Laundry Detox

Laundry Detox, Better Than Diet Detox

Emily, a 20-something local woman, spent a few days in my house this fall helping out with a woodworking project. At some point our conversation turned to health (of course). Emily suffered year-round allergies, for which she was prescribed medications and shots. She also used the loo, and often.

I couldn’t help but notice she reeked of fabric softener. It wafted off her like morning ground fog in a valley. I recalled a course I took years ago taught by a medical specialist in chemical sensitivities and allergies. This MD claimed fabric softeners were the #1 trigger for symptoms in his chronically ill patients. He made it clear not only did these products trigger things like rashes, respiratory distress, sinus congestion, headaches, and neurological abnormalities, but also they lowered the bar for sensitivity to other things, like dust and foods.

When I mentioned the link between fabric softeners and allergies to Emily, she stiffened and quickly replied, “I love, love, love, the smell of my fabric softener. I could never stop using it.” Conversation dropped.

In my renewed zeal for researching fabric softeners, I discovered specific chemicals are added to stimulate brain pleasure centers, enhancing a desire to sniff up more, as Emily described. Kind of sounds like cigarettes. This article on Dementia and Fabric Softener mentions the effect.

Between clothes, bedding and dryer vents, fabric softener users are sucking in hundreds of chemicals through their skin and lungs 24/7. Fabric softeners are thought to be the top source of indoor pollution.

Because manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on fabric softeners like they do on cereal boxes, it is almost impossible to know what’s in them. Commercial fabric softeners (liquid and dryer sheets) are loaded with untested chemicals as well as those proven toxic and still others that form new toxins when mixed with other chemicals. Anti-cling products contain a plethora of carcinogens, asthma-triggering substances, phthalates, liver-clogging perfuming agents, and hormone disruptors.

Allergic? Perfumed fabric products are among the world’s top five allergens.
Fabric altering chemicals known as quats (quaternary ammonium compounds) actually coat fabrics with something akin to slime, leaving them softer. The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics considers quats to be a cause of asthma. Kids are particularly susceptible. Read more here.

Other common chemicals include benzyl acetate (think pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant), limonene (a carcinogen), A-Terpineol (think brain trouble including dementia and Alzheimer’s), and chloroform (an EPA-declared hazardous waste; which can cause fatal heart arrhythmia).

Laundry products, like many cleaning products, rely on a generous dose of endocrine disruptors, a fancy way of saying they lower T and sperm counts, spur on to early puberty and unnaturally fatten breast tissue in kids and men (ick).

Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that tests hundreds of thousands of chemicals and products warns to avoid fabric softeners, no matter how soft and cuddly the ads show your laundry becoming.

But how do we stop static cling?? Apparently some would rather suffer allergies, headaches, rashes, dementia, or man-boobs than static. Here are some options.

Buy something like this.
(Before you balk at the price, keep in mind these last for 1000 or more loads plus reduce drying time, saving on the life of your clothes and your heating bill. If you have a septic tank, you will also protect damage to your property and a horrible smell emanating in your yard.)

or this

Or make your own wool dryer balls like this.

Or, add a half-cup of baking soda to your washer before starting a load.
Or, crumple up a ball of aluminum foil into your dryer
Or, add a half-cup distilled white vinegar to your washer and select the soak cycle.
Or, hang your clothes out to dry in the yard.

If it’s the floral smell you are craving, consider your favorite essential oil mixed into a spritzer bottle with white vinegar. Spritz your clothes several times before you start the dryer.

January is the perfect time to launch a laundry product-detox; probably a more effective way to detox than a diet.