Fabric softener is evil

kaismomOctober 7, 2011

I had my Asko for 10 plus years. I never used to use fabric softner. My kids were "asking" for soft towels. The by-product of nice hotel experience, I guess....

I started to use a touch of fabric softener with just towels. I have been doing this a few months. Now, my washing machine smells if I don't leave the door open! I never worried about that for the first 10 years of owning the machine.

The fabric softener must get deposited in places during the extraction cycle where the water cannot get it washed off even with cycles that do not use the fabric softner.

Egad, the fabric softner is NOT worth the trouble. Dryer sheets always leave a little yucky deposits on the dryer.

Any GOOD dryer sheets that do not make the dryer yucky inside?

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Soft towels are Satan's enchantress.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 12:44PM
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I would like to propose that your smelly washer has little or nothing to do with fabric softener. I have been using fabric softener for years in my Asko and never had an issue. I use it in my Miele as well without any trouble.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 11:48AM
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Dee, will you please tell my DH that?

I had to throw away the dryer sheets to keep him from them.
I hate fabric softener!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 6:21PM
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We use dryer sheets exclusively. I think my wife gets Snuggles brand. No smells or anything. Is there a downside to using dryer sheet fabric softener?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 5:05AM
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Yes. Residue can build up inside the dryer's air passages, lint sticks to it. All dryers develop lint accumulation but it's a thicker/heavier accumulation that's more difficult to clean when softener residue is involved.

A typical Whirlpool dryer (top-mount filter) that I refurbished recently. The previous owner used dryer sheets, I could tell by the scent. It's about 9 years old. This is the filter housing at the intake where air is pulled from the drum through the filter.

This area is down at the blower.

After vacuuming the lint, the sticky residue remains. Required washing/scrubbing to clean it.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 2:28PM
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How do you know that's softener residue? Take any appliance that sucks air through it and check it after 9 years. You are certainly going to find some sticky accumulations simply because of what is in the air that we breathe. Have you seen what sticks to the filter of your A/C air handler in just 30 days? That same stuff goes through your dryer, too, and it has nothing to do with fabric softener.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 2:37PM
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If you use a very small amount of unscented fabric softner in the wash cycle in the compartiment for that, and also mix it with water to thin it. You can have the benefits without the risks.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 10:54AM
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R U serious? It's fabric softener - animal fat. It's designed to coat fibres. Why would you not think it would coat other things?

The way some people use FS, those images don't surprise me at all.

I know people who use more than one dryer sheet because they "love the smell" ... ick.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 10:58AM
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@ livebetter

With all due respect, that still doesn't prove that what is shown in the photos is fabric softener residue. Saying that it is FS residue is an assumption not supported by the facts. I think this kind of talk unnecessarily scares people. Unless you have that build-up analyzed, there is no way to know where it's coming from. Period. Anything else is just fancy guesswork.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 1:33PM
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Having read other posts from @dadoes, I asuume he's seen the inside of many machines. I assume he has a little more knowledge than you or I in this regard (he'll have to chime in to confirm).

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 10:07PM
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@livebetter: Before reading here about fab softners i was guilty of using 2 to 3 sheets per drying... i am not even sure how i started off doing this but i did.

Now that i will be moving to the new equipment i will not be using dryer sheets at all in it.

Infact i did some laundry and i did not use dryer sheets with my towels and i honestly did not think that i was missing them.

I am still working out the kinks when it comes to how much liquid to use as last wash i did i used tide he to level 1 but i found the clothes not to be very clean and had still dirty laundry odour.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 12:22AM
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Here's an interesting note. I use fabric softener because we have hard water and I have mild eczema. However, the two bath towels I use exclusively are always way softer than my husbands towels (same brand and pattern, mine are tan, his white) but then I thought of it: I have very long hair and use conditioner in my hair and then a dollop afterwards to leave in on the ends. Then I step out and use those towels on my hair. My husband is all but bald.

I think that could make a difference in the softness of towels at least, but it doesn't answer the buildup question.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 7:46AM
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@michelle_phxax: LOL... yes that would explain it as i am -Patrick Stewart- bald as well.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 10:30AM
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I've been playing around with Vernel and its already pretty thin so I don't think you need to water it down and it does a good job softening. So far i can't find a scent that i am happy with though.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 7:58PM
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@Kappen, I know ... I really love how the German products work (Persil, Vernel) but I too don't like the scents. Weird how country's tastes can be so different. All in what you're used to I guess.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 9:27PM
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If you google "fabric softener health" you find out that fabric softeners are full of toxic chemicals. I've got enough problems without dealing with cancer, multiple chemical sensitivities, liver disease, chronic fatigue, etc.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 9:59PM
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livebetter so far "fresh day at the sea" has a slight fishy oder to me which i guess makes the name accurate and "magnolia & sandalwood" doesn't smell like much of anything, which means you might like that one.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 10:39PM
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Regarding fabric softener toxicity, I found this interesting abstract online:
J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2000 May 26;60(2):121-36.

Respiratory toxicity of fabric softener emissions.
Anderson RC, Anderson JH.
Anderson Laboratories, Inc., West Hartford, Vermont 05084, USA.


To determine whether there is any biological basis for complaints that fabric softener emissions can cause acute adverse effects in certain individuals, screening tests were performed in which groups of mice were exposed to the emissions of 5 commercial fabric softener products (antistatic pads used in laundry dryers) for 90 min. Pneumotachographs and a computerized version of ASTM test method E-981 were used to measure acute changes in several respiratory cycle parameters, especially the pause after inspiration, the pause after expiration, and the midexpiratory airflow velocity. From these changes, sensory irritation (SI), pulmonary irritation (PI), and airflow limitation (AFL) of differing intensities were measured with each of the five brands tested. At the peak effect, SI ranged from 21 to 58% of the breaths, PI ranged from 4 to 23% of the breaths, and AFL ranged from 6 to 32% of the breaths. After three exposures, histopathology revealed mild inflammation of interalveolar septae of the lungs. Gas chromatography/ mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) analysis of the emissions of one pad identified several known irritants (isopropylbenzene, styrene, trimethylbenzene, phenol, and thymol). Laundry that had been dried with one the fabric softener pads emitted sufficient chemicals to elicit SI in 49% of breaths at the peak effect. Placing one fabric softener pad in a small room overnight resulted in an atmosphere that caused marked SI (61% of breaths). These results demonstrate that some commercial fabric softeners emit mixtures of chemicals that can cause SI, PI, and reduce midexpiratory airflow velocity in normal mice. The results provide a toxicological basis to explain some of the human complaints of adverse reactions to fabric softener emissions. It's hard to argue with clinical data showing that over 61% of breaths exposed to fabric softener emissions resulted in sensory irritation. 49% of breaths showed sensory irritation simply by being exposed to softened laundry. While most human adults do not experience this irritation due to their relatively high mass compared to mice, the fact remains that fabric softeners contain irritants and poisons that can affect smaller creatures. If that's the case, and it is, then does it make sense to expose ourselves to the same poisons and irritants simply because we see no symptoms or feel any ill effects? What about on the cellular level? Is this a chance worth taking?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 10:01AM
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As I've stated before, children are a bigger concern. Here's lots of food for thought :)

Children are highly vulnerable to chemical toxicants. Pound for pound of body weight children drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults. The implication of this is that children will have substantially heavier exposures than adults to any toxicants that are present in water, food or air. Source: Landrigan, P.J. & Garg, A. (2002). Chronic effects of toxic environmental exposures on children's health. Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology, 40(4), 449-456.

Why are children a sensitive subpopulation? Children's metabolic pathways, especially in the first months after birth, are immature. Their ability to metabolize, detoxify and excrete many chemicals differs from adults. Source: Landrigan, P.J., et al, (1998). Children's Health and the Environment: A New Agenda for Prevention Research, Environmental Health Perspectives 106, Supplement 3, June.

Carcinogenic and toxic exposures sustained early in life including prenatal exposures appear more likely to lead to disease than similar exposures encountered later. Source: Landrigan, P.J. & Garg, A. (2002). Chronic effects of toxic environmental exposures on children's health. Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology, 40(4), 449-456.

Faster metabolisms in children speed up their absorption of contaminants. "Children absorb a greater proportion of many substances from the intestinal tract or lung," says pediatrician Dr. Philip Landrigan. "For example, children take up approximately half of the lead that they swallow while adults absorb only about one-tenth." Source: PBS.org, Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report (2001).

Babies don't excrete contaminants or store them away in fat in the same ways that adults do, making the poisons more available to affect rapidly growing bodies. Furthermore, because a baby's immune system is not fully functional, a baby's body cannot counteract toxic effects as well as an adult can. In an adult, a blood-brain barrier insulates the brain from many of the potentially harmful chemicals circulating through the body. But in a human child, that barrier isn't fully developed until six months after birth. Source: PBS.org, Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report (2001).

Children exposed in the womb are at greatest risk of all. Because cellular structures change so rapidly during embryonic and fetal growth, a toxic exposure at the wrong moment can permanently alter further development. According to Dr. Landrigan, the central nervous system is especially vulnerable. To function properly, the developing brain must lay down an intricate web of interconnecting neurons. Small doses of neurotoxins during critical periods of brain development can alter those crucial neural pathways - one mistake early on, and the brain may be forever changed in subtle or serious ways. Government and university scientists are currently investigating the possibility of a connection between fetal exposures to toxics and developmental disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Source: PBS.org, Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report (2001).

"We are conducting a vast toxicologic experiment in our society, in which our children and our children's children are the experimental subjects," stated pediatrician Herbert L. Needleman. Little information on possible toxic potential is available for the 80,000 chemicals registered today with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of the 3,000 chemicals produced or imported at over 1 million pounds a year, only 43% have received even minimal toxicologic assessment, and a mere 23% have been tested to determine whether they have the potential to cause developmental damage. Source: Landrigan, P.J. & Weiss, B. (2000). Environmental Health Perspectives Supplements, v107 supplement 3, June.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 11:05AM
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@sshrivastava I think anything that produces a smell will cause irritation if you get a good enough concentration of it. I enjoy the light sent of fabric softener but if to much is used it gives me a headache, Just like some of the women that bath in perfume can literally knock the wind out of me when they walk by. Whats the old saying "Everything that makes you feel good is bad for you or will kill you" :)

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 11:11AM
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Fabric softener and dryer sheets are FULL OF POLLUTANTS.

Ask yourself: "If my dryer exhaust was piped directly into my living room, would I still use this stuff?"

You pollute nature's "living room" each time you use fabric softener or dryer sheets.

If you don't want to inhale this stuff, why should I, as your neighbor, be forced to?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 10:21AM
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Can you supply factual evidence to back this statement?

If so, please provide links.

If not, it's only heresy or opinion.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 2:47PM
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Ooops, please swap "heresy" with "hearsay" in above post.

Clicked wrong suggestion in the spell checker.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 2:50PM
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A few weeks ago I took apart two similar dryers to clean the lint out of them. One owner used fabric softener and the other didn't.

In the dryer where the owner used fabric softener the air duct was filled with lint, and it was hard as a brick. I had to use a screwdriver to break the brick apart so I could remove it. All the parts where the airflow passed through were very sticky and required washing in hot water before they could be reinstalled in the dryer.

On the dryer where the owner didn't use fabric softener there was a lot of lint, but it wasn't hard and the ducts weren't sticky at all and the lint was light and fluffy.

But both dryers were good candidates for a dryer fire. So this should be a reminder for everyone to periodically have their dryers cleaned out lest you too could have a dryer fire.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dryer Fire Report

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 1:32AM
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I've gone with and without fabric softener for extended periods. When I go without, I notice I get a lot more lint out of my clothes in the dryer. When I go back to using FS, the lint volume drops dramatically. I'm presuming FS reduces friction between clothes in the dryer, thereby reducing the amount of lint.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 3:18PM
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That would be a fair - and accurate - presumption.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 5:13PM
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Or perhaps the lint covered with FS is sticking to the insides of your machine?? :)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Dryers are vented to the outdoors to prevent moisture and heat build up within the buildings structure, not to vent fabric softner fumes. Gas dryers are vented outdoors to get rid of combustion byproducts. Many substances can become irritants, common table salt is natural yet is an irritant. I personally don't use fabric softner but certainly not for health reasons, I just don't like the feel it gives to clothes. Those with asthma may be sensitive to some scented products but for the majority of the healthy population this is a non issue. Everything, even natural substances are toxic in high enough concentraion. Lavender, a natural scenting agent obtained from plants is a known endocrine disrupter, it has caused breast growth in young male children at surprisingly low concentrations. Natural is not always safer.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:40AM
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Natural may not always be safer but nature always has a good reason why it does something. Humans just want to make money selling you smelly, greasy stuff they convince you is needed to be a good homemaker. Gotta have fluffy towels that smell like "nature".

Doesn't work with me. There are many things I might buy if they didn't smell so bad.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 8:05PM
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I had stopped using "dryer sheets" specifically in my dryer after reading this thread... since my new dryer is gas i have zero static and i haven't found the need to use the softner at all. As long as the washer rinses out the soap i get no "stiffness" all clothes come out "fresh" and "soft".

I have only been using soap and some stain treatment and that's it no extra products.

Been trying dosage on persil as well but that's for a different thread.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:46PM
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The main ingredient of dryer sheets is wax.
The main ingredient of fabric softeners is rendered animal fat.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:01PM
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That's not necessarily true. Fabric softeners from ecological companies like Seventh Generation, Ecover, and others do not contain any animal fat or animal byproducts. They also contain fewer toxic ingredients.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 1:34PM
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It appears you are talking about two fabric softner issues here: (1) Fabric Softner in the washer; (2) Fabric Softner Dryer Sheets. I do not use fabric softner sheets in the dryer, so I don't have a problem with my dryer. Every so often, I clean out the dryer vent with my vacuum cleaner brush and all runs well. I do use fabric softner in my washer (all the time) without any issues. Yes, it can cause a build up in the washer, especially if you only do a cold or warm wash. I always have one hot wash which generally washes away the fabric softner residue.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:37AM
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I find that fabric softener in the wash works much better because it actually gets into the fibers, whereas dryer sheets simply coat the surface of what they touch with a residue. I have no residue issues in the washer or dryer as a result of using liquid fabric softener. I also use less than what is recommended by about half.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Since there seems to be a debate about fabric softeners..

I do use dryer sheets and I use the Arm & Hammer ones (b/c that is the scent I like best).

That said, I've been reading a lot of blogs lately for various things on cleaning and such and many many people are using vinegar in the wash as a fabric softener. Or they are making dryer balls out of wool. I think my sister uses balls of aluminum foil.

Just wanted to throw some ideas out there if people wanted other options.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 10:06AM
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I don't use any and I have soft towels with very hard water. I load my machine properly and use the right amount of detergent so it rinses out. That's a big part of peoples' problem with unsoft towels and clothes.

I want my clothes stench-free. When clothes smell, it's time to wash them.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:41PM
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When I was on a family visit this summer, neither place I did my laundry used fabric softener. I stopped using it after that trip.

I've never been one to use FS on towels. I noticed very little difference in softness once out of the dryer, FS or no FS. I did notice a difference when transferring from washer to dryer, but once dried, clothes felt fine.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 3:09PM
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You can follow all the "right" steps but still get scratchy towels even though they are well rinsed. Front load and top load HE machines spin fabrics at a very high RPM, this really does a nice job of flattening the towel fibers and makes it difficult to regain fluff in the drying phase. The minimal use of water in front loaders is also partly to blame, as towels washed and rinsed in larger amounts of water tend to have fewer issues. This is all anecdotal, of course.

I also find that liquid fabric softener, if not used in excess, do nothing to inhibit the absorbency of towels or other fabrics. Then again, I don't ever use more than is recommended, and most often use less.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 7:34PM
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White vinegar in the washing machine rinse dispenser works great in helping remove detergent from clothes. A load of towels dry soft and fluffy without using dryer sheets.

My washing machine is about a 22 year old Maytag top loader. Vinegar has caused no problems.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 6:41PM
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Avoid using dryer sheets, all they do is coat the surface of your fabrics with a waxy substance that will eventually ruin your dryer.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 12:58PM
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Posted by sshrivastava (My Page) on Sun, Jan 6, 13 at 12:58
Avoid using dryer sheets, all they do is coat the surface of your fabrics with a waxy substance that will eventually ruin your dryer. Interesting comment considering your discounting of my pictures and advisory about softener residue above, 10/9/2011. :-D

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 2:23PM
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@ Dadoes,

Actually my comment was not directly related to your post or photos. My comment about dryer sheets is informed more by the instructions in my Miele dryer manual, which says to add softener to the wash, not to the dryer itself. Dryer sheets can also stick to the air intakes of some dryers, posing a possible overheating or airflow hazard.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Also, there are some fabric softeners that don't rely on waxes or residues to soften laundry. Vaska is one such softener.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2013 at 2:17PM
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I can't believe I am now using a FS, but Vaska's FS is the only FS I would ever use.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 7:19PM
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I never had a problem with FS clogging up my washer or vreating bad smells in it. Butthen again I do a lot of loads with hot or warm water in them. I dont use dryer sheets, as they are known to clog up dryers venting systems and wreck hovac on moisture sensors.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 3:19PM
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I swear by felted wool dryer balls in the dryer instead of dryer sheets (which I stopped using for a variety of reasons, but mostly because the chemicals in them put my skin on fire). I bought mine on Etsy, but a crafty person could certainly make their own. I rescent them with just a touch of essential oil (and I seal them in a bag for a day or so to let it really work in there). They sort of beat clothing and towels into submission. They can be a little noisy if you don't have a lot of stuff in the dryer, so they probably aren't the best solution if you have your laundry room right next to a bedroom, but otherwise they work just as well, if not better, than dryer sheets, and you don't have to worry about any build-up.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 4:50PM
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Just remember that everything your felt balls touch is also getting hit with essential oil - the interior of your dryer, the moisture sensor, etc.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 11:45AM
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I do not use FS & never have, not dryer sheets nor the kind for the washer. In my opinion they stink of artificial scent & when I am around machines whose owners use them, I go into sneezing fits. I also use unscented liquid detergent.

My sister has severe asthma; my husband and daughter have mild asthma. I would not think of using scented products in my house because of exposing the asthmatics to triggers.

Here is the thing, you FS users---if something is bad for asthmatics to breathe, it is also bad for you to breathe. Their immune systems are just hypersensitive to bad things, and they get an attack. The same stuff is bad for you; you just do not get the early-warning "siren" from your body that they do from theirs.

As to fluffy towels--may I suggest buying higher quality towels? Hotels that have thick soft towels are buying really good ones. I have cheap thin towels from my college student days that are great for rubbing the cat after her bath --- and I have thick, soft, nice towels that I dry myself with.

Are you shaking them & fluffing them when you pull them from the washer, not just stuffing them in the dryer?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Try 'Charlie's soap' to wash your clothes - it does not leave any residue and truly gets clothes clean and smelling great without the need for a fabric softener to follow up with it - the brand actually recommends to NOT use fabric softener... after a short time of washing clothes with this they become soft enough on their own - I also use vinegar in the rinse cycle and my towels feel soft and smell clean... once you stop using all the chemicals that coat your clothes you will notice the difference

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 12:15PM
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