Learn How the Chemicals in Your Fabric Softener Affect Your Weight
Fabric softener leaves your clothes fluffy and smelling pretty. What could be wrong with that? That soft, sweet-smelling goodness does not come from a magical dryer fairy, but from a long list of chemicals that are known hormone-disruptors which can contribute to your expanding waistline.
Read on to learn what these chemicals are and how you can avoid them and still have fabric softener that yields fresh-smelling, soft clothes!
What’s in my Fabric Softener?
Fabric softeners called “spring fresh” or “mountain air” get that unique scent from a cocktail of chemicals including phthalates.
Your fabric softener contains various chemicals to prevent static and soften fibers, but the group of chemicals I want to focus on in this article are phthalates. ‘Phthalate’ may be a word you’ve never heard before, but you are being exposed to phthalates throughout the day.
Phthalates are synthetic chemical compounds that keep plastic soft, keep nail polish liquid, and keep fragrances lingering. This last use is the problem with fabric softeners.
You won’t see ‘phthalates’ on your fabric softener label; you’ll instead see ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum.’
Three Ways Phthalates Affect Your Weight
1. Phthalates disrupt your normal appetite and affect fat cell size and growth
Phthalates belong to a class of chemicals called obesogens that alter the normal way your grow fat cells, alter your metabolism, or alter your appetite. The term obesogen was coined in 2006 by Felix Grün and Bruce Blumberg of the University of California, Irvine (1).
Phthalates have been observed to affect genes that uptake fat and grow fat cells. Although further study is needed in this area, there is a growing body of research linking phthalates, as well as other toxins in your modern environment, to the current obesity epidemic (2, 3).
2. Phthalates disrupt your hormones, making you grow more fat tissue.
Some synthetic chemicals act in a similar way to our own hormones in the body, throwing off our delicate hormonal balance. Here are some of these effects:
Phthalates act like the hormone estrogen. Estrogen, I always say, is a hormone of abundance! It grows your hips and breasts, but you only need so much.
When estrogen levels heighten due to outside sources, you are at risk for packing on pounds that you can’t lose, especially at breasts and hips (4).
Thyroid Slows Down
Another hormonal imbalance that is well-known to increase weight by lowering metabolism is low thyroid function.
Individuals with higher levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine had lower levels of circulating thyroid hormone in their blood, according to a 2007-2008 study (5).
3. Phthalates add to your toxic load, making you store toxins in fat tissue.
Your liver can only process as much toxic material as it’s able. Limiting factors include your genetics, your nutritional status, and overall toxic load.
If your body cannot keep up with the overall load of synthetic toxins traveling on air, food, water and your household items, it has no choice but to store toxins in your fat tissue. It’s your body’s way of protecting you from the toxic effects of these chemicals.
Unless you lessen your toxic load, your body will hold onto to fat tissue as a toxic storage area. And you run the risk of gaining even more weight over time (6).
The good news is that it’s easy and affordable to find safer fabric softeners!
It’s Not Just Your Weight Being Affected
As I researched other health concerns and phthalates, there was often a correlation between increased urinary phthalate metabolites and increased BMI (body mass index), and this group had the highest incidence of other health problems (10).
Your fabric softener use can even contribute to your baby growing up obese!
A 2012 epidemiological study found that pregnant women who reported to regularly use fabric softener had a higher level of mono-ethyl phthalate in their urine (11).
A 2017 study found collected blood samples of pregnant women and found that as phthalate blood levels increased, leptin levels decreased. Leptin is a hormone that lets us know we are full, and decreased levels can result in overeating (12).
But I Love My Fabric Softener; What Am I To Do?!
Luckily you can find a replacement that still softens your clothes and smells great!
If the first product you try isn’t quite the right fit, just try again. There is a big selection of options these days, from DIY laundry products to high-end artisan formulas. Below are some tips to help you in this journey.
Remember, you won’t see ‘phthalates’ on your fabric softener label; you’ll instead see ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum.’ So if you see those words, put down the box or bottle at the store!
It’s best to choose scents that only come from essential oils, or unscented products. Also remember that just because a dryer scent is unscented doesn’t mean it’s free from other questionable or harmful synthetic chemicals.
Do It Yourself
It’s easy to enhance your laundry with some tried and true old-fashioned ingredients!
Add one 1/4 cup of baking soda to your wash cycle to soften fabric. Add a ¼ cup of white vinegar to the rinse basket on your washing machine to soften fabric and eliminate cling.
There are many brands available now that contain just natural, vegetable-based ingredients and essential oils. Just be careful to read labels!
Here is the brand I love and use for my laundry: My Green Fills. They carry a variety of non-toxic, laundry products that are easy to use and leave your clothes fresh and clean.
Try Non-Toxic Laundry Products at a Discount
Finding high-quality, non-toxic products that you love can be a difficult task! That’s why I’m here to share the solutions I’ve found.
Unscented Laundry Rinse by My Green Fills is what I use. It’s easy to toss in that little funnel on your washing machine, and it keeps clothes soft while aiding cleaning and reducing static. You can also buy Signature Scent Laundry Rinse if you prefer having a light essential oil scent left behind.
Dryer Angel by My Green Fills can replace dryer sheets, if that’s what you’re accustomed to using. Dryer Angel is reusable, prevents static cling, and is free of synthetic fragrance, silicone, and petroleum by-products.
Get a discount at My Green Fills laundry here!
Are you trying to make your laundry more natural? What fabric softeners have you tried?
Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative llc and HormoneDetoxShop.com.