In the mid-90's I started to phase out traditional cleaners in our home. Following the birth of our first daughter a decade later, I became super sensitive to what cleaners I would allow. Sj developed eczema very early on and typically such reactions are allergy based. My instinct as a mother was to tow the line and rid our home of the last few traditional cleaners that we relied on.
Truth, I had a very hard time letting go of conventional dryer sheets. My favorite brand, which was used through out my entire childhood, rhymed with flounce. There was no escaping the wafting fragrance that brought me back to my youth every time I opened the dryer. I connected clothing being cleaner with that particular smell. I always tried to convince myself that the fragrance was not too strong, especially when I would have to open my car window as I drove home from Tar-jay with my box of dryer sheets in the back (the things reeked in a tight space like my car). I brushed off the fact that people used them to repel insects successfully. I tried to forget about the warning to avoid extended skin exposure. I mean how many chemicals can really be left on the clothes from a little square of fabric softener?
When trying to do some research as to what exactly is in that bright orange box I was ready to wean my family off of, I found it was difficult to determine what exactly a dryer sheet is made up of. Proctor and Gamble does have a Material Safety Sheet, but honestly it's as vague as an electric bill. Enter the problem with proprietary formulas. One can not seek out the complete list of ingredients in a box of fabric softener sheets because the company is protected by law. If you think about it, you won't find ingredients on the MAJORITY of traditional cleaners because the companies are not forced to disclose what's in them. We are at the mercy of a law put into effect back in the 70's, protecting corporations over American consumers. Although, you will find companies like Seventh Generation and alternatives do in fact openly list their ingredients. Why? They don't have anything to hide.
So what is being hidden in that proprietary formula?
After hunting around, I found a few websites that list ingredients in my old stand by dryer sheets. With out even looking, I know for a fact that synthetic fragrances contain Phthalates. Studies have shown direct links to Phthalate concentrations in the body and ADHD, obesity, insulin resistance, and many other disorders even linked to reproductive organs. Or a simple explanation, phthalates are toxic to our bodies, when they are in many products in our home, we can have a much greater exposure than expected, it's not just dryer sheets. Other chemicals that come up when searching for the ingredients in dryer sheets are benzyl acetate, ethanol, acetate, camphor, chloroform, and pentane (to name a few). These chemicals have been directly linked to headaches, loss of muscle coordination, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, organ damage, allergic reactions, impair respiratory function (and asthma), and cancer. Many of them come with the caveat of "avoid prolonged exposure to skin or inhalation" which is the exact opposite of what happens with the use of a dryer sheet. It's all about the direct contact and inhalation.
That's why they had to go.
Alternatives? The natural brands, the ones that don't hide ingredients make dryer sheets. Honestly, I just gave them up all together. My mother in law has been kind enough to supply me with Lavender dryer sachets from Trader Joe's, they are like a little bean bag full of lavender, no other ingredients. That takes care of my desire for freshly scented sheets and towels.
What do I use daily as an alternative, dryer balls. My mom purchased them for me and I use them faithfully. They don't always take out static cling (grrr, my nemesis) but they do soften the clothes a bit. I believe they do anyway. I've let go of that, clothes need to reek of perfume to feel clean notion. I haven't looked back!
I guess my urgency to write this post is to get people to reflect on all the little things we use through out our day that may not have a huge impact on our health or our home environment when looked at solo, but rather what is the cumulative effect of all these products we are bombarding our bodies with daily?
Essential Oils are the alternative to synthetic fragrances, so just look over a product list. Think about the baby wash you use, do they list the ingredients? If not, I'd raise a weary eye. We have used California Baby products since Sj's birth, faithfully. They list ingredients, including essential oils, NOT fragrance.
Want to check out the ingredients in your favorite cleaning product? Try this list, all referring back to the original manufacturer of the products. You may be surprised what the company will and won't disclose.
Cleaning Product Ingredients Link
Disclosure: Tuesday Tips are small things I like to share that I do in my home to live greener. This post is not driven by any payment or product inclusion by a company. I do love Seventh Generation and California Baby, I admit that openly all the time.