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Our shelves and pantries are filled with chemical-laced products — and some of those chemicals can be quite harmful to the environment. Take fabric softeners. According to experts, in-wash laundry detergents, fabric softeners and heat-activated dryer sheets are full of chemicals that don’t just damage the environment and pollute the air inside your home; they can also harm your overall health.
One reason is that many fabric softeners contain something called “quats,” an abbreviation for quaternary ammonium compounds. Quats can make your clothes feel soft and snuggly out of the dryer, but they can also potentially trigger asthma and be toxic to human reproductive systems. Unsure if your fabric softener contains quats? Look for the terms “distearyldimonium chloride,” “diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride,” “hydroxyethyl methyl ammonium,” “methyl sulfate,” “biodegradable fabric softening agents” and “cationic surfactant.”
However, quats aren’t the only health and environmental danger found in fabric softeners. Scent dispersers like phthalates, synthetic smells like galaxolide and other fragrances can irritate the skin and make it hard to breathe, including when vented outdoors. Add in preservatives, colors and different skin and asthma-triggering components found in many fabric softeners these days, and we wouldn’t blame you if you were on the hunt for some more natural fabric softener alternatives.
Looking for some options? SPY has rounded up some more natural (chemical, colorant and fragrance-free) products to give your wash that soft and snuggly feeling without harmful additives.
1. Dropps Fabric Softener Pods
Dropps is all about bringing aromatherapy to your laundry room, which is why their products are naturally scented with essential oils. That may not be ideal for those who can’t handle scent, but for those who like a little lavender and eucalyptus in their laundry, these pods are ideal. They’re made from mineral-based ingredients, are completely biodegradable, and even the box they come in is made from recycled cardboard you can compost.
2. Ecoigy Dryer Balls
BEST FABRIC SOFTENER ALTERNATIVE
If you want to eliminate all synthetic ingredients while still producing the softest and most static-free wash, consider replacing traditional fabric softener with these natural dryer balls. Each ball is made in the U.S. and contains 100% pure New Zealand hypoallergenic wool that will last for thousands of loads. They’re great for those with sensitive skin who are also looking to eliminate waste, and they’re also a beloved Amazon product: to date, more than 21,000 reviewers have given this sweet six-pack a collective 4.6-star rating.
3. Purecosheet – Reusable Dryer Sheets
If you want softer clothes while reducing waste, chemicals and artificial fragrances, consider using reusable dryer sheets. Purecosheet offers two reusable dryer sheets per pack that are good for up to 500 loads of laundry each. They’re also 100% hypoallergenic, so they’re great for kids or those with sensitive skin, and each sheet is free of any chemicals, perfumes or dyes. They also won’t spot or stain your clothes, which is always a bonus when going au naturel.
4. Mrs. Meyer’s Basil Scent Dryer Sheets
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find natural fabric softeners without quats, and sure enough, Mrs. Meyers contains methosulfate. We are, however, fans of some of the company’s other qualities, such as their cruelty-free formula and Leaping Bunny certification. These sheets are also made without parabens and phthalates, and we like the unique basil scent because it’s neutral and not too feminine. Each pack comes with 80 sheets, and you can also grab boxes in honeysuckle, lavender or lemon verbena scents.
5. Molly’s Suds All Natural Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets
Suppose you’re looking for unscented sheets still made of natural ingredients. In that case, Molly’s Suds cuts down on laundry static, and the sheets are still compostable, biodegradable, cruelty-free and plant-based. Unfortunately, they contain quats, but overall are good for sensitive skin, the environment and the dryer; plus, they come in biodegradable cardboard packaging. Many Amazon users have been surprised at how soft these sheets leave their clothes without that lingering fabric softener scent.
6. The Laundress New York, Fabric Conditioner
BEST LIQUID SOFTENER
This natural fabric “conditioner” promises to leave clothes soft and de-wrinkled, all while decreasing drying time. We’re fans of the plant-derived formula, which does include quats but is free of tallow, petroleum, SLS, phosphate, phthalates, dye and animal by-products. The Laundress also uses essential oils to scent its formula, but be warned: There are additional fragrances within.
7. Method Fabric Softener
Method is another popular natural fabric softener currently on the market but be warned; it too contains quats. We are fans of the biodegradable, cruelty-free formula, however, along with the fact that it works with high-energy washers. Many Amazon users rave about the Beach Sage scent, along with the fact that the concentrated formula means you get more per packaging than you do with your standard liquid fabric softener.
8. Downy Ultra Plus Free & Gentle Laundry Fabric Softener Liquid
Considering how hard it is to avoid quats in the laundry, you may want to consider going with a recognized brand like Downy, which offers a gentler fabric softener with quats that is also free of dyes and perfumes. Each bottle of this hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested formula lasts for 76 washes and is compatible with high-efficiency washers. Each order includes two bottles, so you get that coveted bang for your buck.