Toxic Chemicals in Your Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener

Did you know that fabric softener products (liquid/dryer sheets) are concentrated with chemicals and heavy fragrances?

I personally donít use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets. I am too lazy to add another step to my laundry routine and I donít really like the idea of chemicals on my clothing! I like my jeans stiff and quite frankly enjoy the sandpaper feel of my towels.

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 EPAís 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 EPAís 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.

I canít even pronounce half of the ingredients listed above and the effect they have on humans are pretty scary.

Fabric softeners were designed to reduce static in synthetic fabrics and serve no purpose with natural fabrics. They stay in your clothing for extended periods and leave a residue, which never really completely washes out.

When fabric softeners are exposed to heat such as hot water or a dryer or an iron, vapors can be released into the environment. These chemicals can be inhaled and absorbed by your skin- further impacting human welfare along with the environment.

Dryer sheets when heated are noxious for the release of chemicals through dryer vents out into the environment. Some health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include:

  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Blood pressure reduction
  • Irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract
  • Pancreatic cancer

Is it really necessary to add fabric softener to your wash or dryer sheets to your dryer? Is it worth the risk? For me: The answer is, †”No.”

So how come products with pretty names like Snuggle, Blue Touch and Cuddle Fluff can be so dangerous? I am thinking the cuddly little brown bear isnít looking so sweet anymore.

If you decide that fabric softener is no longer for you, try some non-toxic options like adding vinegar to your wash, or spray vinegar on a cloth, add some essential oils and toss in the dryer with your clothing-which works great by the way. You can also add baking soda to the wash cycle, or air dry your clothing.

I have also heard of putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer while drying your clothing. Alternatively,† you can purchase wool balls to use in place of dryer sheets. I have never personally tried either- so I canít vouch for their effectiveness.

I think I am going to skip the bear and stick to my vinegar! Seriously, vinegar really is that versatile!

Sources:†EPA,†Six Wise and†Guide to Less Toxic Chemicals

- Stephanie Moram, Good Girl Gone Green, for The Green Extract

©†Herr Hans Gruber



Jessica T.
Jessica T4 years ago

I started using the wool dryer balls recently. Don't buy the plastic crap ones.... they are almost as bad as dryer sheets and the noise they make in the dryer is ridiculous. I think they work well. I have noticed a slight decrease in drying time which saves energy and I haven't had issues with static cling. And the wool dryer balls make little to no noise in the dryer. Much safer then dryer sheets.

Kimmy T.
Kimmy Turner5 years ago

Oh my dear Lord...thanks for this info. I had a severe poisoning from an experience last year.
I removed my (still quite warm) bedspread loaded with these toxic chemicals from the dryer. As I flipped the spread onto the bed; I took a huge "hit" of the toxins. OMG it scared me. I thought I was going into cardiac arrest. That day (much earlier) I had taken sinus medication & used a nose spray that had completely opened me up. I've had severe allergies my whole life, but this opened up a whole new dimension of what was yet to come.
I drank a total of 6 gallons of water in a 5 day period. (Not your typical water consumer) My urine, sweat, feces you name it smelled like that toxic odor. I've never fully recovered from it I still suffer daily from anything & everything that has an distinct odor. Most of the time I wear a mask to avoid situations; especially in public.
I was forced to separate from my beloved dogs & home of 10 years. Found out there was also black mold inside the walls...smh...
So here a year later, I freak out at intense & all offensive odors that come my way.

William K.
William K6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago


marsha Andrews6 years ago

I don't buy anything from the stores anymore! Everything is loaded with bad chemicals....I have found a company thats green and chemical free and I love everything they have :)

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago


Christa Deanne
Oceana Ellingson6 years ago

I'd like to stop using laundry detergent, maybe have homemade stuff instead.

Lisa Stice
Lisa Stice6 years ago

I have not used dryer sheets or fabric softeners in Years! I really don't like how they make towels feel, slightly oily. But I love the idea of spraying a face cloth with vinegar and some essential oils. I usually just add mine straight to the washing machine, but if I forget I can now add it to the dryer. (when I use it)

Sally J.
Sally J.6 years ago

Rita B.
Rita B6 years ago

thanks for the info :|