Dryer sheets & their harmful effects on you, your clothes, & your dryer + what to use instead

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When someone told me a few years ago that they used something called “dryer balls” instead of dryer sheets I gave them a very weirded out look and said “Hu . . . interesting.” (short for: “I think you’re crazy”) But, never one to simply dismiss a more natural, healthy way of doing things I sat at my computer and did some research. What I found out shocked and disgusted me. I’ve been a dryer ball fan ever since.

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

What’s in dryer sheets?

Man oh man!!! Have you ever wondered what it is that makes dryer sheets smell so good and helps your clothes stay static free? I wish I could say magic and fairy dust, but it’s far from that! Opposite from magical, it’s more sinister and honestly, simply gross!

Common dryer sheet ingredients:

  • Known carcinogens: Some of the most harmful ingredients in dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener are benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant), ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders), and the list goes on & on. – via Scientific American 
  • hazardous pollutants
  • Endocrine disruptors: Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems at certain doses. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed by hormone disruptor.

These ingredients not only adhere to your clothes during the drying process, (and then rub off onto your skin, where they are then absorbed.) but they are also emitted out the vent. That means the “fresh clean” smell that wafts over your pretty little nose from can be causing you issues including headaches & respiratory problems.

Dryer sheets can void the warranty on your dryer

Dryer companies place warning information in their product instruction manuals not to use dryer sheets! That’s right, you can void your warranty by using dryer sheets. The animal fat used to adhere all the chemicals to the sheet  (you heard that right, animal fat) can cause your dryers life to be shortened dramatically. It gunks up the machine and in the long run can prolong drying time, making your machine far less efficient.

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not making this stuff up:

LG dryers are equipped with a moisture sensor inside the dryer’s drum. The moisture sensor uses an electrical charge to determine the moisture level of the clothing so that it can adjust the drying cycle time accordingly. The properties of the dryer sheets that enable them to remove static charge from the clothing disrupt the electrical signal used by the moisture sensor. Dryer sheets leave a layer of residue on the inside parts of a clothes dryer. The residue is one of the ways an LG technician would know that dryer sheets were used and deny warranty claims for repair or replacement. – Via Hunker.com

Dryer Sheets and fire

The residue, aka beef fat, that makes your fabric seem to feel softer can also clog the lint screen and filter, reducing air circulation through the dryer. Want to know what’s super flammable? Animal fat. What’s super hot? A dryer. A hot, clogged dryer with a layer of animal fat is the perfect precursors to a dangerous fire. That alone was a major reason for me to ditch the sheets.

A friend told me once that her husband saved the lint from the lint trap in their dryer and used it to start the wood fire in their home. Talk about flammable!

Why does my activewear always stink? Dryer sheets!!!!

This is huge for us fitness people! When modern, sweat-wicking fabrics get tossed in with dryer sheets they easily get clogged up with residue from the sheets. Then you work out in them, and wash and dry them again. Never realizing you’re making matters worse. Over time the fabrics get so filled with sweat and film that they stink!!!! The air is not allowed to flow properly through the material and you get that nasty smell we all know so well.

The safer, healthier, more cost effective solution:

Dryer Balls

Dryer sheets & their harmful effects on you, your clothes, & your dryer + what to use instead

The lowdown on how dryer balls work.

Dryer balls are 100% wool and super absorbent. I place all six in the dryer at a time and let them do their magic. The balls help to separate the big wet wad of laundry allowing air to flow through and circulate between the pieces of fabric. Dryer balls cut drying time in most loads by about 25%! Saving you even more $$$. They get into all the spaces, which is what makes them so efficient. I usually find one or two stuck in the sleeves of shirts and always a few in the pockets and pant legs of my husbands work pants. The kids think it’s fun returning the wool balls back to their little home in the dryer.

Dryer balls typically last for 1,000 loads, or an average of 2 – 5 years. Talk about money saved! Mine were $10.45 off of Amazon and work amazing. They will seem huge when you get them but trust me and toss all 6 in your dryer and keep them there!

Make sure before using your new set of balls to wipe down the inside of your dryer to remove all the build up from the sheets. If you don’t, when the dryer gets hot the film will attach itself to your new dryer balls, making them less efficient. 

Common issues with dryer balls & how to fix them

Static cling:

Many people say they have a problem with static when using dryer balls. There’s a couple solutions for that.

First, don’t dry as long! Overdrying clothes means static. With dryer balls, since it doesn’t take as long to dry a load, if you don’t adjust the time you will over-dry your laundry causing static cling. Every dryer is different so it will take a few loads to figure out the sweet spot for your machine.

Synthetic materials such as polyester & nylon tend to also produce more static. To combat this issue you can do a few different things, one of them being to leave these out of the dryer and line dry. (Which also makes the clothes last longer) If you don’t want to do that another option is taking a safety pin and pinning it to one of the wool balls to diffuse the static.

I want my clothes to have that dryer sheet fresh smell

It’s very easy to add just about any fragrance you’d like to your laundry. Simply place a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto a couple of the dryer balls. Make sure your oils are Grade A. (FYI, most store brands are not grade A) They are allowed to say pure by the FDA as long as they have at least 10% oil in them. Just ick. The only brands I love: Young Living and a very new to me line: NOW brand essential oils. Though Young Living is still my current fav. Either is WAYYYYYYY better than the quality of those you’ll find in places like Hobby Lobby and Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. Okay okay, this isn’t an oil post so I’ll jump off my soapbox. 😉 My favorite combos to use in the dryer are lavender, lemon & spearmint.

Dryer sheets & their harmful effects on you, your clothes, & your dryer + what to use instead

Note: Your dryer balls will pill over time. They’re wool, it’s totally normal. Keep using them!

A cleaner way to live

Obviously using wool dryer balls isn’t only healthier for you and your family, it’s way better for the environment to. And we all care about that. Less waste and toxic chemicals emitted into the air is always a win. It’s simple little things like this that add up to huge health improvements for you and your family.

You do you boo

I always tell those starting the switch over to a cleaner, healthier way of living not to get overwhelmed. When they hear things like the toxins found in dryer sheets a typical response is, “If that crap is in dryer sheets what else am I using and have no clue to it’s horrible effects?” And you know my response? Slow, positive changes, however small, over the course of time add up.

It’s overwhelming trying to do a 180 and change your entire household at once. You’ll get tired, frustrated, and eventually give up. “Forget it” many say, “We’re going to die anyhow so I’m going to continue how I am.” But, if you realize that every small step is still a step in the right direction progress is being made! Each person at their own individual pace. Health isn’t a trend, and it’s certainly not a competition. A healthy life, however you define it, is yours and yours along. I’m here to give you the knowledge to make your own decisions, whatever those are. If you have the facts, I know you’ll do what’s best for you boo! 😉

Cheers to being a bit more healthy & happy than we were yesterday! <3

You may also like:

Non-toxic ways to make your home smell amazing

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NOW foods trip post #2 to Chicago 

Eryn Whalen, dryer sheets

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14 Comments

  1. How did I never hear of this until now?? I hate dryer sheets. I always find them on the floor or in blankets! Plus I’m allergic to everything so dryer sheets irritate my skin. Ordering dryer balls asap! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. I’ve been using dryer balls for the last couple of years just because it created less waste. I didn’t realize all the other benefits of changing!

  3. I had no idea about the activewear issue! And I’m actually highly allergic to perfumes and synthetic fragrances so I avoid dryer sheets anyway. The dryer balls sound like the perfect option!

  4. Love the idea of these dryer balls, especially since you can put essential oil on them! I actually hate dryer sheets and never use them. I have dryer balls, but I like these wool-based balls better!

  5. I pride myself in making my home as “clean” as possible, and had NO IDEA about dryer sheets. I especially did not know the active wear issue, which has always been a problem for my husband and I. Thank you so much for writing this, we will be switching ASAP!

  6. I recently wrote a post on my blog at http://www.IsabellaDavid.com about items that help you cut out single-use products. I recommended dryer balls, but I didn’t even look into this other stuff. This is so fascinating and horrifying. Also, I love my dryer balls! I didn’t realize I should use all six at once. So informative and helpful, thank you. Can’t wait to check out your other posts!

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