No-one can resist a pup or kitten napping in fresh, soft laundry, but did you know that fabric softener sheets that create the soothing, fresh scented fabrics so attractive to pets can actually be harmful to your animals?
According to Engineering Professor Anne C. Steinemann of University of Washington, using fabric softener sheets to wipe fur-covered fabrics is a potentially harmful practice. “Fabric-softener sheets contain hazardous chemicals,” Professor Steinemann said. “And these chemicals enter and persist in the human body and in the environment.”
Professor Steinemann’s research revealed that laundry sheets contain ethanol and alpha-pinene, ingredients which are toxic to the skin. Though hazardous under federal law, fabric softener product labels do not list these agents.
ASPCA.ORG explains that softener products often contain detergents known as cationics “that have the potential to produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, particularly when the sheets haven’t been used. These effects include drooling, appetite loss, oral burns and, in some cases, possibly even ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.” Cationics are especially harmful to cats.
Fabric softener and fabric softener sheets can contain the following chemicals:
Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
It is best, then, to refrain from using fabric sheets to clean up pet hair, or soften towels for your kitty or your pup. To soften laundry, add a quarter cup of baking soda to the wash cycle, or check your local health food store for soy-based natural fabric softeners. Use the old fashioned sticky scotch tape method to clean pet hair from fabrics and furniture.