That said, I do still believe there are some easy and practical things any family can do to create a healthier environment.
I first started putting more thought into this when I was pregnant with baby #1. As I cleaned my bathrooms, I looked at my cleaning products with new eyes. As I did laundry, I read the ingredients on the detergent for the first time. I was most definitely using products that contained strong chemicals. Common sense told me the strong, eye-watering and stinging scents coming from these products couldn't possibly be good for me to breathe or absorb into my skin. And how much more harmful would chemicals like these be for babies and children?
The first thing I stopped was my use of fabric softener. Research quickly showed me that this seemingly harmless product that millions of Americans use weekly is filled with chemicals, coloring, and artificial fragrance. I think many people are very attached to their fabric softeners. They've come to love the mountain fresh or spring rain smell of their laundry as they pull it out of the dryer, and they carry that smell around on them all day like a perfume when they wear their laundered and fabric-softened clothes.
There are all kinds of articles that describe the dangers of fabric softener use. Here is one I particularly like, because it also provides alternative ideas for those who are still concerned with static cling.
When I stopped using fabric softener I started noticing other people's fabric softener scents on their clothes, and I couldn't believe how strong the scent was, nor how artificial it smelled. Over time my nose had grown accustomed to the potent scent of my own fabric softener so that it was barely recognizable to me, but once I stopped using it, I sometimes felt overpowered by other people's fabric softeners. It no longer seemed pleasant to smell.
I did, however, desire my laundry to have some scent, and it wasn't long before I found some lovely bags filled with dried lavender flowers, made especially for use in the dryer. I love these bags, and I know even a person with the most limited of sewing skills could make her own. My laundry comes out smelling lightly and subtly like a meadow filled with lavender. It's not overpowering in any way, and to me that seems so much more natural and desirable to have on clothing that I will wear all day, or on towels I will use on my own body or on my boys' bodies.
As for static cling, I don't seem to have that problem very often with my laundry, but there are lots of homemade fabric softener recipes out there. I've tried one of them and liked it, but haven't made it lately since I don't use it on a regular basis. I may have to mix up a new batch as fall begins and I notice more static in my clothing.
Here's the recipe:
Homemade Fabric Softener
In a recycled gallon sized vinegar jug add 2 cups baking soda and 2 cups distilled white vinegar. When mixture finishes foaming, add 4 cups of hot water and essential oils to desired strength. (Try using 20 drops each of lavender and lemon.) Shake before each use and add about 1 cup for large loads in the rinse cycle. Essential oils can be found at health food stores locally and of course on the internet. They are a bit expensive but last a very long time.