Posted on: May 8, 2015 at 7:13 pm
Last updated: September 22, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Did you know that there are dryer sheets containing chemicals with potentially harmful emissions that we are exposed to every day?

A 2014 study by Dr. Anne Steinemann, an internationally recognized expert on pollutant exposures and their health effects, says that we could be inhaling potentially harmful emissions called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from common consumer products such as dryer sheets.

Dr. Steinemann’s study included a variety of common household products, including both fragrance and fragrance-free dryer sheets as well as “green products.” She found a total of 421 VOCs in the products with an average of 17 VOCs per product.


Steinemann also discovered that each product emitted at least one chemical classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws. These toxic chemicals are probable carcinogens with no safe exposure level according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So why aren’t these ingredients listed on the box?

These chemicals are hiding under the wide umbrella terms of “biodegradable cationic softeners” and “perfume.”

U.S. federal law doesn’t require a company to provide specific information on the chemicals in cleaning products nor of any chemicals in a mixture labelled “fragrance.” This makes it very difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the products they are purchasing.

What About Green Products?

What’s worse is that “green” products that Steinemann studied were not significantly different from other products, even though they were labelled “green”, “organic”, “natural,” or “non-toxic.”

In a Steinmann 2011 study, limonene, ethanol, acetone, and acetaldehyde were the most common VOCs found in dryer sheets.

It’s important to note that there are other factors that contribute to a chemical’s toxicity including its concentration and its mixture with other substances, but in this case, no potentially harmful chemicals is certainly better than some.

Great Alternatives to Dryer Sheets and Liquid Fabric Softeners

To be on the safe, and affordable side, some people replace their fabric softener with a common household product you probably never thought of. (I know I didn’t.)


It’s vinegar! That’s right, if you fill the area reserved for fabric softener half way with some everyday white vinegar, your clothes will come out just as soft without the vinegary smell and without the health and environmental risks that your dryer sheets might be carrying with them! You can even add essential oils to the mix if you’re a fan of scented laundry.

The only downsides to this alternative is that it doesn’t do much to solve static cling and that vinegar doesn’t react well with bleach. But you can purchase wool dryer balls or make your own and use them in combination with vinegar to solve static, and if you’re trying to avoid harmful chemicals, you probably don’t want to use bleach to begin with!

An even cheaper alternative that is just as safe and doesn’t give you the “static”problem is line drying. As long as you have the time, space and weather, mother nature will do all the drying for you!

For a more in depth summary on Anne Steinemann’s findings, visit Dr. Anne Steinemann.

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