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Say Goodbye to Dryer Sheets

Laundry room with front load washer and dryer, a basket of clothes, a Mutual Assurance Coffee Mug, and a bag of wool dryer balls

If you are still using dryer sheets to "soften" or reduce static electricity in your clothes in the drying cycle, it's time to stop. This innocent-looking, nice-smelling, and questionably-effective product is wreaking havoc on your clothes, your dryer, and the environment.

How Dryer Sheets Work

Dryer sheets work by depositing a chemical coating on your clothes that transfers through heat. You might think they make your clothes softer, but it is the coating that feels soft, not the fabric itself. Patric Richardson of The Laundry

Evangelist likens it to "putting a thick layer of lotion

on your hand. Your skin isn’t actually softer, it just feels softer."

Clothing and Linens Damage

Over time, this coating (made up primarily of lipids, chemicals, and fragrances) builds up and stops working as it should. The result is a musty or stale smell. If you've ever opened your linen closet and something hasn't smelled "fresh," you can probably blame your dryer sheets.

This chemical coating can also affect the fabric itself. Towels will become less absorbent, workout clothes won't wick moisture as well, and children's sleepwear will become less flame resistant.

Dryer Damage

If you've ever noticed you have difficulty cleaning your dryer lint trap, you can probably blame dryer sheets. The coating that attaches to the lint is often gummy, which clogs up your trap and your dryer vent itself, increasing the risk of fire and requiring more frequent vent cleanings as a preventative measure.

The coating residue can also prevent the moisture sensor from working. This means your clothes can overheat, reducing their lifespan. It also means a higher electric bill as the dryer runs longer than it needs.

Environmental Hazards

Dryer sheets are made from woven polyester. They don't break down in landfills like natural fibers do, so using them contributes to landfill problems. The fatty acids, alcohol ethoxylates, or fatty alcohols used in the coating are also considered toxic chemicals that can seep into water tables.

People Hazards

People with asthma and environmental allergies are affected by using shared dryers where someone else has used dryer sheets and by coming into contact with someone whose clothes have been dried with these sheets. Some of the chemicals used to make dryer sheets are carcinogens, which, even in small doses, adds up to increased risk.

What To Use Instead

Wool or plastic dryer balls are a good alternative to dryer sheets. They work by softening fibers through contact in the drying cycle, and wool naturally absorbs the static created by this agitation.

Some people swear by the softness and smell of their laundry after it has been line-dried. It may be time to bring back "old-fashioned" ways of drying laundry.

If fragrance on your clothing and linens is important to you, use sachets in your closets and drawers. Do not use scented oils in your dryer as they are flammable.

What To Do With The Dryer Sheets You Have

Wasp resting on edge of a mailbox

Rather than tossing the dryer sheets you've purchased in the trash, you can repel wasps, spiders, and other insects with them. Mailboxes, outdoor storage places, garages, and crawlspaces are good spots to put these as most critters hate the scent.



Sources: Huff Post, Upgraded Home,


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