Dinged By Dryer Sheets

You know if you are one of those sensitive to dryer sheets and fabric softeners. (I think this is the No. 2 consumer complaint behind perfume.) You are sad that you don’t like to walk in your neighborhood on Saturday mornings because of the offense smell wafting from neighbors’ dryer vents. If someone uses them in your home you may have a nightmare of burning skin, respiratory irritation, anxiety attacks and irritability. I have one friend who became so sensitive to the fumes that he had to sleep in a chair until he could get new bedding! What is the problem with these laundry products? Plenty.

How I would love to have full disclosure of ingredients in consumer products. Given how many people complain about getting sick from dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener, it is disturbing that there is so little research available for the general public about the ingredients in the products. Dry sheets and fabric softeners actually waterproof your clothes to make them feel softer! I have found information on waterproofing and there are few safe ways to do that.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) from the 1990s, the following is a list of chemicals in fabric softener products, most in untested combinations. Liquid fabric softeners additionally may contain formaldehyde.

  • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant.
  • Ethanol: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.
  • Limonene: Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant,
    Kidney Toxicant, Neurotoxicant,
    Respiratory Toxicant, and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

  • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage.
  • Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list.
  • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders.
  • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic.
  • Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders.
  • Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled.

To hide the chemical smell, companies load dryer sheets full of chemical fragrances, which are potentially carcinogenic.

Dryer sheets are designed to stay on clothing for a long period of time and slowly release their chemicals throughout the day, which leads to prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals.

The toxins in dryer sheets and their chemical fragrances enter the body both through inhalation or are absorbed through the skin.

Some of the symptoms experienced from prolonged exposure to the chemicals in dryer sheets include headaches, nausea, vomiting , dizziness, central nervous system disorders, blood pressure reduction, fatigue, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, difficulty concentrating and remembering, cancer, irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract, and liver damage.

Alternatives point to successfully substituting vinegar in the rinse water of the laundry cycle. We’ve received quite a few comments from our readers finding this approach works well. There are also a number of alternative products on the market. Read our article Fabric Softener: Easy Greening.

Fabric softeners are static cling busters, mostly. One easy way to avoid using them is to use natural fibers.

By Annie B. Bond

175 comments

Travis T
tree sap10 months ago

I recognize that many people are sensitive to strong odors, however the descriptions beside most of the items listed above are completely wrong. I was about to go down the ingredient list explaining how misguided many of your descriptions of toxicity are, but once I got to #3, I knew it would say it all:

Ethanol: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.

Ethanol is ordinary drinking alcohol, as found in liquors, wine, beer, etc! The central nervous system disorders are a result of ALCOHOLISM, which occurs when one consumes great quantities of ethanol multiple times a day for an extended period. Also, it is not on either of EPAs lists of hazardous wastes, which can be searched here. (https://www.epa.gov/hw/defining-hazardous-waste-listed-characteristic-and-mixed-radiological-wastes)

I can't resisting pointing out another ridiculous one:
Limonene. It is found inside of lemons and oranges. It's widely used in the food industry, skin care products, and dietary supplements, and thus considered very safe for humans. A lot of very nature-friendly companies use it as a safe and natural alternative to many dangerous chemicals!

Some of the chemicals on this list are indeed toxic. Many, however, are not!
In addition to these:
Camphor (In many natural remedies and organic teas!)
Ethyl acetate (Used in place of toxic things specifically because it is non-toxic. Not

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cindy D
cindy Dabout a year ago

http://scorecard.goodguide.com/chemical-profiles/text-search.tcl?query_string=limonene+ I checked out his website from someone that posted scorecard said limonene and ozone produced formaldyhide. It is not true and doesn't come up on their website now. Maybe they received updated information since that was posted. I have used Shaklee Laundry detergent and basic H for 37 years due to contact dermatitis all the time from store laundry and soap bars, detergents and fabric softeners. I am also now using Doterra's Onguard foaming hand wash with great success. someone also said Limonene is naturally occurring and that is very true, it is a property of limes, lemons, Bergamot and other fruits. P& G has a website that lists what they use and don't use in their products; https://us.pg.com/our-brands/product-safety/ingredient-safety/fragrance-article
It is a great way to avoid telling the public what is specifically in a certain product, but if you know what you are sensitive to (chemical) then you would know whether or not they use it. EWG says they don't have enough informaiton on Polyester Substrate which is in Bounce Free and Sensitive sheets to determine issues (https://www.pg.com/productsafety/ingredients/household_care/laundary_fabric_care/Bounce/Bounce_Dryer_Sheets_-_All_Varieties.pdf) . This information might be old though because their website with the ingredients they use or don't use doesn't list polyester subs

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cindy D
cindy Dabout a year ago

(People don't understand that companies don't disclose all of their ingredients on labels and that there is no government agency out there making sure products are safe. These things are not regulated and no, they don't even have to disclose toxic chemicals on MSDS sheets. Companies don't care that people are getting sick. They use chemicals and fragrances that are addicting so people want more and more. Where addiction begins, compassion ends.)

There ought to be a law -- against toxic dryer vent emissions. I moved my family to Colorado for fresh air and wide open spaces. It's gone! I took my grandson to the park today and we h ad to leave because of dryer fumes being emitted by a neighboring house. This is a very large park but the polluted air stream wafted over the entire area. The concentration was so strong that I started retching (and we were across the park from the houses).
Dryer sheets and laundry products with chemicals that are activated in the dryer and sent out into our air must be banned! They are polluting our air more than cars. (note University of Colorado and NOAA study). We have reduced auto emissions -- we need to eliminate toxic emissions from dryer vents.
If you don't know what is in dryer sheets please go to ewg.org and learn! Read the studies at http://www.drsteinemann.com/publications.html. A% 20person's right to smell fragrant ends where other peoples' right to breathe (and live without being poisoned by

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Mary P
Mary Pabout a year ago

(People don't understand that companies don't disclose all of their ingredients on labels and that there is no government agency out there making sure products are safe. These things are not regulated and no, they don't even have to disclose toxic chemicals on MSDS sheets. Companies don't care that people are getting sick. They use chemicals and fragrances that are addicting so people want more and more. Where addiction begins, compassion ends.)

There ought to be a law -- against toxic dryer vent emissions. I moved my family to Colorado for fresh air and wide open spaces. It's gone! I took my grandson to the park today and we had to leave because of dryer fumes being emitted by a neighboring house. This is a very large park but the polluted air stream wafted over the entire area. The concentration was so strong that I started retching (and we were across the park from the houses).
Dryer sheets and laundry products with chemicals that are activated in the dryer and sent out into our air must be banned! They are polluting our air more than cars. (note University of Colorado and NOAA study). We have reduced auto emissions -- we need to eliminate toxic emissions from dryer vents.
If you don't know what is in dryer sheets please go to ewg.org and learn! Read the studies at http://www.drsteinemann.com/publications.html. A person's right to smell fragrant ends where other peoples' right to breathe (and live without being poisoned by what their

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Jo S.
Jo S3 years ago

Horrible!
Thanks Annie.

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Jo S.
Jo S3 years ago

Just awful!!
Thanks Annie.

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Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

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Joe R.
Joe R7 years ago

Thanks Annie.

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Ruth B.
Ruth B.7 years ago

The only complaint I have with dryer sheets /liquid fabric softeners/detergents is that the amount they say to use is way more than you need to use. By cutting it all in half, many problems could be avoided.

PS: Skip the paint thinners (REAL baddies), Use a full strength fabric softener or dry sheet to remove caulk and paint residue from your hands or other surfaces. LOL

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Ruth B.
Ruth B.7 years ago

The list of ingredients for Bounce is freely available on the internet. It is in compliance with both US and Canada. (including obsessive California). The attempt to "scare" people away from using a product because YOU may have a problem with it is sad. I worry about people who think the whole world should conform to their particular problem, and often wonder how much of these "problems" is more psychological than not. Personally I don't care for strong scents, but would not disrespect someone else for their choices. When I have items that may not be used or worn right away, I use half of a mild scented dryer sheet.

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