Are Dryer Sheets Safe?
There have been claims regarding how fabric-softening sheets, also known as dryer sheets, have toxic chemicals that can put your health at risk. While dryer sheets provide delightful fragrances that make doing laundry a pleasurable activity to do, health bloggers have since shed light on how using these aromatic sheets exposes you to carcinogens.
The concern primarily stems from the fragrances used in dryer sheets. A study in 2011 that Environmental Health Perspectives published discovered that a lot of fragrance ingredients could be associated with irritation in both the eyes and airways, even triggering migraines, asthma, or contact dermatitis.
Because of this, experts are pushing for clearer and more rigorous guidelines for labeling fragrance ingredients. Also, since more research is needed to assure customers whether scented dryer sheets are safe, switching to fragrance-free products or non-toxic, natural dryer sheet alternatives might be what's best for you in the meantime.
However, it's important to recognize that while dryer sheets contain chemicals, it doesn't mean that all chemicals are bad. Being a conscious consumer is always a good idea, which is why you have to start by being aware of what dryer sheets are made of, the kind of chemicals they emit, and how using it can potentially affect your health.
What Are Dryer Sheets Made Up Of?
Large laundry product companies usually produce dryer sheets with a non-woven polyester base coated with a softening agent. These softening agents have long hydrophobic or water-resistant chains that consist of alcohol ethoxylates, fatty acids, fatty alcohols and fragrances.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission also regulates products containing fragrance ingredients not applied to the body, such as dryer sheets. However, it doesn't require manufacturers to disclose or list the ingredients they used on their product labels.
While some dryer sheet manufacturers list some of their ingredients on the dryer sheet box, others don't disclose their ingredients at all. To make sure, you can opt to look for additional information that can be found on these manufacturers' websites.
Here, you'll be able to find statements that note whether or not they comply with the safety standards and regulations of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) or the IFRA code of practice.
With consumers being concerned about chemicals that can pose a health risk, eco-friendly companies have started introducing dryer sheets that use a different list of ingredients. Instead of petroleum-based chemicals and fragrances, the sheets are printed on biodegradable paper pulps and coated with a plant-based base.
Both kinds of dryer sheets consist of generally safe chemicals (GRAS) under the Food and Drug Administration standards.
Are Dryer Sheets Safe To Use?
Many experts have already voiced their concerns concerning the use of dryer sheets. This is because a lot of people have already reported both respiratory, dermatological and even neurological problems after exposure to scented products.
A study in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, for example, discovered that dryer vents emit over 25 volatile compounds, which create harmful air pollutants. These can cause certain respiratory illnesses, including asthma and cancer.
However, this has been refuted by several organizations, stating that it lacked plenty of scientific standards and proper controls. To this day, the controversy regarding the use of dryer sheets is still a debacle.
While it can be a bit of an exaggeration to deem dryer sheets completely unsafe, reducing your use of them either for environmental, safety, or financial reason is a fair choice to make.
Alternatives To Dryer Sheets If You're Looking To Make The Switch
Unscented dryer sheets: Because some fragrances often trigger reactions or allergies, using non-scented sheets can help alleviate these concerns.
Plant-based dryer sheets: Even though plant-based fragrances still undergo chemical processes, they're less likely to cause negative responses compared to synthetic fragrances. You can start by looking for brands with the Safer Choice seal issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Use Natural Wool Dryer Balls: Wool dryer balls help soften your clothes and reduce static by fluffing wet clothes and lessening the friction as they're in the dryer. They also help you cut down on costs and save money, as they contain relatively simple materials you can very well do on your own. Moreover, they can be used for months on end and can significantly reduce landfill waste as well.
Handle laundry properly: When you wash your laundry properly, the chance is you'll be less inclined to put additional softening from dryer sheets. You mustn't do over-add detergents too. Instead, use the correct water temperature or add a water-softening agent or system, especially if you live in hard-water areas.
Always be sure to take good care of your dryer, because beyond the threat of toxins, your dryer ducts can get clogged and actually start a home fire. Thousands are reported every year, often with disastrous consequences. It's best to have a professional dryer vent cleaning company come by once a year, especially if you have more than two people in your household.
The Bottom Line. Are Dryer Sheets Safe Or Not?
Unlike what health bloggers claim, dryer sheets aren't as carcinogenic or toxic as they're made out to be. In fact, only very little research has confirmed whether chemical exposure from dryer vent emission has caused adverse health effects.
Nevertheless, the fragrances used in dryer sheets are still under the process of being studied and investigated. More research is still needed to determine whether these aromatic sheets are indeed harmful to your health.
Still, as health-conscious consumers, it is environmentally responsible to switch to alternatives instead, especially those that follow the EPA's guidelines, as it makes for a safer choice for many.