Umbra Answers All About Fabric Softener

Dear Umbra,

With winter upon us, I'm thinking about a serious matter: fabric
softener. During the summer, I don't use any. However, with snow
looming, static cling is on my mind. Long story short, which is better:
liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets?

Shippensburg, Penn.

Dearest Allie,

Your home will be a happier, healthier place if no fabric softener
darkens your dryer. Both liquid and sheet contain a stunning amount of
notoriously toxic chemicals, which often serve to make the softener
smell pretty. Turns out fragrances are usually composed of a witch's
brew of solvents -- which explains why some folks come over all funny in
the presence of artificial scents.

Quite a few of the fabric-softener solvents, particularly if exposed to
heat, are hazardous when inhaled or when they come into contact with
skin. A less-toxic solution is to add a cup of white vinegar during the
final rinse cycle in your washing machine. I also suspect that if you
don't overdry your clothing -- that is, if you pull it out of the dryer
when it's still slightly damp to the touch -- you'll get less static.
And I'd recommend switching to all-natural fabrics such as cotton.


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