Trying To Be Greener

Safer eco-living, one day at a time

Stay away from dryer sheets! August 21, 2008

Doing laundry is a real pain in the neck, and I mean that literally. I live in an apartment building and use a laundry room in the basement. Because I have to haul a big bag of clothes to do this, I only do this chore once a week (which makes the bag even heavier I guess). I go up and down to change the clothes from washer to dryer and then haul them up when they’re done. When the job is done, I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing everything is clean and I don’t have to do it again until next week.

Well, I didn’t get that feeling of satisfaction yesterday because after I dumped out my clean clothes on the bed to put them away, an artificial perfume smell began to permeate from the bag. It hit me right away – I must have missed a dryer sheet that someone else left in one of the dryers! 

You may think I’m over-reacting but I was so angry and still am. It’s all I smell now in my apartment. I started using Seventh Generation Baby Detergent right before my daughter was born. There’s no fragrance in it at all and I’ve really gotten used to my clothes smelling like nothing. Now all I smell is artificial fragrance which many companies use to hide the chemical smell in dryer sheets.

Here’s some of what can be typically found in dryer sheets and what these chemicals have been linked to:

  • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
  • Ethanol: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
  • Limonene: Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant,
    Kidney Toxicant, Neurotoxicant, Respiratory Toxicant, and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant
  • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
  • Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
  • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
  • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
  • Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
  • Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled

Health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include: 

  • Central nervous system disorders 
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Blood pressure reduction 
  • Irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract 
  • Pancreatic cancer 

If you’d like to make your clothes softer, choose instead the wonder products – vinegar or baking soda. Just add a quarter cup of either of them to the wash cycle the next time you do laundry. Then you can enjoy the sweet smell of nothing.

 

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17 Responses to “Stay away from dryer sheets!”

  1. Sara Says:

    I honestly had no idea that the dryer sheets are so bad, although I definitely agree about the scents – we stick with the unscented, sensitive skin ones. I guess we will need to try something new!

  2. Sara,
    The truth is, I never knew about the real hazards until I did the research. I was always suspicious about the “fragrance” though.

    Kirstin @ Trying To Be Greener

  3. I’m torn about dryer sheets. I can’t stand conventional ones, but don’t like the way my laundry smells if I don’t use them, so the compromise for now is that we’re using Seventh Generation dryer sheets while I experiment with different laundry detergents and try to find the right balance.

  4. Jen,
    If you find something that works for you, come back to let everyone know your findings.

    Kirstin @ Trying T Be Greener

  5. Connie Says:

    I learned something new. This is important for everyone to know about. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. I’ve been off dryer sheets for a long time now. We put a few drops of lavender in the rinse cycle, and another few drops on a rag in the dryer. It gives our clothes a very subtle hint of lavender and softens them at the same time.

  7. Shannon,
    What a great idea!

    Kirstin @ Trying To Be Greener

  8. Sue Says:

    Glad to see this info spreading. Our home’s been as fragrance and chemical free as I can get it for the past 27 years. I don’t have experience with Seventh Generation, but I have been using Shaklee since the 80’s. In 2006 they introduced a “nontoxic, natural, veggie-based, no fragrance, biodegradable/recyclable sheet” (quoted from box) dryer sheet. I’m very happy with them. Happy enough I sell all the company’s stuff through my own direct and on-line ‘green’ business. I’ll gladly send a free sheet if anyone wants to send me a SASE. You can also probably find a Shaklee rep. in your local yellow pages.

  9. Allie Says:

    Agg! Can we NEVER get away from chemicals? I’m so glad I can get baking soda in bulk from our purchasing club!!
    Now, what to do with those leftover dryer sheets?!? LOL I’d feel bad giving them away!

  10. Jeff Says:

    Do you have any sources for these claims? Can’t say i’m worried about some of those e.g. Pentane and ethanol. Not to say I would ever use a dryer sheet.

  11. Kirstin Says:

    Jeff,
    Thanks for visiting. You can see more information here:

    http://www.care2.com/greenliving/dinged-by-dryer-sheets.html

    Kirstin @ Trying To Be Greener

  12. Sev Says:

    We stopped using dryer sheets a few months ago and started putting vinegar in the fabric softener section of the washing machine. The other thing that works awesome to reduce static is to throw a scrunched up ball of aluminum foil into the dryer with the clothes. Our clothes are soft & static free! It’s great!

  13. 1healthierlife Says:

    I use the Shaklee dryer sheets as well, along with their detergent and softener…I love them.

    http://1healthierlife.wordpress.com

  14. Lisa Says:

    I was a product tester for 7th Generation for their new dryer sheets and I love them. What’s even better is when I am done with them, I slip them into my recycle bin! They are corrugated paper, unscented and work well. I don’t use my dryer a lot, but they are helpful for the times that I do.

    http://www.walkinggreenonline.com

  15. Luna O. Says:

    Perfumed stuff makes me very ill, and fast. It’s a blessing in disguise really.

  16. Becky Says:

    While I’m no fan of the fragrances in dryer sheets, and I use them only occasionally, I think you need to do a little more digging on the actual chemicals you list. Are you going to stop using citrus fruits when you discover that Limonene is found in considerable amount in their rinds? And camphor has medicinal properties, although it is toxic in large quantities. Of course, so is water, when you get down to it. Ethanol is alcohol, as in the kind you drink with the girls on Girls Night Out.

    I’m not saying dryer sheets are the greatest things for our health or environment, but I’m not sure they’re as bad as you (and your source) are making out.

  17. Thoma L. Says:

    While waiting these past couple of weeks for delivery of a new washer and dryer, I have been washing and drying my clothes at a local washateria. I have never used dryer sheets or any other commercial fragrances in my home, because I find these fragrances cloying and they give me a headache. They don’t smell good either. I much prefer the freshness of no odors at all! Can you imagine how miserable I am when I bring my clothes home from the washateria and they all stink with these dryer sheet odors? My clothes and towels also have a slight oily feel to them that I think is also coming from the dryer sheets.
    I really think that dryer sheets and these other odors that companies are selling to people are an example of brainwashing consumers into thinking they have to create an odor where no odor is perfectly acceptable and should be preferred.
    Why fill your home with “fragrances” when fresh air is so much more refreshing and pleasant? Why would you want to smell like a commercial product? Do you really identify so closely with “Snuggles” or whatever that you want to smell like it?


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