Fabric softener as we know it – the commercial stuff that is – is really not good for us. It’s not good for the environment either. It often contains some very questionable ingredients that are known to stick to clothing, irritate skin and aggravate allergies. Companies are not required to tell you what is in cleaning products, so we often won’t see panels on packets of softener which makes it hard to make educated decisions when out shopping. It often takes a little searching on the internet to find comprehensive lists, and even then, it is the companies choice whether they publish them or not.
Here is an example of ingredients within one popular supermarket brand of softener. From what I can see, most softeners available are similar in their contents.
Here’s a brief look into these ingredients:
Water – any time you see water in a product, look for preservatives. Usually, not a good sign.
Quaternized Triethanolamine Diester – I can’t find much reputable data on this but Triethanolamine is petroleum-derived and may cause contact dermatitis.
Isopropyl Alcohol – not much to worry about in a cleaning product but not something I would use on my skin.
Quaternary Ammonium Acrylate/Acrylamide – Quaternary ammonium compounds rate poorly with EWG (my go-to for chemical research and advice). Although the data covers a broad scope, there is mention of toxicity to aquatics and moderate concern for asthmatics.
Fragrance – a toxic minefield and my most hated ingredient, unless derived from essential oils! Watch out for this one. There is a list of hundreds of chemicals used for fragrance formulation, and companies don’t have to tell you what they use – it’s their trade secret. Fragrance is associated with allergies, skin irritation, asthma, headaches etc.
Preservative – interesting that they don’t tell you WHAT preservative. Some preservatives, such as Formaldehyde, are known to be carcinogenic to humans, others, salt, for example, is fine. So I’m dubious here.
You know how when you’re at the supermarket, you can smell the softener aisle a mile away (if you’ve been living a lower-tox lifestyle for a while now, you’ll know what I mean!)? It really is something I like to avoid. I can even smell people’s washing when I take my daily walk if they’ve used softener – that’s how potent this stuff is! It sticks to your clothes, it coats your machine in slime making it hard to clean, and it’s terrible for septic systems and our waterways in general.
Have I convinced you to ditch it yet? 😜
For a long time, I have been using straight vinegar as a fabric softener. And it works well, so if this recipe seems like a little too much effort for you, then stick with that. But this recipe for natural fabric softener, ooh-la-la, it really does make my laundry nice and soft!
Makes: approx. 1000g/lt
(links provided for ingredients available here at The Inspired Little Pot)
100g fine salt
200g boiling hot water
700g white vinegar **look for naturally fermented (pantry item/market/supermarket)
- Add salt to a bowl and pour in boiling hot water. Mix until mostly dissolved.
- Pour into a suitable bottle or container and add remaining ingredients. Shake to combine.
- Add approximately 1/2 cup to each load, in the softener compartment of your machine.
- Shake before each use.
- Don’t be limited by my essential oil suggestions. They can be substituted with oils that fit your budget, or with those that you already have in your collection. I recommend that you source essential oils from a brand you trust. Do your research. Ensure that crops are grown and harvested without the use of pesticides and that chemical processes are not used when the oils are extracted. Do not rely on statements on labels such as ‘100% pure’. I now stock essential oils from brands I trust – you can check them out here. Refer to this blog post for inspiration on essential oil blends.
- If the salt doesn’t fully dissolve, don’t worry too much – it will dissolve over time.
- If you’re worried about your washing machine then don’t use this recipe. I personally have had no issues at all, after years of using vinegar in my washing machine, but it is ultimately up to you.