Dryer sheets have been around since 1969, so you’ve probably been using them for quite some time. Unfortunately, dryer sheets can contain harmful chemicals that mimic estrogen and trigger asthma. These chemicals adhere to clothes, vent into the air, and rub off on your skin. The good news is you can avoid unhealthy dryer sheets by switching to healthy options.
Why It’s Best to Avoid Dryer Sheets
1. May Contain Harmful Ingredients
Many dryer sheets contain fragrance and other chemicals that can trigger asthma and disrupt hormones. In one study, researchers tested five name brand dryer sheets. The findings showed that the dryer sheets emitted 15 endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and chemicals associated with asthma. Evidence from studies suggests that EDCs can affect developing reproductive and nervous systems, metabolism, and cancer.
In the study, the researchers selected dryer sheets as one of 50 consumer product categories to test. Surprisingly, these researchers discovered that dryer sheets, along with air fresheners, sunscreens, and perfumes had the largest number of chemicals with some of the highest concentrations out of all the products tested. The dryer sheets had more troubling results than products like bathroom and kitchen cleaners.
Why are dryer sheets so unhealthy? Added fragrances are mostly to blame. Most manufacturers add fragrance to dryer sheets. These fragrances release a large number of chemicals. So, what if you avoid dryer sheets with fragrance? In a well-regulated world, you should be able to find dryer sheets without fragrance, but it’s not that straightforward.
2. Ingredients – Not Always Disclosed
Ideally, you’d be able to find safer products by reading the labels. However, manufacturers aren’t required to disclose ingredients. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates cleaning and laundry products and soap. What most people don’t realize is that the CPSC has lax disclosure regulations.
How lax? The CPSC gives manufacturers significant leeway on disclosing ingredients; they can list all, some or none of the ingredients. For example, if a manufacturer’s product had 20 ingredients, they could choose to disclose all 20, or maybe just five. It’s even acceptable if the manufacturer decides not to list any ingredients, according to CPSC regulations.
It’s troubling that product ingredients aren’t included on the label, isn’t it? These lax disclosure requirements limit your ability to identify the safest products by reading labels.
3. Not Safety Tested
Most people think some governmental agency requires product testing or approves and tests chemicals. Unfortunately, laundry and cleaning product manufacturers are not required to perform safety tests on dryer sheets or other consumer products.
It’s true that regulatory bodies banned some substances from use in consumer products. However, the list of banned chemicals is astonishingly short compared to similar lists in the European Union, Canada, and Japan.
According to the Silent Spring Institute, of the 3,000 high-production chemicals used in the United States, only 7 percent have been tested using a standard battery of toxicity tests. And, only a few chemicals have been evaluated for endocrine disruptor effects.
The EPA has this to say about the lack of product safety testing.
Not welcome news, right?
4. Unknown Chemical Interactions & Multiple Exposure Effects
Your use of multiple products exposes you to mixtures of compounds. No one knows much about the safety of these compound mixtures. Researchers know very little about how various chemicals interact with each other. They also know very little about how much you’re exposed to daily. One study identifies some chemicals that may be particularly risky when mixed and strongly suggests the need for more research to determine the level of risk.
Since researchers know so little about the potential risks, doesn’t it make sense to adopt a better-safe-than-sorry approach?
You Have Options
You have a couple of safe alternatives to dryer sheets. Wool dryer balls are a smart choice.
These handmade 100% wool balls will dry your clothes 15-20% faster, soften your clothing, and help reduce static. If you like scents, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil like lavender to the balls.
Dryer balls help circulate air in the dryer, allowing the laundry to dry more quickly. Using more balls increases their effectiveness. You’ll need a minimum of 3 balls (4 or 5 is really better for larger loads) to get the benefits. The wool balls last 6-12 months depending on the amount of laundry you do regularly.
In addition to the dryer balls, you can add white vinegar to your rinse cycle. This is easy to do in most washers by adding the vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser to help soften clothes and reduce static cling.
Let’s face it. Healthy substitutes that actually work well aren’t always available. However, swapping out unhealthy dryer sheets for wool dryer balls and vinegar is a brilliant solution. Stop worrying about harmful, undisclosed product ingredients and take this small step to a healthier home today.