Do you remember the days of everyone drying their clothes on their clothesline out in the sun? It seems like such a thing of the past. When electric clothes dryers were made, years ago, doing laundry became easier, and also became a completely indoor activity at that. But little did we know that this welcome change would add to the chemical load on our bodies, from the clothes that were already carrying the chemical residues of washing detergents.
Washing and drying clothes in electric washers and dryers, make fabrics rough, so softeners became necessary for many people. Machine-dried clothes also tend to stick to each other. Again a chemical solution had to be invented to prevent skirts from wrapping around the legs and pants sticking to the socks. That’s where anti-static dryer sheets came in to play.
Thanks to these products, all the clothes we wear, even the underwear worn right next to our skin, are full of chemicals. Dirt and grime gets replaced by much more potentially harmful chemicals every time they go into the wash. All these toxic chemicals, are now inevitably absorbed into our skin. Often people forget that our skin is our largest organ, and it absorbs everything it comes into contact with.
When dryer sheets were first introduced, liquid fabric softeners were already in use. They contained dangerous ammonium compounds, particularly distearyl dimethyl ammonium chloride which was later discontinued, in favor of other harmful chemicals.
Reducing static electricity buildup in clothes was the main objective of dryer sheets, but they were found to be better at distributing a thin layer of fabric softeners all over the clothes as well. People found it more convenient to just add the sheets to the dryer, upon throwing the laundry in, rather than to have to wait for the exact right moment to add the liquid softener.
Fragrances are often added to give your clothes a more pleasurable smell, but these fragrances are synthetic and chemical laden as well. Nowadays, we do see products that are fragrance free, but the other two functions of dryer sheets, still require a plethora of chemicals.
Dryer sheets mainly do three things:
1. They counteract the static electricity on machine-dried clothes
Dryer sheets are filled with cationic antistatic chemicals that carry a positive charge, so that they neutralize the negatively charged particles on the clothes and thus remove the basic cause of static buildup.
2. Dryer sheets make the clothes come out soft to touch and wrinkle free
The action of fabric softeners is similar to that of cationic antistatic chemicals. These chemicals carry a charge that cause the fabric fibers to stand up, which results in a softer and non-static feel. But while these dryer sheet chemicals deposited on the surface of clothes may also help prevent wrinkles and ironing, they are still quite toxic to our skin and bodies.
3. Dryer sheets impart a pleasant smell to the clothes
Who doesn’t want their laundry to smell fresh and clean? Although clean fabric does not naturally have any smell, we have come to associate certain smells with cleanliness. That’s why when the odor neutralizing Febreeze was first introduced in its odorless form, it did not become popular. The company had to add fragrances to it give people a sense of satisfaction. Adding these fragrances just adds more toxins to our products.
You have a wide choice when it comes to the fragrance variations in dryer sheets. Most of them are chemical substitutes of natural fragrances because they need to be long-lasting. You can find products offering natural ingredients for smell, but then you need to take their word for it in the absence of mandatory labeling.
Why you should stay away from dryer sheets
- It is not uncommon for detergents and fabric softeners to cause skin irritation, allergic reactions and contact dermatitis. People often find their skin problems disappearing when they change brands, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the new brand is any better. It may take repeated exposures before the body becomes sensitized.
- Allergic reactions and contact dermatitis are just one of the many hazards of dryer sheets.
- Many of the toxic substances in these sheets are released into the indoor air from our laundered bed linen and towels. They can cause respiratory allergies and asthma.
- Some of the chemicals are also known carcinogens, and they can accumulate in body tissues over time and trigger malignancies.
- Nervous system disorders could be another fallout of these chemicals. In mild cases they may appear as irritability, confusion, loss of coordination and memory loss.
Safer Alternatives To Dryer Sheets:
1. Add baking soda to the wash cycle
2. Add white vinegar to the rinse cycle
3. Lower the temperature setting
4. Drying your clothes at a lower temperature setting can considerably reduce static build up, and wrinkles
5. Use reusable dryer cloths. You can use chemical free dryer cloths that are reusable, or you can make your own reusable dryer sponges.
Because conventional dryer sheets contain soo many mysterious ingredients, and can also be expensive, you should just play it safe, go chemical free, and save money too, with this reusable Do It Yourself doTERRA recipe for Lavender Dryer Sponges using the recipe below. Benefit from Lavender’s soothing properties to your skin, enjoy the sweet aroma of Lavender, and soften your clothes, all while you fight off static.
DIY Reusable Dryer Sponges
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 5-10 drops doTERRA Lavender Essential Oil
- 5-10 Simple Sponges
- Combine baking soda and hot water in a glass container and stir.
- Add vinegar and mix, then add Lavender Essential Oil and stir again until all ingredients are mixed well
- Fill a container with sponges (cut into smaller pieces if needed), and place a lid on the container
- Shake up container
- Remove 1 sponge, squeeze it slightly, and place in the dryer with wet clothes
- After the dryer cycle ends, place sponge back in its container, reseal the lid, and plan to reuse it in the future.
6. Use dryer balls
They are chemical free and reusable. They help keep the clothes soft and static-free. You can add several drops of your favorite doTERRA Essential Oil to each dryer ball, for extra fragrance and added cleanliness. Great suggestions include Purify, On Guard, Lavender, Grapefruit, Wild Orange and many more. My favorite New Zealand wool dryer balls are available here!