The Toxic Truth About Dryer Sheets

The Toxic Truth About Dryer Sheets

Tina Ureten

For millions of people dryer sheets are part of the laundry routine and we usually don’t think twice about tossing a sheet or two into the dryer.

When pulling out that fresh, nice-smelling load out of the dryer, what you probably are unaware of, is there is most likely something toxic happening inside of your body while doing so.

The truth about dryer sheets is shocking to think about. Dryer sheets are caked with ingredients you wouldn’t wish anyone to be exposed to. It is filled with ingredients such as known carcinogens, hazardous pollutants, endocrine disruptors and things that target specific organs of the body in the most harmful ways. You are using a product that could make you sick.

Let’s examine the facts of dryer sheets and then get into the simple alternatives for a safer laundry routine.  

The Facts About Dryer Sheets

As crazy as it seems, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require dryer sheet manufacturers to list their actual ingredients, including the chemicals used in fragrance blends. To get a better picture scientists’ have been studying sheets and dryer vent exhausts and the results aren’t so pretty.

In an interesting study to date, researcher Anne Steinmann (PhD, a professor of civil and environmental engineering) looked at the chemicals spewing out of dryer vents. So, what was coming out of those vents and into peoples’ lungs?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified 7 hazardous air pollutants and more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), found in dryer sheets in a study done in 2013.  Some of these, including acetaldehyde and benzene, are not safe at any level. These are also pollutants that commonly spew out of vehicles tailpipes. 

Acetaldehyde is a common ingredient used in fake fragrance blends. It’s potentially carcinogenic to humans and negatively impacts the kidneys, nervous and respiratory systems. While it’s regulated for outdoor use, it’s a total free-for-all when it comes to home use and that can come with some serious side effects.

In a study focusing on hormone disruptors and asthma triggers in everyday products, researchers found dryer sheets contained some of the highest concentrations of harmful fragrance chemicals. Compounds like acetyl hexamethyl tetralin, isononyl acetate and phenethyl alcohol also turned up.

Only few people blamed scented laundry products spewing from dryer vents for causing their health problems. These include conditions like respiratory issues, runny noses, asthma attacks, skin issues, migraines and even gastrointestinal symptoms. The toxic truth is, though, most people have no idea they’re introducing such harmful pollutants into their homes and neighborhoods.

The Good News is...

The good news is you can avoid the chemicals in dryer sheets by using some of these substitute tactics in the laundry room:

  • Search for plant-based, unscented laundry detergent or make your own from castile soap
  • Hang your clothing outside to dry
  • Beware of “green” laundry products, some of which release toxic compounds according to some studies.
  • Add reusable Wool Dryer balls to your dryer, this helps reduce drying time and you may add a few drops of organic essential oils to the balls for a natural fragrance. (Learn more)
  • You need only few dryer balls which last up to 1000 laundry loads. They are cost effective and echo friendly.

 

The Question now is: What would you choose to use for your family's laundry?

Dryer sheets are single use products that produce endless unnecessary amounts of waste while emitting toxic chemicals into the air. We are only aware of their toxic effect on human health. The effect on the animals and other living creatures including plants need to be investigated further.