Laundry isn't our favorite thing to do, but unless you're super fancy and have someone else do your washing, it's just a part of life. The one good thing about doing laundry is that fresh laundry straight out of the dryer. The smell, the softness, the warmth… it's basically happiness in fabric form! The many different types of laundry detergent scents like spring meadow and mountain breeze seem like an added bonus too. But, have you ever wondered how companies actually make these scents? It turns out laundry detergent scents can have hidden health hazards. Read on to learn more about laundry fragrance and our non-toxic alternatives!

Reasons to Avoid Fragrance

One of the best parts of laundry detergent is it's smell. That clean, fresh scent is so popular that people try to recreate it in candle form! As much as we love scented laundry, traditional products can be pretty harmful. Companies can use dozens (or hundreds!) of different chemicals to create their fragrances. According to the International Fragrance Association's Transparency List, there are approximately 3,000 fragrance ingredients that can be used in consumer goods worldwide. And since the FDA does not require approval before a chemical goes onto the market, it's impossible to say that all of these fragrance ingredients are safe to use. Oftentimes some of those chemicals are phthalates. Phthalates can help fragrance last longer but they're also known endocrine disruptors with harmful health effects.

Companies also don't have to tell you exactly what goes into their fragrance formulations. Since fragrance is considered a trade secret, companies can hide the exact chemicals they use. You'll only see "fragrance" listed on the ingredient list, despite there being tons of chemicals that go into it. Luckily, some states are taking steps to undo the mystery around fragrance ingredients. In California, manufacturers will soon have to disclose all fragrance and flavor ingredients in their products and any known health hazards associated with those ingredients.

On top of everything else, some fragrance ingredients can trigger migraines or skin irritation in people with sensitivities or allergies. They may not even know which specific ingredient they're sensitive to because of the trade secret rules! Babies and children are especially susceptible to fragrance sensitivities.

Non toxic Ways to Get Clothes Smelling Fresh

First off, we really need to redefine what "clean" smells like. All our lives we've been trained to believe that clean = really strong fragrance. Who else has been overwhelmed by scent when they walked down the laundry aisle?! Clean clothes can be clean and just smell like warm clothes without the super flowery scent. And all those synthetic fragrances are often there to just cover up odors. They don't actually remove funky smells and grime on your clothes.If you're looking for a way to really deep clean clothes, check out our laundry stripping article.

That's a good place to start to get really clean clothes without funky odors.

If laundry stripping seems like too much work, there are also a ton of easy ways to help your clothes smell fresh without added chemicals. Below are some of our favorite ways to add scent to your laundry that are natural but also smell amazing!

  1. Create a mixture of 2 cup of salt with 20 drops of essential oil in a jar. Scoop 2 tbsp directly into your washing machine with your laundry and run the cycle like normal.
  2. Add a drop or two of essential oil to a wool dryer ball. This will help keep clothes soft and smelling fresh! If you don't have a dryer ball you can also use a damp washcloth.
  3. Vinegar is a great way to neutralize odors! Just put some vinegar into your fabric softener tray and it'll work to remove any funky scents.
  4. Switch to non toxic laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners that use safe scents. Our roundups offer a ton of product recommendations!
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3 Healthy Things to Look for When Shopping for a New Couch

Couches can have a surprisingly big effect on your health

Whether you're settling down for a cozy night of Netflix with a glass of wine or you're building a cushion fort with your kids, we all want our couches to be comfortable and made of healthy and safe materials. Couches are usually the largest piece of furniture in a living space and thus can have a big effect on how healthy our homes are. But couches can be loaded with flame retardants, forever chemicals, and VOCs, all of which can negatively impact your health. There's already such a dizzying array of fabrics, styles, and other choices you already have to make when shopping for a couch, you shouldn't have to also worry about harmful chemicals! That's why we're making it simple for you to find a healthy one. Whether you're buying a couch online that gets delivered in a box or creating a custom designed one made just to your liking, we have a list of 3 things that you should look for in a healthy couch.

1. Chemical Flame Retardant Free

Chemical flame-retardants used to be added to the foam in sofas because they were thought to prevent fires. But it turns out they don't really help stop fires, and the chemicals actually do more harm than good. Flame retardants are linked to negative health impacts like cancer, lowered brain function, and irregularities with the immune system. Basically some yucky unnecessary stuff. Even firefighters agree flame retardants are no good, so you definitely want a couch without any chemical flame retardants.

Couches made after 2015 have a label underneath the cushions that will let you know if they have added chemical flame retardants. These disclosure labels are required by law in California, but the label is commonly found even outside of California. Another way to find a flame retardant-free couch is to simply ask the retailer or manufacturer. Most big brands don't use chemical flame retardants anymore, but it's a good idea to double check. If they say something like, we don't use bad flame retardants, then just steer clear, because there are none that have been proven safe and there is no reason for the addition of any chemical flame retardants to any upholstery furniture items.

If you're buying a used couch, it's not as easy to tell whether or not it contains flame retardants. If the couch was made before 2015, it more than likely contains chemical flame retardants. If the couch has a label under the cushions that says TB 117-2003, the only way to know is to ask the manufacturer, which could be kind of hard to do since they might not have information on older couch models. If you see a label that says TB 117 then the couch was made with flame retardants, which means you should keep looking. If you're looking to reupholster a couch, make sure all of the foam and padding will be taken out and replaced with flame retardant free foam.

2. A Fabric Without Stain Resistant Treatment or Coating

Many furniture companies now advertise their stain-resistant fabric that will let you spill coffee, have kids eat spaghetti on a couch, and will resist muddy paw prints. But to achieve this magic, fabric companies have to treat or coat the fabric with a chemical that's similar to Teflon. These chemicals are called highly fluorinated chemicals, some of which have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, and decreased immune response in children.

Over time, these chemicals come off the fabric and end up around your house. And these highly fluorinated chemicals never break down, never leave the environment, and can accumulate in your body for many years. Not good! While stain resistance is so tempting, we suggest getting an untreated fabric. Avoid fabric that has a description that includes words like "performance finish" or "stain repellent." From a health perspective, even a synthetic fabric like polyester or acrylic that is inherently stain resistant and durable is a better option than one that is treated for stain resistance with forever chemicals. Textured or dark color fabric can also hide stains. If your heart is set on a light colored fabric and you, look for couches with washable covers.

3. Low VOCs

Your couch can greatly affect the air quality in your home! Furniture, including couches, can emit formaldehyde and other VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that negatively affect indoor air quality. VOCs can cause acute health problems like headaches, eye and throat irritation, dizziness and are associated with long term health effects like cancers and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Look for couches with solid wood frames or engineered hardwood with zero or low VOC resins. Particleboard has much more glue which means higher VOC levels, so you should avoid particleboard when possible. Plus, particleboard is less strong than solid wood or engineered hardwood, so it won't last as long.

Another way to know that the furniture you're buying doesn't off-gas is by looking for Greenguard or Greenguard Gold certified furniture, which limits the emissions of VOCs. CertiPUR-US is another standard that certifies that the foam used in the furniture meets VOC emissions limits, but doesn't test the entire finished product. You can read more about other furniture certifications to help you determine what's in your furniture.

With these 3 tips in mind, you should have a couch that is not only stylish, but also healthy. The good news is that many retailers in the furniture industry are moving in this direction, so there are lots of healthy options. Hope this list is helpful and that you find something super comfortable that is perfect for your space. Happy furniture shopping!

List of Brands With No Chemical Flame Retardants

These brands state they do not add flame retardants, compiled from our own research, CEH, and Green Science Policy Institute. For other retailers, make sure to ask about the specific couch you're interested in.

AICO, American Furniture Manufacturing, American Seating Company, Article, Ashley Furniture, Best Home Furnishings, Bernhardt, Benchmade Modern, Bradington Young, Broyhill, Burrow, California Sofa, C.R. Laine, Century, Cisco Home, Coco-Mat, Comfort Design, Compendium, Corinthian, Craftmaster, CB2, Crate & Barrel, Dania, David Edward, Drexel Heritage, Dwell Studio, EcoBalanza, EcoSelect, Eco-Terric, Ekla Home, Endicott Home Furnishings, Eco-Luxury, EQ3, Fairfield Chair, Flexsteel Inds, Furniture, GreenSofas, Gus Design Group, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Hickory White, Highland House, Homeware, Hooker Case Goods, Hooker Upholstery, IKEA, Interior Define, Kevin Charles Fine Upholstery, Kincaid Furniture, Klaussner, Kristin Drohan Collection, Land of Nod, Lane, La-Z-Boy, Lee Industries, Lillian August, Maitland Smith, McCreary Modern, Michael Weiss, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Monarch Sofas, MotionCraft, Mr. and Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture, Pacific West Furniture, Palliser Furniture, Pearson, Plummers, Precedent, Restoration Hardware, Roger + Chris, Room & Board, Sam Moore, Scandinavian Designs, Sherrill Furniture, Soma Ergonomics, Southern Furniture, Southern Motion, Staples, Taylor King, Thom Filicia, Thomasville, The Futon Shop, United Furniture Industries, Vanguard Furniture, Viesso, Whittemore Sherrill Ltd.

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Ready for it? It's super easy. WASH THE CLOTHES! It can be tough to restrain yourself and not just wear that new thing right away, but trust us, washing first is worth it! And, it doesn't take too long. If you are like me, part of the motivation for buying new clothes was because everything you like to wear was dirty, so you probably have to do a wash anyway.

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Label Education: Furniture

Laying out what certifications to look for

Home isn't home without comfortable furniture. When it's time to find something new, we usually focus on what feels and looks good, and of course the price. But did you know that furniture can contain, and leak, various chemicals like flame retardants that aren't so good for us into your home? The good news is that there are more and more healthy options! You can read our article on choosing a healthy new couch.

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Want an easy way to live healthier?
Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
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