The book was written by Christina Strutt, founder of Cabbages & Roses, a lovely store that produces its own fabric and also sells home wares and clothing. The store states its core values as "beauty, simplicity, longevity, integrity and sustainability," so it's no wonder that its founder has penned such a beautiful and practical book.
One of my favorite aspects of it is that Christina lists dozens of uses for ordinary products like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice for cleaning. Further than that, these products are just as effective as modern chemical laden cleaners, don't leave behind strong, toxic odors, are are usually much cheaper!
White distilled vinegar is one product the book offers dozens of uses for, one of which is as a replacement for fabric softener. I was a bit skeptical of the idea at first, but decided to test it. The verdict: it's genius!
I think it's very revealing that I just assumed the over-engineered, over-packaged, chemical-filled fabric softener I used to use would be more effective. For some reason, we've accepted the idea that some specialized product concocted in a lab by a big company must have a greater claim to effectiveness than one simple ingredient. Here's why you should ditch your conventional fabric softener and try using vinegar:
1. It's super cheap! You can get a whole gallon of it for under $5, and you only need 1/2 cup to soften large loads. By comparison, liquid fabric softener by the gallon is about $10.
2. It's chemical-free. It's only got one ingredient! This is a huge bonus for people with sensitive skin (like kids). Plus, one of the ingredients in many fabric softeners is animal fat - not so great for vegetarians (or people who just find that idea unappealing, like me). Chemical softeners work by coating clothing with a thin layer of lubricant, which we then wear around all day on our clothes and wipe on our bodies every time we use a towel. Ingredients like benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, and choloroform found in both liquid and sheet-form softeners have been linked to respiratory tract irritation, some cancers, and central nervous system disorders. If we can avoid these easily, I say, let's do it!
3. It makes your whites whiter & your brights brighter. When used in the wash cycle, vinegar is a great natural alternative for bleach. When used as fabric softener, it removes detergent residue thoroughly, as well as bodily oils and grime. And unlike chemical softeners, it doesn't build up on clothes. Vinegar is also a natural anti-bacterial, unlike the triclosan (currently under FDA investigation) which is being added to some chemical softeners.
4. It's better for Earth (and everyone on it). Eliminating the use of specialty products we don't really need is always better for the environment. It means less packaging, less energy use, and eventually, less demand for an unnecessary product. And as is often the case, chemicals in fabric softeners which are toxic to us are also toxic to our planet, and the more we use them, the more they linger in our water, our soil, and our own bodies.
5. It's customizable! One point that worried me was that my clothes would smell like vinegar. Not so: they may have a faint scent of vinegar while still wet, but once dry, the scent completely evaporates. Plus, you can also add an essential oil of choice to your vinegar - next time, I may try lavendar.
Would you consider trying vinegar as an alternative to conventional fabric softener? Have you heard of any other natural methods for keeping laundry soft and static-free?