When it comes to the baby, parents have a never-ending gauntlet to run. So many things are unsafe for baby and even something as simple as fabric softener can betray you. So, is fabric softener really dangerous for your baby? We’ll discuss why fabric softener is not a good idea for your child as well as provide you with a few alternatives that you can use to make this a non-issue.
What happens when you use fabric softener for baby clothes
While fabric softener is an amazing invention from an adult’s perspective, from a child’s perspective it is quite a different thing. One big reason for this is pretty simple. Adults don’t often chew on their clothes (and if you do, your body is fully developed so it is less of an issue.). The chemicals in fabric softener are the reason that this is bad. Not only chewing, either, these chemicals can irritate baby’s skin. While generally fabric softener is not going to be a huge issue there is some evidence that the chemicals in it are really bad for us. We’ll explain.
The active chemicals in fabric softener
Fabric softener contains some ingredients that are a definite no-no for your child and probably not so good for you either. Many fabric softeners include such ingredients as:
- Benzyl alcohol – Benzyl alcohol is certainly not good for your baby, as it has been linked to upper respiratory issues.
- Benzyl acetate – This chemical has been linked to cases of pancreatic cancer. While your child is still developing they are more sensitive to chemicals so you will definitely want to keep this away from them.
- Ethanol – Studies have corresponded ethanol with various nervous system disorders and as such we want to keep this as far away from a developing child as possible!
These chemicals are just a few examples, however, and will vary based on the brand. Another thing to consider is the artificial fragrance that comes with most fabric softeners. This can irritate baby’s skin or over stimulate their olfactory senses (would you want to smell that artificial scent all day?). Fabric softener and your baby are simply not a good mix, at least not with many of the popular brands. So what are the alternatives?
Is there a good laundry softener for baby clothes?
Actually, yes. There are a number of alternative softeners out there, you just need to experiment a little to find a baby safe fabric softener that you like. Before we go into those, however, there is another consideration.
Just like your fabric softener, detergents often have chemicals in them that can irritate baby’s skin or are simply not good for them in general. Thankfully, this is pretty easy to avoid. Here are some examples of baby friendly detergents you can try if your baby always seems uncomfortable in their freshly-washed clothing:
- Molly Suds laundry powder – This powerful detergent is made with simple ingredients and incorporates peppermint essential oils (which mostly wash out with cleaning) so that you get a little scent but nothing overpowering.
- ECOS Laundry detergent – Plant based, this one actually comes with it’s own fabric softener (although good for t-shirts, this is not recommended for cleaning cloth diapers).
” Tested by dermatologists and deemed safe for sensitive baby-skin.”
- Grab Green Natural 3 in 1 – This one doesn’t have any brighteners, phosphates, dyes, or chlorine, but it does have a bit of a strong fragrance. That said, it is quite good for cleaning up the messes that come from those unavoidable diaper leaks.
- Purex Liquid for Baby – The easiest brand to find on this list, Purex liquid for baby is hypoallergenic and doesn’t have any dyes added to it. Tested by dermatologists and deemed safe for sensitive baby-skin, this is one commercially available option you should definitely consider.
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean day – Developed by dermatologists, this product is 97% plant based and the scents associated with it come from essential oils rather than chemicals. If you are eco conscious you might also like that the bottle is made partially (25%) of recycled materials.
While you can find some of these detergents locally, most of them you will need to order specially online. Of course now that you have a particular detergent in mind, what can you do if you are still set on fabric softener? You might be surprised to know that there are a few DIY options that you can apply with ingredients that you already have at home.
DIY fabric softener for baby clothes and a commercial option
Downy free and gentle is an option that is commercially available that you can use for a fabric softener. Of course, you can also go the DIY route. You have things at home already that you can use for fabric softener that won’t irritate your baby. For instance:
- Baking soda based fabric softeners – Baking soda, or baking soda with Epsom salt are a couple of good examples that you can use at home. Google ‘baking soda fabric softener recipes’ and you can pick a few from the lists that the search returns and find the one that is perfect for you and your baby!
- Vinegar and lemon essential oil – One of the best fabric softeners, the downside of vinegar is going to be the scent. You can get around this, however, with a few drops of lemon essential oil. Mix a few drops with about 2 tablespoons of vinegar and you have a DIY fabric softener that works great!
While the dangers are minimal and you can probably use fabric softener if you like, there are still some risks associated. In this article we have detailed some of these risks and provided you some alternative options so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to baby’s laundry. In closing, just remember that if baby is itchy you can still get clean clothes without the chemicals. Hooray for the internet!