Traditional dryer sheets contain all sorts of chemicals. The first thing you might notice is their scent. They are chock full of synthetic fragrances (phthalates!). Phthalates are hormone disruptors found as components of synthetic fragrances. They are linked to issues with obesity, reproductive development and more.
Next you might notice their waxy sheen. Did you know that most sheets use animal fat (tallow) to give your clothes that extra softness? There’s just nothing like animal fat on freshly cleaned clothes… right?
If that’s not enough, there’s still a lot more. When you think of fabric softeners it obviously occurs to you that it is in contact with the skin, but keep in mind that most, if not all, of these chemicals have serious side effects when inhaled. To me, it only makes sense that if it’s in my dryer being heated up and evaporated off into my home (and around it), there is a risk of inhalation. If I can smell it, I’m inhaling it.
According to the EPA these are just some of the chemicals found in traditional softeners.
You can read more about fabric softeners (and a whole host of other common household items on this PDF release).
alpha-Terpineol: Can cause inflammation of the skin on contact for some people. Open cuts, abraded or irritated skin should not be exposed to this material.
Benzyl Acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer. Skin irritant.
Benzyl Alcohol: Skin irritant irritant, respiratory irritant.
Camphor: May cause mild skin, eye or respiratory irritation. Some sources suggest that it is possible that epileptic-like seizures may be caused through exposure.
Chloroform: Carcinogenic. Causes skin irritation resulting in redness and pain. Removes natural oils. Respiratory irritant. Causes central nervous system effects, including headache, drowsiness, dizziness. Prolonged exposure may lead to death due to irregular heart beat and kidney and liver disorders.
Ethanol: Can cause central nervous system disorders.
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Skin irritant. Symptoms include redness, itching, and pain. Repeated or prolonged contact with the skin has a defatting effect and may cause dryness, cracking, and possibly dermatitis.
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system & respiratory disorders.
Pentane: Causes skin irritation, cracking or flaking due to dehydration and defatting action. Vapors have a mild narcotic effect. Symptoms of overexposure may include drowsiness and irritation of the respiratory passages. Greater exposure may cause unconsciousness and death.
Anyone else noticing that the fabric softeners meant to keep our clothes soft are seriously damaging and drying out our skin?!
So, what can you use?
You can pick up gallons of this stuff for a couple dollars. Use about a 1/4 cup per load in your rinse cycle. I like to use a Downy ball (you can find these for a couple dollars at your local store). I fill it about half full and toss it in with my load. If your machine has a compartment for softener, you can put it in there.
This will not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar! I was hesitant to try it at first because I thought it would. So, I tried it out on a load of my husband’s work laundry. I’m terrible, I know. But it worked, no smell and everything was softer! For fun scents, you can add essential oils to your vinegar.
I love dryer balls. I use four of the Nellie’s Dryer Balls (2 standard, 2 pvc free) and I just adore them. My clothes dry faster, my diapers (even all of my all-in-ones) dry in a single cycle and everything gets so soft. It even helps with wrinkles.
(I love these!)
Eco-friendly Branded options
I’m sure there are more options out there, but here are just a few.
Seventh Generation Liquid – we have used this and it works great
Seventh Generation Dryer Sheets
Method Dryer Sheets – we have used these and like them a lot
Mrs. Meyers Dryer Sheets
Mrs. Meyers Liquid