Addicted to Dryer Sheets? 12 Toxic Chemicals In Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softeners That Will Make You Break the Habit

Addicted to Dryer Sheets? Branch Basics 12 Reasons to Ditch Your Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners


Did you know this article is part of a series on Detoxing Your Laundry?

If you’d like to read along, please check out the other articles from the series:

  1. Do You Know What’s In Your Detergent?
  2. Why Use Branch Basics for Laundry? The Importance of a Nontoxic Detergent
  3. Nontoxic Laundry Instructions
  4. Stainmaster Guide: Treat Stains Quickly and Easily
  5. DIY: How to Detox Your Dryer (BB Hack)

The Scary Truth About Chemicals in Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softeners

Of the 3-10 gallons of toxic household cleaning products in a home, the chemicals in dryer sheets and fabric softeners are considered to be among the most toxic. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are made up of pernicious chemicals combined with a hefty dose of fragrance. The fragrance chemicals are particularly difficult to remove because they have been designed to cling dearly to fabric so the signature scent stays in the clothing. This is called “fragrance substantivity,” which describes how long a fragrance lasts on a particular surface and how it is affected by temperature, humidity, and other conditions.

Lingering chemical residues in the clothes enter the body through the skin, which is tantamount to eating them! Many of these compounds are solvents that directly affect the nervous system and endocrine system and can contribute to the development of chronic illness. Since the term “fragrance” on a label can mean up to hundreds of synthetic chemicals, the body is provided a cocktail of poison 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of this issue because their constant exposure to these chemicals makes it impossible for them to realize the impact it makes on their health. Not to mention the health of those around them! The non-stop exposure has dulled their sense of smell as a warning mechanism, their ability to perceive the specific fragrance in many cases is lost, or they actually get a high and crave the smell of the clothing.

Addicted to Chemicals in Dryer Sheets? | Branch Basics

Of 171 they studied, the Environmental Working Group gives 83.33% of fabric softeners a D or F rating

The fact that your fabric softener may be under a counter and only used occasionally is bad enough, since the chemicals in the bottles and boxes are off-gassing into your living environment. But the truth is, these chemicals are accompanying you day and night through your skin and your lungs as you wear your clothes and sleep in your sheets.  That’s why using fabric softeners, dryer sheets or even laundry detergent with fragrance are such dangerous health offenders. Once you start using them, they seem practically inescapable!

Live Life Clean Tip: if you can smell detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets in the laundry room when you’re not using them, that’s a sign that they’re off-gassing chemicals and degrading your indoor air quality.

12 Reasons to Get Rid of Your Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets

These are just a few of the toxic chemicals in commercial dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners! Note, this list doesn’t include the synthetic fragrances that are added to these products.

Addicted to Dryer Sheets? 12 Reasons to Ditch the Chemicals in Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners | Branch Basics

There is no sugar-coating this issue; the list above doesn’t even include fragrance chemicals! By using fabric softeners and dryer sheets, you are directly affecting your family’s health and wellbeing, as well as those who spend time with you all day. And aside from being bad for your health, these harsh chemicals soften fabrics by breaking down the fibers in your clothes. This means that you are actually wearing out your clothes faster each time you use fabric softeners and dryer sheets! The great news is that when you get rid of these products and clear the chemicals from your clothes, symptoms you never knew were associated with exposure to your clothes will disappear.

Please be careful when considering purchasing more fabric softener or dryer sheets! In particular avoid any synthetic formulas that include these chemicals:

Benzyl Acetate, Chloroform, Dichlorobenzene & Limonene: four known carcinogens (limonene also irritates eyes and skin)

Benyl Alcohol, Camphor & Biodegradable cationic softeners accumulate in the body and cause symptoms ranging from confusion to serious damage to the nervous system

Ethanol and Ethyl Acetate: two chemicals listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “hazardous waste” list

Alpha Terpineol, Pentane & Linalool: cause central nervous system damage, reduced spontaneous motor activity, and respiratory issues – pentane can even cause loss of consciousness and is extremely harmful if inhaled

If you’re looking for a human safe alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners, check out our team favorites: dryer balls and alternative dryer sheets.


Further Reading:

Removing synthetic chemicals like liquid fabric softeners from your home will go a long way towards immediately improving your indoor air quality. Ditching the synthetics is a powerful first step in a detoxing process! Once you’ve gotten rid of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, we recommend you find a non-toxic alternative.  If you have Branch Basics, it not only cleans clothes, but it can remove the toxic residues from these products.  It takes some time, sometimes several washings, to fully detox your laundry. We suggest buying a new set of pajamas and sheets, if you can, so you can start sleeping in a chemical free environment right away! Read more in Why Use Branch Basics for Laundry.

There are alternatives to dryer sheets and fabric softener. We personally love dryer balls or reusable cloth dryer sheets, which don’t leave behind harmful chemicals in your “clean” laundry. Plus, dryer balls can even speed up the time it takes to get your clothes dry. Ready to get down to business and Detox Your Dryer? It’s easy to do! Start here.

What’s so bad about synthetic fragrances? We didn’t include them in this list because there are just so many – they needed their own article! Read about why we’re calling “fragrance” The New Secondhand Smoke.

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18 Comments

    1. Hi Ruth,
      Sorry to just be seeing your question now. You can detox your washer and dishwasher by running cycles with Branch Basics concentrate on an empty load (no laundry and no dishes). For example, for a washing machine, simply add 1 teaspoon Concentrate to a small load cycle and run a cycle as normal. You may have to run more than one cycle to full detox the machine.

  1. I just ordered my set of Branch Basics for the first time so I haven’t made the transition yet, so maybe this question will be answered when I do. But I am totally bummed to hear this about dryer sheets. Do you have a recommended replacement? Our water is really hard and I can’t stand the cardboard feel of the clothes (not to mention no clean scent) when I don’t use fabric softener. Perhaps it is the free and clear detergent that doesn’t smell great, but what about the fluffy softness? Thanks.

    1. The words “clean” and “scent” do not belong in the same sentence, let alone side-by-side in my opinion; if it smells like a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g, it is NOT fresh, period!

      I don’t want anything I own to be perfumy, and I really don’t want a face-full of someone else’s. I have such a bad reaction, that my heart races, and I immediately get sinus PAIN…
      I’m just saying….think about those around you….like your family, and others’.

  2. The addiction comes from the stinky breakdown of the product. It smells really bad as time goes by so even if the clothes are not dirty you wash them to get rid of the smell. This stuff is so bad that everything I buy from the thrift store has to be put in the sun for days. The laundry fragrances permeate all products, especially new synthetics such as a logo company gift bag.

  3. I thought about this clear and well , and it frightens me because I am severely addicted to scents especially fabric softener such as Suavitel , but I guess that goes in hand with how dangerous other things are as well , are air is toxic period.

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