This week's #mondayhealthbasics post is a practical in-house thing you can easily swap out or eradicate from your home. It's something I don't usually think too much about, as it isn't something we eat. See, when it comes to household cleaners and cleaning products, there is no need to list the ingredients that go into the making of your product. It isn't something that will be ingested! Well, not in a 'let's put it in the soup and salad' kind of way. Not intentionally. We're talking dryer sheets my friends. What they are, why you want to get rid of them, and some simple swaps you can add to your cupboard this weekend and know you've reduced the toxin load in your home already.
It's astounding how many chemicals are in dryer sheets. I did a little digging around to see if I could come up with an exact or round-about number, and found a few different tales out there. One study published by Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health in 2011 stated there were some 600+ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from dryer vents from homes using 25 of the most common brands of scented laundry products. Dr. Mercola wrote a concise article that goes in to good detail about the hazards of the chemicals found in dryer sheets; if you're looking to be gob-smacked, point your browser here.
Some of the ones that jumped out at me: Chloroform (a documented neurotoxin and carcinogen), 1,4-dioxane (a known carcinogen), Ethyl Acetate (a narcotic). That is just scratching at the surface. This article outlines the top seven most common chemicals that are found in dryer; it's astounding how much they have an effect on the central nervous system. Your brain, my friend! THINK OF YOUR BRAIN!
There was a new study published last year that went in to exploring the impact of chemicals found in laundry products like dryer sheets had on the reproductive system of both men and women. Yep, you guessed it: diminished reproductive capacity in both genders. I don't know about you, but with a (not-so-) little one in my house, I want to work on limiting her exposure to things which may impede me from becoming a grandmother one day.
Oh yes. Those chemicals that go into the making of those dryer sheets end up in our bodies. We ingest them! The slimy (or soft) coating on all of our clothing is what the dryer sheets or fabric softener have left behind, ensuring we have that pillowy soft look to our clothing. That stuff rubs off on our skin, and yes it gets absorbed in to our bodies that way. We also ingest the perfumes that come off these clothes, both while it's venting out into the backyard whilst it tumbles in the dryer, and when smelling in that 'fresh smell scent'. Think volatile organic compound. Nasty.
Now while I'm specifically going after dryer sheets, I want to be clear that I am also including fabric softener in this lot. They tend to have very similar chemical make-up, full of perfumes and surfactants to make your clothes feel soft and fresh. While I'm no slouch and would prefer to have soft-feeling clothes for the feel of it and what social bonus points it would award me, I am just not prepared to risk my health and that of my family's for me to look good. I'm also not keen on venting those chemicals out to my lovely neighbours either, nor the gang who regularly walk through my hood for their evening stroll. Oh yes, when you smell that fresh-scent while out for a walk, you'll be thinking VOCs. I'm a little sorry about that. But you needed to know.
These chemicals are just things to add to the toxin pile. When you think toxin, think liver. Your liver is the hard working organ that has to filter that stuff out, and when your liver is full up and just can't handle the load coming its way, it will start relieving itself of some of its regular duties like keeping inflammation down, or filtering out your blood as completely as it would like to, or getting rid of spent metabolic waste and hormones, or converting some plant-versions of vitamins to the animal-version you need (because you're an animal).
Your liver does 400+ jobs in the body.
Give it a little love, will you? Ditch the dryer sheets.
There are a few easy things you can do if you're looking to replace those toxin-loaded laundry helpers. For one thing, you can add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your washer's load during the rinse cycle in order to get that soft feeling in your clothing, towels and bedding. Vinegar is a fabulous natural fabric (and water!) softener.
Of course, if you like the fresh scent, you can also opt to hang your clothes on a line in your backyard, or on a dryer rack in your basement. Double bonus for those living in Alberta, hanging clothes indoors in wintertime will help humidify our otherwise super-dry air. To me, there's nothing better than climbing into bed at the end of the day with the waft of outside fresh air coming off the sheets as my head hits the pillow. (And the towels! Outside-line-dried towels are amazing exfoliators! (Sorry. Was that too much?))
My absolute favourite thing is a DIY dryer ball. This is a fabulous alternative to those nasty chemicals, and they last a long time. You can purchase some pre-made natural wool dryer balls at quite a few natural health stores and cool shops in town, but you can easily make your own at home with the copious amounts of wool you still have on hand for that rainy day project. I have made quite a few of these balls and gifted them to friends. They're quite straightforward, require just a little bit of time to wind them up. You need to wash them in fairly hot water to get them to 'felt', and then toss them in the dryer and they're already working for you. As a bonus, they're also easy vehicles for natural (and safe!) scents: you can easily put a few drops of your favourite essential oil on them for a natural scent that will not add any volatile organic compounds. Double like! Find one method here, and another one over here.
I also found this recipe online on how to make your own fabric softener. Might be worth giving it a shot!
There's a recipe here as well for how to make your own homemade dryer sheets. Looks easy enough!
Curious to know more and delve further into 'greening' your cleaning routine? I have compiled some ideas and information under a handy dandy category of my Pinterest page. Great place to visit for DIY recipes, links to fascinating articles and studies that may make you scratch your head.