Toxic Cleaners Part 2: Ditch The Fabric Softener & Air Freshener

Carcinogens and neurotoxins in our laundry detergent? And shampoo? This is the second of a three-part series on what is in the cleaners we buy and realistic steps to take to reduce exposure to ourselves and our families.

Last week, I talked about toxic chemicals in your cleaners and personal care products. Today, I'll give you tips to reduce your exposure to these chemicals by changing the way you clean.

If all of this information is new to you, you might be overwhelmed. To that, I advise that you pick one thing and go with it. Every step counts. When you've assimilated that one thing, pick one more thing. Before you know it, you've changed your life.

Where To Start

When it comes to household cleaning items, my top two recommendations are to stop using fabric softener/dryer sheets and to stop using air fresheners, because both of these items have high toxicity.

Fabric Softener/Dryer Sheets:

  • Problem: They work in three different ways. Very few of them actually remove the odors from the air. Some smell more potent than the offending odor. And some numb your olfactory nerves so you temporarily can't smell. No joke. Ingredients typically include carcinogens and neurotoxins. If you can smell it...
  • Solution: Wool dryer balls help with static and drying time. (Ignore recommendations to use tennis balls - they have crap in them you don't want on your clothes.) Or wear clothes made from natural fabrics - static is reserved for synthetics. Or skip the dryer and use a clothesline.

Air Fresheners:

  • Problem are linked to male reproductive issues, as well as prostate and breast cancers. They are found in PVC and vinyl (both highly toxic), but in personal care products, they are used to make products stick to you better, and to make hair spray and fingernail polish more flexible.
  • Solution: Instead of an air freshener, simmer herbs/spices on the stovetop. Cleaning up smelly spills (or pet messes) with baking soda helps to remove odors. Keeping your space clean also helps.

How To Really Go Green

Gradually "greening" ALL of your household cleaners is the way to go. There are legitimately "green" products available, though you'll need to dig around to find out which ones really are safe and which ones just say they're green on the label. Or you can DIY. Baking soda and vinegar clean almost everything. Added bonus: homemade cleaners are cheaper than their conventional counterparts.

I started with homemade laundry detergent, then dishwasher detergent. I line dry everything (usually outside; inside as needed) and use baking soda to clean the bathrooms. Simple changes, life-saving effects.

Once you're done making changes to your household cleaning regimen, then it's time to move onto your personal care products.

Check back next week for tips on how to reduce your exposure to toxins by cutting back on your personal care items like deodorants and lotions.