Dryer sheets are accepted as an important part of a laundry routine. Sometimes called fabric softener sheets, it’s often used for the pleasant smell, reducing static, and softening clothes.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting all that, do you want all the other potentially dangerous parts of dryer sheets? Are dryer sheets actually toxic?
This is a cause for debate. On the one hand, studies have been known to show a large amount of VOCs emitted from dryer sheets, but, on the other hand, some people say those studies were unreliable or mixed their tests with other products besides dryer sheets.
You may have seen these conflicting results and wondered about the final conclusion. Should you avoid using dryer sheets? What are the real dangers, if any?
The good news is that most of the chemicals known to be used in them are not as hazardous as initially thought. But there are a few catches to that. The manufacturers are not required to disclose all or any ingredients used in their products. Dryer sheets, and in fact, any laundry product, are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
This regulatory board is lax about what the manufacturer needs in order to put a product on the market. The laundry products are often not even tested before being released to the public. So, you have to think twice before trusting your dryer sheet’s ingredient list. There may be some ugly surprises you don’t know about.
Even “green” or “natural” dryer sheet companies have been found to include many of the same high VOC emissions. It’s not always as good as it sounds. The one ingredient that we do know is toxic is fragrance.
Synthetic fragrances are known to cause respiratory illnesses and worsen existing conditions. There are also compelling theories of connections between endocrine and hormonal disruption as a result of repeated exposure to fragranced products.
Once you are exposed to those chemicals and absorb them through your skin, often into your bloodstream as well, you may be making a bad recipe once you are exposed to the next set of chemicals from another product. The dangers of mixing these chemicals in your body and on your skin are not yet fully understood. But the potential is there.
Air quality was even shown to improve once dryer sheets were removed from an area. The effects of dryer sheets are in the air, not just on your skin, once you come in contact with the clothing. During a laundry day, the laundry room may be filled with synthetic fragrances and other chemicals.
It’s not confirmed just how dangerous all these ingredients are, with the exception of the fragrances. It’s a situation of rather being safe than sorry until more studies can confirm what’s going on!
There are several alternatives for softening your laundry besides dryer sheets. These are some ideas you can try for yourself (but I’ll save the best for last):
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And now, as promised, I’ve saved the best for last. The best alternative to dryer sheets is none other than wool dryer balls. It’s as simple as it sounds.
It’s 100% natural, unbleached wool that is often felted into a hard ball that you stick into the dryer with your load of laundry. If you want to add smells, you just need to put a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil on the balls.
Just remember only to use essential oils in a non-heated dryer setting. Otherwise, the oils can cause a fire under high temperatures.
These wool dryer balls can last up to 1000 washes or 2-5 years. Here are some more reasons why you should consider using these instead of potentially toxic dryer sheets:
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Dryer sheets are toxic, but through these clever alternatives, you can get all the perks of dryer sheets – reduced static, softer clothes, good aromas – without the dangerous possibilities of toxins. Using a safe, natural alternative to dryer sheets, like wool dryer balls, will eliminate the possibility of exposure to chemicals while preserving the luxuries of softer clothes.
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My name is Kamila, and I'm passionate about researching non-toxic, organic products for the home. I believe it's so important to create a safe and healthy environment for our families, and I enjoy helping others do the same.