by John P. Thomas
Health Impact News

Have you made the switch to better health by going fragrance-free? Millions of people have made this change! They have freed themselves from the addictive chemicals in perfume and cologne, and no longer contaminate their bodies and homes with products containing synthetic fragrances. It’s not as hard as you might think to rid yourself and your home of toxic products and replace them with natural and healthy alternatives.

I have previously discussed the harmful health effects of synthetic fragrances found in perfume, cologne, aftershave, skincare products, hair care products, cleaning products, air fresheners, laundry detergents, and dryer sheets. (See: Heavenly Scents or Toxic Fumes – Are your Fragrances Healing or Killing You?)

I have also discussed how natural essential oils can cure disease, and why synthetic fragrances can only bring harm to the human body. (See: Using Essential Oils to Cure Disease)

In this article, I will be discussing how to toss away toxic household products for the sake of improving your health and the health of your family and friends. Many products are toxic because they contain artificial fragrance and harmful chemicals.

Most mass marketed body care and household products made by major corporations contain toxic synthetic fragrances and health harming chemicals. The fragrances they contain are made from petroleum and coal tar. Product manufacturers may want you to believe that their products are fresh, clean and natural, but this is far from the truth. [1, 2]

There are many safe alternatives that you can use in your home for body care and household cleaning, which are highly effective and completely safe. Many larger grocery stores have some of these products in their natural foods aisle or on display with conventional toxic products. They are also available in larger health food stores and in many locations on the Internet.

This is How You can Start Improving Your Health Today!

How Can You Tell Whether a Product is Free of Artificial Fragrance?

This is the first question to consider when looking at the label of an unfamiliar product. If the product does not identify the presence of fragrance or scent on the front label, then you should not assume that it is fragrance-free. Always read the list of ingredients. Any product that uses the words “fragrance” or “perfume” anywhere on the container should be rejected. Product manufacturers may not always say that there are synthetic fragrances in their products. The safest choices will be products that explicitly say “fragrance-free” or “unscented.” Sometimes these products will also say “free of dye.”

Don’t be misled by confusing and deceptive marketing language. If you prefer products that contain the fragrances of natural essential oils, then do not be misled by products that try to convince you that they contain natural essential oils when in fact they contain synthetic fragrances. Avoid buying any product that uses language such as: lemon fragrance, essence of lavender, natural floral fragrance, authentic botanicals, naturally fragrant, natural scent, naturally fresh, pure scent of wild roses, or any similar language. This is marketing language, which almost always means that the product contains manufactured synthetic fragrance.

Products that contain real essential oils will use the words “essential oil of …” on the list of ingredients. It is best to look for ones that say “organic essential oil of…” because these are even more likely to contain true essential oils, which have not been adulterated with synthetic fragrance. Yes, even essential oils can be adulterated with synthetic fragrances or diluted with odorless oils, because the fragrance industry is not regulated. If the essential oil is labeled as “organic”, then it probably has not been contaminated or diluted with unknown substances, because this is an indication that it was certified by a national or international certifying agency. If you trust the product manufacturer, then you can probably trust the label to be truthful. If this is the case, then a product that says that it contains, for example, “essential oil of lemon” or “organic essential oil of lavender” should be safe.

People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or Environmental Illness are highly reactive to products containing synthetic fragrances. They become seriously ill when exposed. Sometimes they also react to high concentrations of essential oils. For example, some people find it difficult to handle the scent of pine essential oil in cleaning products when they are used to clean large areas inside of homes or public spaces.

Essential oils are medicinal substances. The essential oil of pine and lemon are much more than pleasant aromas. They have been used for thousands of years to treat disease. Giving yourself a daily dose of medicine when you do not need it can be an unhealthy practice, even if you enjoy the natural fragrance. Sometimes it is better for some people to go completely fragrance free.

Safe Alternatives

Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners

I am starting with dryer sheets, because they are a highly toxic household product that is used by most Americans. Beside the strong artificial fragrances that chemical dryer sheets contain, they are also coated with a large number of highly toxic chemicals, which are intended to eliminate static and soften fabrics. Dryer sheets contain Alpha Terpeneol, Benzyl Acetate, Benzyl Alcohol Camphor, Chloroform, Ethyl Acetate Limonene, Linalool, and Pentane. Three of these chemicals appear on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List. [3] Manufacturers cannot dispose of these hazardous chemicals in a community landfill or dump them in a river, but they can add them to consumer products. When you use dryer sheets, you spread hazardous toxic chemicals throughout the fibers of your clothing. When you wear the clothing or rub towels and bed linens on your face and body, you are depositing toxic chemicals on your skin. When you smell the synthetic fragrance residue from your clothing, the artificial fragrances and other hazardous chemicals have already entered into your brain through the olfactory pathway and have been absorbed into your blood through the lungs.

Additionally, the toxic fragrances and carcinogenic substances found in dryer sheets and fabric softeners are released into the outdoor environment through dryer vents. In a 2011 Study at the University of Washington, Professor Dr. Anne Steinemann, found that dryer exhaust contains more than 25 VOCs (volatile organic compounds). The highest levels of VOCs they found were acetaldehyde, acetone, and ethanol (two of which are considered carcinogenic). To put it in context, one of the carcinogenic VOC’s, acetaldehyde, had emissions that would represent 3% of total acetaldehyde emissions from automobiles in the study area. That might not seem like a lot, but given how commonplace they are in homes, the findings are significant. Thus, when you get a strong whiff of dryer exhaust when walking outside, you are breathing in cancer causing chemicals. [4]

I don’t know the date when the dryer sheet manufacturers launched their mass marketing campaign to convince Americans that they must use dryer sheets in order to be happy. I bought my first box of this toxic product in the early 1980s. Before that time, believe it or not, people dried their clothing in dryers for 20 or 30 years without ever realizing that they were suffering for the lack of a special product for the dryer. Most of the clothing that people wore in the 1950s and 1960s was made of cotton, which was generally resistant to static buildup. I grew up hanging clothing on a clothesline outside. I didn’t have a static problem with clothing until the mid-1970s when polyester started creeping its way into my wardrobe.

Today, polyester and other synthetic fabrics are very popular. As a result, dryers can build up high levels of static. The good news is that even if you have a lot of synthetic fabrics, you can prevent static build up without the use of chemical dryer sheets.

Reusable chemical free dryer sheets can stop static and save money. Reusable dryer sheets are made of fabric with a special weave, which dissipates the static for the entire load of clothing. The fabric dryer sheets we use are 7 by 10 inch tubes of fabric. They are very inexpensive and can be reused approximately 500 times. They are very inexpensive. They are available online from many sources. I have used them for about 8 or 9 years.

Reusable plastic Dryer Balls are used to soften fabrics, shorten drying time, and reduce static. These spiny plastic dryer balls can be reused indefinitely. Search for them online. There is really no need to use fabric softeners.

You can shake the static out of your laundry. In the old days before dryer sheets, we had a simple method for dealing with static. We discharged the static naturally by removing single items of clothing from the dryer and giving each item a vigorous shake before folding or putting the item on a hanger. Having used reusable fabric dryer sheets, I find them more effective than the mechanical method of shaking laundry. Though, shaking laundry did provide me with a little additional exercise.

The ultimate solution for eliminating static is natural fiber clothing. Cotton clothing produces very little static when tumbled in the dryer. Consider purchasing natural fiber clothing when your current clothing wears out.

Laundry Detergents

Some of the most powerful artificial fragrances are found in laundry detergents. These fragrances are so strong that they literally cannot be contained in the boxes or plastic jugs in which they are sold. This is obvious to anyone who walks down the laundry product aisle of a grocery store. The intensity of the collective smells that exude from the hundreds of unopened boxes and bottles can be staggering. People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or Environmental Illness can get sick just by walking down the grocery store aisle where laundry products are sold.

Do laundry products give you any of these symptoms? If you find that you suddenly experience any of the following symptoms when you are selecting laundry products in the grocery store, then you are already being affected by the harmful qualities of artificial fragrances.  Symptoms that people can experience when shopping on the laundry product aisle include: exhaustion, weakness, sinus congestion, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, confusion, headaches, rashes, muscle aches and spasms, heart palpitations, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, asthma attacks, neuromotor dysfunction, seizures, and even loss of consciousness. If you suddenly experience these types of symptoms, then this is an indication of a serious health problem. Such symptoms should be considered as high motivation for you to become fragrance-free. You can address the problem by discontinuing the use of artificial fragrances on your body, and by discontinuing the use of chemical dryer sheets and scented laundry detergent.

Some of the major laundry detergent brands offer fragrance-free and dye-free options. These options can work for many people. However, some people who are more highly sensitive will need to go to less toxic and biodegradable options. There are many options available on the internet. Some less toxic laundry detergents may still contain artificial fragrance, so you need to shop with care.

Will fragrance-free laundry cleaners work as well as conventional scented detergents? Sometimes people may complain that natural laundry cleaners don’t get all the stains out of their clothing, and some clothing still doesn’t smell clean. Commercial detergents actually may not get your clothing cleaner or remove more body odor than less toxic cleaners. These detergents use special chemicals that make whites look brighter. These brightening chemicals change the way light reflects off clothing, which gives the appearance of greater cleanliness. Also, the artificial fragrances that detergents contain are designed to block your perception of residual body odor. There is a simple solution that you can use to remove persistent stains and odors. The solution is oxygen bleach. Add some to your washer according to the instructions on the container. The brand I use recommends 1 to 2 ounces per load. This is used in addition to your other laundry cleaner. Oxygen bleach is biodegradable and does not contain any chlorine.

Cleaning Products for the Kitchen and Bath

One of the marketing ploys used to expand sales of cleaning products is to make consumers believe that they must have a special cleaning product for each cleaning task. We should have a different bottle of cleaner for the toilet, the sink and mirror, the fiberglass tub, tile, kitchen counters, dishes, windows, floors, stovetop, and the oven. When we closely examine the ingredients of unscented and health friendly cleaning products, we quickly realize that most all cleaning can be done with two or three cleaning products. I use an all-purpose enzyme based cleaner for tough cleaning projects such as bathtubs and greasy messes. I use oxygen bleach for cleaning toilets, for removing stains on porcelain cookware, and for cleaning porcelain sinks and ceramic tile grout. I use a glass and surface cleaner that is very similar to the homemade cleaning solution described in the next paragraph. Nontoxic cleaning does not need to be complicated, costly, or more difficult. Once you learn how to use the products, you will be glad that you are no longer exposing yourself to toxic chemicals and artificial fragrances.

A homemade cleaner can handle most cleaning projects. For example take a 16 oz. spray bottle, add an ounce of white vinegar, a small squirt of unscented dish soap, an optional few drops of essential oil of lemon, and then fill with warm water. You have just made an all-purpose cleaner for the kitchen and bath. If you have a really dirty job, then just add more vinegar and soap.

You don’t need antibacterial chemicals. Marketing efforts also emphasize the antibacterial qualities of cleaning products. Soap by its very nature is antibacterial; no additional antibacterial chemicals are needed. The toxic chemicals that are added to cleaning products to kill bacteria actually are harmful to all life forms, including human beings. These chemicals are stimulating the growth of new strains of bacteria, which are now resistant to most antibacterial chemicals and antibiotics. Good hygiene is important, but in most cases, it can be accomplished with soap, vinegar, and water. It is also wise to avoid all products containing ammonia or chlorine, because these chemicals are very toxic to all people and to the environment.

Cleaning Products for Wood Floors and Wood Furniture

You don’t need special cleaners for wood floors. Cleaners for wood floors and wood furniture usually contain artificial fragrances that imitate the smell of wood and citrus. They usually contain some variety of oil, which may be derived from petroleum. I was told by a professional wood floor installer to never use factory formulated floor cleaning products that you can purchase from the grocery store or hardware store. He said that the oily residue that is left on the floor after using these products causes dust and dirt to stick to the floor and will shorten the life of the floor finish. He said the best strategy is to frequently dust the floor with a dry dust mop or to vacuum the floor. If the floor requires washing, then just use a damp mop with plain water. If plain water doesn’t work, then add a few ounces of white vinegar to the bucket of water to remove oily soil.

You don’t need special cleaners for wood furniture. A similar strategy applies to wood furniture. Furniture cleaners and polishes also contain synthetic fragrances and oils, and actually attract dust and cause it to stick on furniture. This leads to an endless cycle of using more furniture cleaner and polish to remove the sticky dusty film that accumulates. If you have such build-up, then you can dampen a soft cloth with a small amount of water and vinegar, and use it to remove the dust. Wipe the furniture with a dry cloth when you are done to remove all lingering moisture. Once the old residue has been removed, then you will only need to use a water dampened cloth to remove dust in the future.

Microfiber cloths are great for dusting. My preference is to use microfiber cleaning cloths and gloves made from specially woven terry or silk for all my dusting tasks. These cloths hold on to dust without the use of any chemicals or moisture. You can find these cloths in hardware stores and on the internet. My favorite floor mop uses a flat microfiber cleaning pad that measured approximately 5 inches by 18 inches. The pad attaches to the mop with Velcro. These are sold by several companies. There are different microfiber pads designed for dry floor dusting and for wet mopping. These can sometimes be found in hardware stores. Many options are also available online.

Soap, Shampoo, Hair Conditioner, Hair Spray, Deodorant, and Makeup

When it comes to the thousands of cosmetic products available to consumers, the discussion of fragrance-free products becomes more complicated. In addition to the synthetic fragrances that most contain, there are often many chemicals that pose risk to the users of the products and to the people who breathe the air around them. US governmental agencies have not been given the authority to mandate safety studies of cosmetics. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) states, “Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients that the FDA has documented in products have been assessed for safety by the cosmetic industry.” The Skin Deep database, established by EWG, ranks popular cosmetic products according to their relative safety. You can learn more about many products, such as lotions and shampoos, by visiting the EWG database. [5] You will find that the safest products are often fragrance-free.

Unscented bar soap for the bath is available in most health food stores and online. If you seek soap with essential oils, then look for soap made from organic ingredients, because many of the essential oils sold to soap makers have been adulterated with synthetic fragrances. Organic soap with organic essential oil is also available from health food stores and from many online sources. I like to encourage people to buy locally made bar soap from vendors at farmer’s markets. But sometimes these vendors are unaware that the essential oil they purchase by the gallon from soap making supply vendors for ridiculously low prices have been adulterated or are actually synthetic. Organic essential oil will make soap products more expensive.

Avoid shampoo that contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and cosmetics that contain Phthalates.  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, phthalates, and artificial fragrances are all hazardous to your health. Regardless of which brand of hair care or cosmetics you plan to purchase, you must read the labels to be sure they are free of toxic substances. Most common shampoo brands contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which is a poison that is toxic to the liver, corrosive to the skin, and a carcinogen. [6, 7] SLS and its many cousins harm the product user and should be avoided. Similarly, many cosmetic products also contain phthalates which have been associated with birth defects and hormonal disruption in women. [8] If you will be shopping for fragrance-free products, then it would be wise to also shop for ones that are healthier in all respects. I recommend reviewing the Skin Deep database for skin care and hair care products to find the safest products for your family.


[1] “Why Go Fragrance Free?” Invisible Disabilities Association – IDA. http://invisibledisabilities.org/educate/chemicalsensitivities/whygofragrancefree/

[2] “EWG’s Cleaners Database Hall of Shame,” Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/cleaners/hallofshame/

[3] “Toxic Chemicals in Your Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener,” Care2 Healthy Living. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/toxic-chemicals-in-your-dryer-sheets-and-fabric-softener.html

[4] “Scented Dryer Sheets Emit Toxins,” University of Washington, 2011. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/new-study-scented-dryer-sheets-159942

[5] “Skin Deep Database for Safer Skin Care and Hair Care Products” and “EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning,” Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/?nothanks=1 and http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners

[6] “SLS: Health implications,” Natural Health Information Centre. http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/sls-health-implications.html

[7] “Report of the American College of Toxicology in to the safety of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).” http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/sls-JACT-report.html

[8] “Phthalates,” EWG Human Toxome Project. http://www.ewg.org/sites/humantoxome/chemicals/chemical_classes.php?class=Phthalates



 Non-Toxic Household Products!