Your dryer sheets stink!

Jayne B. Stearns

There’s nothing like the feeling of crawling into a comfy bed at night made extra cozy with newly washed sheets that smell fresh and clean. It’s a bit of heaven on Earth especially after a hard day’s work, isn’t it?

In lieu of hanging your laundry outside to give them that fresh air smell, you can ensure your bed linens smell “island fresh”, like “lavender”, or capture the smell of an “ocean breeze” and “summer flowers” simply by purchasing dryer sheets of the same name and throwing them in the machine along with your wet laundry. Done. Out of the dryer come aromatic underwear, scented sheets, and fragrant footies.

Those dryer sheets may smell delightful, but the majority of those you'll find on neighborhood grocery shelves have been given D and F grades by the Environmental Working Group who rated 171 chemicals they studied from A to F. I’m sure if you came home with grades like that, your parents would have thought of something extremely unpleasant to get you back on track to A’s and B’s.


Yes, your clothes may smell good after using dryer sheets, but unless they contain actual essential oils, those great smelling fragrances are chemicals designed to stick to your clothes, clinging chemicals that can be impossible to eliminate even after repeated washings. There’s a name for that chemical clinginess. It’s called “fragrance substantivity”, a science that is used to calculate and describe how long a fragrance lasts on a particular surface and how it is affected by temperature, humidity, and other conditions.

In addition, if you can smell the fragrance as they dry and if it’s being emitted from the dryer, they’re “off-gassing” chemicals, degrading your environment and spreading their toxic substances throughout your home. Fragrance toxicity is so common that it’s now being called, “the new second-hand smoke.”

Other chemicals

These fragrances aren’t the only chemicals in your dryer sheets. There are straight chemicals added to them, too. Here are a few:

  • Benzyl Acetate – a known carcinogen.
  • Chloroform – a known carcinogen and neurotoxin.
  • Dichlorobenzene – carcinogen used in making paint thinners.
  • Limonene – a known carcinogen that irritates eyes and skin.
  • Benzyl Alcohol – respiratory tract irritant and central nervous system depressant that can lead to death.
  • Camphor – causes nervous system disorders, confusion, and is easily absorbed through the skin. Biodegradable cationic softeners - accumulate in the body and cause symptoms ranging from confusion to serious damage to the nervous system.
  • Ethanol – This is on the EPA’s “hazardous waste” list and has been known to cause neurological problems.
  • Ethyl AcetateAnother chemical listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s 'Hazardous Waste List'.
  • Alpha Terpineol – Will cause headaches, respiratory problems, loss of muscle control, and central nervous system damage.
  • Pentane – can cause central nervous system damage, reduced spontaneous motor activity, and respiratory issues – can even cause loss of consciousness and is extremely harmful if inhaled damage, reduced spontaneous motor activity, and respiratory issues.
  • Linalool- Can depress cardiac activity, cause central nervous system damage.

So, there you have it. Those are the additional chemicals in your dryer sheets. Add to those the chemicals in fragrances that are too numerous to mention, and you’ve got quite the chemical storm brewing. They stink. There’s nothing healthy about them other than they're less work.

Problem Solved

There are natural alternatives to dryer sheets that smell just as good as the store-bought ones, but which will keep you healthy, and help save the planet. Here’s one:

  • 1 spray bottle
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • Strips of cloth
  • Essential oils like lavender or citrus


  • Pour one cup of vinegar into a spray bottle
  • Add oils and your desired scents about 25 drops
  • Spray each sheet until moistened but not drenched

Use one for each load of laundry. The vinegar smell will evaporate during drying but the essential oils will remain. They can also be reused.


Addicted to Dryer Sheets? 12 Toxic Chemicals In Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softeners That Will Make You Break the Habit. Branch Basics.

The Healthwyze Report: The Toxicity of Dryer Sheets, Fabric Softeners, and Laundry Detergents.

The Healthwyze Report:

The Environmental Protection Agency:

The Environmental Work Group:

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Jayne is a freelance writer, poet, and award-winning playwright specializing in writing human interest stories and anything else that satisfies a multitude of curiosities. Jayne is also a passionate advocate for recovery. You can email Jayne here:

Holyoke, MA

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