Fabric Softeners first gained popularity in the 1960s when people tried to find an alternative to their just-washed, stiff, scratchy and musty clothes. Manufacturers created a liquid which contained chemicals to coat fabrics so they would stay soft.
The liquid also contained a perfume which masked the smell of the chemicals and generally made clothes smell better. Fabric softener was born.
In the 2010's, it's second nature to grab fabric softener from the next aisle when you go shopping for laundry detergent. Washing machines have fabric softener dispensers and with scents like "summer breeze" and "fresh cotton", you're spoiled for choice. But fabric softeners contain some truly harmful chemicals which cause some serious health problems, particularly in younger children.
Here are just a few of the chemicals found in your favourite commercial softener:
Chloroform: A substance synonymous with kidnap scenes in action movies, chloroform can cause loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness. Repeated exposure to it can lead to death through fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
A-Terpineol: This chemical causes Central Nervous System Disorders like Parkison's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, seizures and stroke. Repeated exposure causes symptoms like blurred vision, numbness in the face, disorientation, memory loss and neck and spine pain before developing into one of these disorders.
Ethanol: Typically classified as hazardous waste, it can also cause CNS disorders.
Perfumes for the softeners also contain untested chemicals and ingredients like phthalates and synthetic musks - both of which are suspected to be hormone disruptors.
The softening and perfume chemicals coat your clothes and are gradually absorbed into your skin. They can also be inhaled because they release gases which cause indoor air pollution and lead to health problems like asthma and allergies.
So what do you do if you don't want yourself or your family to get sick but still want your clothes to stay soft and fresh smelling?