If you’ve ever taken one of my Essential Oil 101 classes – online or in person – you’ll have heard my story about dryer sheets and how they inspired me towards a more natural life. It started innocently enough, I forwarded on a “life hack” post that showed super caked on grime in a pan wiping off with ease thanks to letting the pan soak with a dryer sheet. At the time I really didn’t see the harm! So I was a bit surprised when I got a comment begging me to just throw out the pan now and asking me if I knew just how terrible dryer sheets are for your health.
With burning cheeks, I had to admit my ignorance. And if I’m being completely honest, I began reading up on laundry detergents, dryer sheets and fabric softener to disprove the comment. I was looking for any bit of information that would show that these products weren’t that bad… I never found one.
That’s when I was hit with a revelation. I have been advocating for years to choose high quality, local, organic food because I absolutely believe that what we put into our bodies directly impacts how those bodies perform, heal and grow. Also that how those resources are produced and the effect that has on the world is important. But I realised I had been assuming that if I wasn’t eating the fabric softener, somehow I wasn’t absorbing all the terrifying ingredients through your respiratory system and skin. As if ingestion is the only way that your body interacts with the world around it. I was eating clean and living dirty.
I started by downloading a Toronto made app called Think Dirty – which lets you scan the bar codes of your products and it rates the product as a whole and each of the individual ingredients on a scale of 1-10 along with reasoning for the rating. Highly recommended and can be a huge time saver while shopping! Everything in my laundry room scored 8+, which is a level described as “product’s ingredients have potential serious negative long term health effects”. Ick.
Next came the evening of internet research. I’m not here to do a scientific study myself – but I do like to check multiple trusted sources. Sometimes just verifying the sources takes the majority of the time, but sometimes the information, studies, and reports all point to the same conclusion and it makes my decisions easier. I absolutely encourage you to do your own digging. I love sharing my findings, sources, and experiences – but learning to evaluate an ingredient list is an incredibly useful skill.
What I found wasn’t great. From Scientific American “If you’re concerned about the health and safety of your family members, you might want to stay away from both conventional dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners altogether. While it may be nice to have clothes that feel soft, smell fresh and are free of static cling, both types of products contain chemicals known to be toxic to people after sustained exposure.” Sustained exposure? Like a lifetime of doing laundry and wearing clothing. Not many people are going to avoid that.
Health and wellness website Sixwise sites some of the most harmful ingredients in dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener include benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant), ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders), limonene (a known carcinogen) and chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen), among others.
The documentary Stink! available on Netflix does an awesome job of looking at synthetic fragrance industry as a whole but with a strong look at detergents, cleaners, and body sprays.
Ok you say. So laundry detergent and softeners aren’t as good for you as an apple. What does it matter? You wear the clothes, you don’t eat them. True! But you do inhale their synthetic scents (which is responsible for the majority of the cancer causing chemicals), which reach your heart, thyroid and liver within 3 seconds of you breathing in that “fresh mountain scent”. The chemicals also absorb into your clothing so you are then taking them and putting them right up against the largest organ in your body, your skin. Which slowly leeches out said chemicals and passes them along to every system in your body.
So now if you are feeling overwhelmed, a bit panicked and kind of grossed out by your laundry you are exactly where I was a couple of years ago! Click here to see my post “Less is More” about the all natural, plant based solutions I’ve found for kicking dangerous chemicals out of my laundry room, out of my family’s clothing and out of our bodies.
And if you are feeling like you need to vent about how disturbing all this really is, and how laundry is terrible enough before it was trying to kill you – hit me up in the comments section or one of my social media accounts. I’ll admit I’ve needed many a venting session along the road!
Love & Spices,