do it.