See a Dryer Sheet in Your Mailbox? Don't Touch It, USPS Workers Warn
It's probably there for a reason—namely, to keep your mail and mail carriers safe.
From unsolicited ads to pre-approved credit card applications, our mailboxes get filled with all sorts of things we never asked for. Among the most unusual items you might find in yours? A dryer sheet. But if you stumble upon one amid the bills and junk mail, you should leave it where it is. In fact, it was almost certainly left there by a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) worker, and for a very good reason. Read on to discover what that dryer sheet might be doing in your mailbox.
People have been finding dryer sheets in their mailboxes for years.
If you've ever opened your mailbox and found a dryer sheet in there, you're certainly not alone. This well-reported phenomenon has been causing confusion online for years. Back in 2016, one Twitter user asked, "Why is there a dryer sheet in my mailbox?"
Another person took to Quora in 2021 to ask a similar question, concerned that the discovery could potentially be connected to criminal behavior: "Is it a gang sign to find a dryer sheet in my mailbox?"
And in May of this year, local radio station WJLK-FM reported that people in New Jersey were also finding dryer sheets in their mailboxes.
"At first thought I had questions. A lot of questions," Matt Ryan, a content creator for WJLK-FM wrote. "Why dryer sheets? Why are they in mailboxes? Are random people putting them there, or is the mail carrier?"
They're being put there by USPS workers.
Fortunately, this isn't a prank gone wrong, or the sign of some nefarious activity. Multiple postal workers have now come forward to let customers know that they're actually the ones putting dryer sheets in mailboxes—and they're doing so for a good reason.
When another person asked about dryer sheets in mailboxes on Quora, USPS employee Christopher Valenze told them that it was something he and many of his fellow mail carriers do.
"Your carrier probably put it there to keep bees/ants out of the box," Valenze explained. "I've done this for the 'cluster' boxes at apartment complexes."
Another mail carrier who has worked with the USPS since 1999 backed up Valenze's response about the dryer sheets in a separate 2022 Quora forum.
"They help to keep bugs out," the carrier wrote.
Carriers say dryer sheets can help them from being stung.
From hazardous weather conditions to aggressive animals, USPS workers often have to deal with a lot of potential dangers when delivering our mail. In a now-viral Reddit post from April 2021, a letter carrier posting under the username @istrx13 revealed that the risks during the summer also include potential contact with problematic pests.
"I'm sure you've noticed. But just in case you haven't, this time of the year wasps and Yellowjackets (especially Yellowjackets) like to make nests inside of mailboxes," the carrier wrote. "I can't tell you how many times, especially during this part of the year, where I've opened up a box to see a little nest with three to five Yellowjackets just chilling. If I'm really unlucky, they will have made their nest at the very back of the box so I wind up sticking my hand in not knowing they are there."
The Reddit user explained that they had been stung 10 different times the year prior. That's where the dryer sheets come in.
"We've found that they hate scented dryer sheets. If we encounter a box that is a problem for nests, we'll often put one in there and it does the trick," @istrx13 wrote. "So please, if you one day randomly see a dryer sheet at the back of your mailbox, just know that your carrier more than likely put it there to deter these Satanic creatures from building their home in it."
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Customers have had their deliveries suspended because of dangerous pests.
If you want to make sure you keep getting your mail delivered, don't remove a dryer sheet from your mailbox. In 2019, the USPS suspended delivery service to a neighborhood in Sparks, Nevada, for nearly a month after a mail carrier had complained about wasps at a cluster of community mailboxes, local news outlet Fox 11 reported.
"The situation could have turned into an unwelcome encounter for a customer or our carrier had the nest been allowed to remain where it was," USPS spokesman Rod Spurgeon told the news outlet at the time.
Reddit user @istrx13 stressed the importance of using dryer sheets as a "preventative measure" because they said they've also halted delivery service when there is a huge nest in or around a mailbox.
"I just immediately leave a note on the customer's door letting them know they need to take care of the nest before I can resume delivering their mail," the carrier wrote. "It would be best to get rid of the large nest and then put a dryer sheet in to keep them from coming back."
A USPS spokesperson told Today in 2021 that putting dryer sheets in mailboxes is a not a "specific directive" from the agency but made it clear that carriers are encouraged to report this type of pest problem, which may cause deliveries to be suspended.
"There is guidance in our safety regulations that cover how to handle insects," they said. "The guidance includes, but is not limited to: reporting hazards to a supervisor (i.e., hornet, wasp, and bee nests) so they can be removed by the property owner; using insect repellant as needed/when appropriate; avoid wearing perfume or other scented products; watch eating and drinking outdoors, especially with sweetened drinks as this attracts bees and other insects."