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Green and Natural Fabric Softeners

The following post is from Emily of Live Renewed: 

natural laundry
source: malias

This month on my blog, Live Renewed, we talked all about using natural and green laundry care.  While everyone loves to have fresh-smelling, clean, and soft laundry; many of the conventional products on the market today are filled with ingredients and chemicals that we should be careful of using on our clothes and then wearing on our bodies, and this is especially true of fabric softeners.

There are several reasons that conventional fabric softeners raise concern and should be avoided.

1. Clothing Wears Out More Quickly

Chemicals used in fabric softeners work by actually causing the fabric fibers to separate, making the clothing feel softer, lighter, and fluffier; but this also breaks down the clothing and causes it to wear out more quickly.  Line drying clothing is a great way to extend the life of your clothing, which in turn, saves you money as well as saving energy.

2. Synthetic Fragrance

Synthetic fragrances are made up of many different types of chemicals which don’t have to be disclosed on ingredient lists beyond a generic “fragrance” label.

Fragrances are often made up of phtalates which are endocrine and hormone disruptors, and can affect everything from metabolism to reproductive development.  They are also respiratory irritants which can contribute to allergies and asthma, as well as air and water pollutants.

3. Chemical Ingredients

Besides synthetic fragrances, fabric softeners contain other chemical ingredients, many that are petroleum based.  Because fabric softeners are produced to maintain the softness of fabrics, their chemicals are often released slowly from the fabric and can be absorbed into the body through the skin, or inhaled from the air.

These chemicals have been linked to everything from cancer to respiratory irritation to neurotoxicity.

wool dryer balls
source: goodmama


So, you’d like to avoid conventional fabric softeners, but you’d still like your clothing and other laundry to be soft and static-free, right?

Fortunately, there are lots of great green and natural fabric softener options available.


This is the cheapest and easiest option.  White vinegar has natural fabric softening and static reducing properties. You can add a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle, or if you’re washing machine has a fabric softener dispenser, you can fill it with vinegar instead of traditional fabric softener.

If you are worried about the smell of vinegar on your clothing, I can assure you that once the laundry is washed and dried, no lingering scent of vinegar remains.  I almost always use vinegar in our fabric softener dispenser, but my husband hates the smell of vinegar and doesn’t notice it at all.

Natural Dryer Sheets

Seventh Generation makes some all-natural dryer sheets that are just as easy and work just as well as conventional fabric softener sheets without the added chemicals and fragrances, and they are also compostable after they have been used.  I also like that the sheets have a perforation down the middle, so you can tear them in half, and just use half a sheet per load.

Wool Dryer Balls

I use dryer balls from and have loved their addition to my dryer for the last few months.  You add them to your dryer, and they help to fluff up your clothes and distribute the warm dryer air around your clothing, making them softer and less wrinkled and helping to remove static and dry more quickly, all without the use of chemicals.

Plus, once you invest in them, there’s no further cost involved!

Natural Liquid Fabric Softener

My family really likes Ecover’s Fabric Softener.  Since switching to natural laundry care, my husband has had a hard time letting go of our clothes being scented, super soft, and always static free.  Although a little pricey, natural fabric softener is a great alternative for those who want to hold onto the benefits of conventional fabric softeners, without the effects of the chemicals and fragrances found in them.

When we use natural fabric softener, we just add it to our washer’s fabric softener dispenser.

Homemade Dryer Sheets

To save money and help your bottled natural fabric softener last a lot longer, you can use it to make homemade dryer sheets. They work just as well as conventional and natural dryer sheets, but are reusable and much more cost-effective to make yourself at home.

Here is my tutorial for making homemade dryer sheets.

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How have you greened your laundry care routine?

Emily McClements is passionate about living with compassion and caring for creation in a way that will impact the world. She is a blessed wife and mama to three young children, and blogs about her family’s journey toward natural and simple living at Live Renewed.