More and more these days, we learn about chemicals hiding in commonplace household items we consistently use. We also learn more about how these chemicals can affect us and our families. Dryer sheets are one of the most commonly used household items since they make our laundry smell fresher and reduce static cling. But are the chemicals used in these safe or toxic?
Dryer sheets contain several ingredients, the most common including:
Dipalmethyl hydroxyethylammoinum methosulfate (a softening & antistatic agent, not to mention a mouthful)
Clay (helps control the viscosity of the coating in the dryer)
Fatty acid (softening agent)
The main issue concerning dryer sheets is the fragrance, rather than the other ingredients. Why? A 2011 study found that scented products could cause irritation to eyes & airways, migraines, asthma attacks, and allergic reactions. A different study found that 12.5% of adults reported these symptoms happening due to the fragrance of laundry products coming from dryer vents. Finally, another 2011 study discovered that dryer vents can emit more than 25 volatile organic comp9ounds (gases released into the air from the use of products). VOCs have been linked to respiratory illnesses and cancer.
However, more research needs to be done to prove that dryer sheets themselves produce VOCs in high enough concentrations to harm health. That said, a 2018 study found that air quality improved after switching from fragranced laundry products to fragrance-free. If you want to walk on the safer side when it comes to dryer sheets & your laundry, there are plenty of options to choose from.
To begin, check the Environmental Working Group’s handy database (https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry/) containing safety ratings for over 1000 laundry products. Next, consider one of these alternatives:
Adding a bit of baking soda to your laundry during the wash cycle
Crumpling a ball of aluminum and tossing it into the dryer
Spraying white vinegar on a washcloth and adding to the dryer
Reusable wool dryer balls
Fragrance-free dryer sheets
Air-drying your laundry
There are always alternatives to products that contain fragrances and chemicals, if that’s the way you want to go. Keeping your dryer vents clean and clear is always helpful too!
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