That perfumey, overpowering scent that hits you when you take a whiff of a dryer sheet may be more dangerous to your health than you may think.
While some people enjoy the smell, the chemicals that dryer sheets deposit onto your clothes are not only offensive to sensitive noses, they can irritate your skin, and even lead to respiratory issues and other problems over time.
The main problem with dryer sheets is that they can contain up to 10 percent fragrance chemicals. A dryer sheet is essentially a polyester cloth coated in chemicals that soften fabric, and provide a signature scent. Even fragrance-free varieties are chemically laden, but the scented sheets can be especially dangerous, as over 500 different chemicals may exist under the simple label of “fragrance.”
As these products are not meant for human consumption, manufacturers are not required to list every chemical used in their fragrance blends on a label. These can be hidden under the guise of a “trade secret.” Many of the chemicals used have not been tested for safety by the FDA, yet, they cling to our clothing, can be easily absorbed by our skin, and wind up in our bodies.
Some of the chemicals that have been tested from fragrance mixes have been associated with allergic reactions, hormonal disruption, nervous system damage and even a higher risk of certain cancers. Several have also been found to accumulate in human tissue.
Just a few of the chemicals commonly found in dryer sheets are: pentane, which is linked to headaches, nausea and dizziness; alpha-terpineol, which is linked to nervous system depression, headaches and loss of muscular coordination; linalool, which is linked to nervous system disorders and depression; and camphor, which is linked to nausea, convulsions, dizziness and confusion.
Dryer sheets may also contain benzyl acetate, which has been associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, and benzyl alcohol, which is linked to nervous system disorders and respiratory tract irritation. Another chemical often found in dryer sheet ingredients is chloroform, which has been found to have both carcinogenic and neurotoxic properties.
Some other health effects which may come about due to the use – especially prolonged use – of dryer sheets include skin and mucus membrane irritation, muscle pain, asthma, eye irritation, digestive disturbances, blood pressure spikes, aching joints and swollen lymph nodes. Young children and elderly individuals may be especially sensitive to the chemicals in dryer sheets.
On top of that, throwing in a dryer sheet every time you dry a load of laundry harms the environment, as these sheets end up in the trash, contributing to landfill waste. The polyester which most dryer sheets are made of is not a biodegradable fabric.
The only real purpose of a dryer sheet is to remove static cling, and make clothing feel slightly softer. Some people also use them for that “freshly-washed clothing” smell. However, knowing the dangers that these seeming innocuous products may expose you to, there should be no reason to ever use them.
The following are a few natural alternatives for doing your laundry sans dryer sheet:
- Whenever possible, line dry your clothing. This will ensure there is no static cling.Dry your clothes at a lower heat setting until just dry. If you do not use high heat, and do not overdry, the static cling should be minimal, or non-existent, in most of your clothes.
- Wash your clothes using soap nuts instead of laundry detergent. Not only is this a green, healthy option, soap nuts also help to reduce static cling.
- Add about a quarter cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle to soften fabric and reduce static cling. Note: Do not add vinegar to wash cycles containing bleach.
- For a natural, fresh scent, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (some great choices include peppermint, spearmint and lavender) to a clean, old sock, and throw in the dryer along with your clothes.
- Shake out your clothes when you take them out of the dryer. If you find you still have static, gently run over the inside of the garment with a metal hanger. You can bend the hanger to fit the shape of the garment if that helps.
Your body – and the planet – will be better off if you never use another dryer sheet again.
-The Atlernative Daily