When you think of fabric softeners, the first thing that comes to your mind is a feeling of freshness, softness, and coziness, right? Unfortunately, it turns out that this household essential might be causing you more harm than good. Research has found that most fabric softeners contain various harmful chemicals and toxins, which may be absorbed through the skin or enter the body through the lungs. Once this takes place, the body is going to be exposed at a great risk of many health issues, particularly in the case of young children.

The following is a list of common harmful ingredients contained in most sheet and liquid fabric softeners.

List of Harmful Fabric Softener Ingredients:

  1. Chloroform

This fabric softener ingredient was once used as an anesthetic. This was a common practice in the early 1800s, but it was later, during the 1900s, when research found chloroform may cause fatal cardiac arrhythmia. Moreover, chloroform is also on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list due to it being a well-known carcinogenic neurotoxin.

Some of the possible consequences of breathing in this harmful ingredient include nausea, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, or loss of consciousness. Also, this ingredient may worsen heart, liver, or kidney health problems.

  1. Benzyl Alcohol

Inhalation of benzyl alcohol is widely known to cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract. Other common side effects include headaches, dizziness, central nervous system disorders, vomiting, and in some cases it may also dramatically lower blood pressure levels.

In 1998, a study showed that topical application of this ingredient may trigger an immune system response with symptoms like burning, itching, blistering, hives, and scaling.

According to the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) on benzyl alcohol, this ingredient can cause skin and eye irritation. In addition, not only may its prolonged exposure lead to development of allergic contact dermatitis, but it may also be toxic to the central nervous system and liver.

  1. Benzyl Acetate

Benzyl acetate belongs to a class of chemicals suspected of causing pancreatic cancer in humans. Inhalation of its vapor may trigger irritation of the eyes and respiratory passages as well. This chemical may also enter the body through the skin and lead to even greater damage.

  1. Camphor

This ingredient is also a part of the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Topical absorption of camphor is very easy, and it may result in irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes. Besides that, this substance can also trigger dizziness, nausea, twitching muscles, confusion, and convulsions.

  1. Limonene

Limonene is a terpene, which means it reacts with ozone to form formaldehyde and other micro-particle pollutants. Formaldehyde is a widely known human carcinogen that may cause symptoms of burning eyes, skin irritation, nausea, coughing fits, or even worse, lead to the development of throat and nose cancers.

  1. Alpha-Terpineol

Common health problems linked to exposure to this chemical include  central nervous system disorders, meaning brain and spine issues such as multiple sclerosis, seizures, strokes, dementia, ADD, Alzheimer`s, Parkinson`s, and sudden infant death syndrome. Some of the warning signs of a central nervous system disorder include headaches, blurred vision, disorientation, aphasia, memory loss, hunger, numbness in the face, and pain in neck and spine.  In the case of inhalation of this chemical, possible consequences include fatal edema, hypoventilation (respiratory depression), or pneumonia.

  1. Pentane

Pentane can have extremely damaging effects on the body if it is inhaled.  Common side effects of its inhalation in high levels include dizziness, unconsciousness, drowsiness, a burning sensation in the chest, headaches, and even coma and death in severe cases. If ingested, it may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and irritation of the digestive tract.

  1. Ethanol

Another extremely detrimental chemical listed on the EPA`s Hazardous Waste list, ethanol has been found to be a possible cause of central nervous system disorders.

  1. Phthalates

A family of chemicals that are commonly used to make the scent in scented products last longer, phthalates have been found to lead to breast cancer and problems with the reproductive system.

  1. Linalool

This substance is a well-known narcotic commonly linked to respiratory issues and central nervous system diseases. Research in animals has shown that exposure to this chemical may have fatal consequences.

  1. Ethyl Acetate

Ethyl acetate is also on the EPA`s Hazardous Waste list. Apart from being capable of causing irritation of the respiratory tract and eyes, it may also lead to severe headaches, loss of consciousness, and damage to the kidneys and liver.

How to Protect Yourself:

Considering this list of harmful ingredients, it is best to avoid commercial fabric softeners from now on. However, when we tell you to stop using them, we don’t mean to stop using a softener altogether, as there are many home recipes for softeners you can prepare in the comfort of your home. That way, you will be 100% sure that your product doesn’t contain any toxic substances or chemicals that may damage your health in any way.

Vinegar is one of the best fabric softener alternatives you can find out there. This natural ingredient is inexpensive, entirely free of toxins, and quite effective at removing soap residue and reducing static cling during drying. In addition, due to the potassium and sodium contained in it, vinegar has the ability to soften hard water. Combining vinegar with several other potent ingredients will provide you with an amazing substitute for store-bought and chemical-laden fabric softeners.

Recipe for Homemade Fabric Softener


  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 30 drops of an essential oil of your choice


Simply combine the two ingredients together and store the resulting solution in a container.


This natural fabric softener should be diluted with water right before use. For regular load size, combine ¼ cup of softener with ¾ cups of water. Add the softener into the washer the same way you’ve been adding the store-bought one.







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