What’s Hiding in Your Fabric Softener?

· July 19, 2016
The problem with fabric softener isn’t the small amount of toxins each use contains but in the fact that when you use it on a regular basis, it ends up in your body.

Fabric softener is a very popular product that’s designed to preserve the softness of your clothes while giving them a pleasant, fresh scent.

You can find fabric softeners being used in most homes, thanks to the fact that they’re readily available and affordable.

But what most consumers don’t know is that most of them are loaded with harmful chemicals that can compromise your health, and especially the health of children.

While their marketing campaigns may advertise that they’re perfect for the whole family, there are certain facts these companies prefer not to disclose in order to protect their interests.

Just like other chemicals that are used to make household cleaners, most fabric softeners contain harmful elements that aren’t immediately noticeable.

Some of them cause respiratory problems and skin disorders when you come into direct or indirect contact with them.

It’s been found that more than half of the fabric softeners on the market contain more than two chemicals that are known to cause health complications.

Today we want to reveal some of the most common chemicals found in fabric softeners so you’ll learn to identify them on the product labeling. Find out more!


2 chemicals
This is a colorless, flammable liquid with a lilac scent that’s used as a fragrance additive for fabric softeners.

The US Environmental Protection Agency warns that this compound can cause the development of disorders like:

  • Imbalances in the central nervous system
  • Hypothermia
  • Chronic headaches
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Irritation of the mucus membranes

You want to know more? See: Stop buying chemical fabric softeners

Benzyl acetate

This fragrance additive is one of the most commonly used products in the manufacture of laundry detergents and fabric softeners.

It has a similar floral scent and, like the above, is a colorless liquid.

Over the years its presence in cleaning products has been linked to the following:

  • An increased risk of pancreatic cancer
  • Eye irritation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches

Benzyl alcohol

3 softeners
This colorless compound has a pleasant aroma that’s extracted from plants and flowers. In addition to fabric softeners, it’s found in essential oils like hyacinth and jasmine.

When it comes into contact with the body it can be related to:

  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Poisoning and vomiting
  • Headaches

Ethyl acetate

This sweet-smelling ingredient is used as a solvent in many household products.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has classified it as a hazardous waste that you should avoid at all times.

The risks to your health include:

  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Fatigue and anemia


4 scented products
Chloroform is a dense, colorless, and slightly sweet smelling liquid that’s added to fabric softeners for the scent and as a solvent.

In the 11th Report on Carcinogens published by the US National Toxicology Program, it’s listed as a carcinogen.

The regular use of products that contain chloroform can cause health problems such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness, vomiting, and nausea
  • Headaches
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Cardiac disorders
  • Dermatologic conditions
  • Respiratory tract infections

Please read: 5 weird headache triggers


Terpinolene is yet another colorless liquid that lends a citrus smell to many household cleaning products. It’s used in the manufacture of fabric softeners, shaving creams, bars of soap, and a variety of other items commonly found in the home.

It’s also listed as a possible carcinogen, which may increase the presence of malignant cells in the kidneys and bladder.

In addition to that, terpinolene has been related to problems such as:

  • Eye irritation
  • Skin disorders
  • Sore throat
  • Inflammation of the sinuses

The reason why these effects tend to be medium or long term is because the products you use often contain only very small amounts of these substances.

The problem is that most of them get used on a daily or regular basis, so over time the harmful compounds entering your body will build up.

To avoid any of these risks, check the packaging first or opt for environmentally friendly alternatives, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda.