Are dryer sheets dangerous? What toxins do dryer sheets contain that could harm your kids, your dogs or your family? Let’s investigate! Bounce supposedly produced the very first dryer sheets in 1975, which is why I don’t really ever recall my mom using them in my youth (that will date me!) In fact, I distinctly remember my mom saying “Don’t be ridiculous!” when I suggested she buy them (hey, I liked the way my friend’s clothes smelled…and I didn’t know what I know today LOL) Dryer sheets were created to “solve” the problem of static cling in clothing, and prevent static electricity from causing clothes to “stick together” in the dryer.
Unfortunately, the chemicals on the dryer sheet cling to your clothes, so any nasty ingredients are actually sticking to your clothes when you pull them out of the dryer.
Okay first things first: it’s important to realize that the dryer sheet ingredients I discuss below are NOT LISTED on the box, and I had to do some digging to find them. Why aren’t they listed? Because manufacturers aren’t required by law to list any ingredients other than disinfectants and those known to be actively hazardous on the dryer sheet box. What does “actively hazardous” mean, exactly?
According to Christopher Gaviscom, founder of The Honest Company, “[the term “hazardous” only] includes ingredients that cause fires or explosions but not those that cause cancer or developmental diseases.” Crazy, huh? So causing fires is bad, but potentially causing cancer, it seems, is just fine. Ugh.
Potential Health Dangers of Dryer Sheets
To name just a few health effect of both long term and acute exposure: cancer, respiratory distress, CNS disorders, nausea, dizziness, liver damage, kidney damage, lower heart rate and fertility problems. Let’s look a little closer look at the evidence.
Ingredients Typically Found in Dryer Sheets
(And remember, these are not legally required to be listed on the box, which is why you probably didn’t know about them!!). Are dryer sheets dangerous…..you betcha! Take a look at the ingredients:
Benzyl Acetate: linked to pancreatic cancer, and highly absorbable through the skin.
Benzyl Alcohol: an upper respiratory tract irritant and linked to central nervous system disorders, nausea, vomiting and dizziness in higher doses.
Chloroform: a neurotoxin and carcinogen.
Alpha terpineol: can cause numerous central nervous system disorders.
Ethyl acetate: a narcotic that may cause damage to liver and kidneys at higher doses (or perhaps with prolonged exposure.
Linalool: linked to central nervous system disorders, respiratory disturbances and depressed heart activity.
Pentane: This one is pretty bad, too. It’s linked to respiratory failure, skin problems (dermatitis), and is a common gasoline additive. Nice–now I want to rub it all over me. Not.
Quaternary ammonium: these are endocrine disruptors, cause respiratory distress and fertility problems in animals, and are toxic to aquatic life. In addition, according to a recent study done in the EU by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, “quats” can contribute to the formation of carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines in the body.
(List of ingredients commonly found in dryer sheets according to the EPA. Symptoms of exposure can be found in industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS))
Environmental Effects of Dryer Sheets
So not only can dryer sheets affect your health and the health of your family, they also contribute to air pollution. “Air pollution?” I can hear you saying. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Nope, I’m not.
A study by a University of Washington team found that dryers emit up to 25 volatile active compounds or “VOC”s when dryer sheets and other related laundry products were being used compared to when they were not. Seven of these “voc”s were found to be hazardous air pollutants, and two were found to be “highly carcinogenic” substances!! Do you really want or need to be releasing that garbage into the air around you?
Healthy Alternatives to Dryer Sheets
Okay, so I’ve convinced you on the question are dryer sheets dangerous to your, your dogs AND your kids. (at least I hope I have!) You’ve come to the conclusion that dryer sheets are so. Not. Worth it. What’s a gal to do? There are options, thankfully, and they’re available for very little money–probably even cheaper than a lifetime supply of chemically-laden dryer sheets! I’ve found two items that work really well:
Purecosheets: $15.04 plus free shipping with no minimum order. These are cloth sheets made by a small Canadian manufacture. They are hypo-allergenic, reusable, chemical-free and unscented. They can be used over 500 times. Some users report using them for years, while doing laundry up to 5 times a week. They are meant to stay IN the dryer between uses. Users in very dry areas have report they are not as effective as wool dryer balls, so you may want to try wool dryer balls instead if you live somewhere arid.
Smart Sheep 6-pack Wool Balls: $18.95 plus free shipping for Prime members and free shipping for everyone else for orders over $25. These are made of 100% premium New Zealand wool. They are extremely effective at reducing static cling, and they also prevent bed sheets from becoming tangled. They also have the super-neat ability to remove pet hair from clothing and reduce wrinkles in clothing–how awesome is that? They last (seemingly) forever and ever, certainly up to 1000 washes. They are larger than other wool balls for sale on Amazon, with a 9 inch diameter (which basically means they’re more effective); each one is about the size of a tennis ball. They contain zero chemicals or fragrance (yay!) so I like to scent mine with Young Living Lavender or Lime oil. (Feel free to take a look at my other site where I sell Young Living oils. I’d love for you to join my team!) Smart Sheep Wool Balls have received rave reviews on Amazon, and they are what I use in my own home–so thumbs up from me.
Of the two choices above, my choice is the Smart Sheep Wool Balls. They are more environmentally friendly, as the Purecosheets are made of polyester. However, some people prefer “sheets” as they are more familiar with them, so I decided to include that option.
Oh, one more thing! You may have seen plastic dryer balls on Amazon as well. I have chosen not to endorse them because, well….plastic. The plastic obviously is less environmentally sound than wool, and it’s hard to know if the plastic is leaching chemicals onto your clothes–why risk it? The two options above work SO WELL it seems silly to choose a plastic, noisy ball with worse reviews, even if they are a bit cheaper in the short term.
I hope this post sheds some light on the question are dryer sheets dangerous, and gives you some good ideas for healthier and more environmentally friendly alternatives.
A 2008 University of Washington study entitled “Toxic Chemicals Found In Common Scented Laundry Products, Air Fresheners”; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080723134438.htm
A 2011 University of Washington study entitled “Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents”; http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-08/uow-slp082311.php
CDC guide to Pentane and its health risks: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/pdfs/0486.pdf