Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scented Dryer Sheets + Laundry Detergent: Fluidum Letale

I love my neighbors, but they use the most hideous smelling laundry detergent and dryer sheets. I have to close all doors and windows on laundry day. And the amazing thing about the "loudness" of this stench? They don't smell it, at all. It is truly fluidum letale: a scent destructive to human beings!

Those of us in the natural skin and body care industry, and our customers are keenly aware of ingredients that we put on our skin, but i would like to suggest that our alarm and our awareness expand to include scented fabric softeners and highly scented laundry detergent sheets.

They contain chemicals such as chloroform, benzyl acetate, and pentane, known to cause cancer and/or damage to lungs, brain, and the central nervous system.
The fragrances (aroma chemicals) that are used are not regulated by any government agency, there is no law that requires fragrance ingredients to be out on the product labels.

Fabric softener chemicals are made to stay in clothes fibers and slowly release for a very long time. That slow release of chemicals into the air affects the health of those wearing the clothes and of the people around them.

This highly sensitizing chemical soup of toxic fragrances in laundry detergent and fabric softener sheets affect us directly in two ways: topically through our skin (look for unexplained skin rashes, headaches, nausea, depression, etc) while we wear the clothes (and sweat) and via lungs and inhalation, we breathe in the fumes. In fact when neighbors dry laundry that has been washed in scented detergent, and dried with scented sheets whole neighborhoods are affected by the invisible, but highly toxic, cloud of fumes, especially children and babies.

The effects of these poisonous aroma chemicals are amplified by the super heating of the drying cycle which only increases their sensitizing effect. The olfactory system tries to warn us but the chemicals also exhibit subtle 'numbing' effect that create a 'scent immunity', so eventually your sense of smell turns 'off'. Our number one alarm system is our olfactory system, the nose.

What can be used instead?

Obviously an easy switch for a laundry detergent would be to look for an unscented choice. Read labels. I like Seventh Generation and...Soap Nuts!

To soften fabrics and to reduce static cling add a cup or more of plain baking soda to each wash.

And personally... I love the smell of clothes, towels and sheets dried outside on a line...fresh and clean!

Just Say No.


  1. Evan,

    What do you think about natural detergent with essential oils< like lavender? I use a brand called ECOS i get at whole foods which has worked good.. ?


  2. As long as the essential oil is listed as: "essential oil of...lavender, etc".
    The laundry products offered In Whole Foods and other natural food stores are usually well vetted for toxic chemicals.
    In addition, I recommend getting used to reading labels.
    Most natural laundry product manufacturers are aiming their products specifically at a customer looking for nontoxic, *unscented* and/or safe alternatives to heavily toxic, conventional detergent and drying sheets, which, natural or not, are an utter waste of resources and an insult to our ingenuity as consumers and our environment.