Never Use Dryer Sheets With These Items, Experts Warn
This washing method could actually be doing more harm than good.
After switching over your laundry from the washer to the dryer, you probably don't think twice before tossing a dryer sheet into the machine to make your clothes smell and feel as fresh as possible. While using a dryer sheet might seem like a great extra step, there are a handful of items you own that could actually be harmed by the practice. Are you doing your laundry all wrong? Read on to find out if you could be damaging some of your favorite items with dryer sheets.
Dryer sheets can ruin any item that's supposed to be absorbent.
New York Times bedding reporter Jackie Reeve says it's best to avoid using dryer sheets when washing items that are meant to be absorbent. While these softeners can be great for some items, other products can be damaged by them. "I'd avoid these additives at home for performance fabrics, towels, cloth diapers—anything that needs to be absorbent," she writes. When you toss a dryer sheet in along with your clothes, "you're essentially coating your textiles in conditioners, which is fine for a favorite T-shirt or worn-in blanket you want to soften," but isn't ideal for more sensitive items.
According to Apartment Therapy, using dryer sheets aimed to soften your fabrics could also make activewear less breathable and children's clothing less flame-retardant. "Cotton naturally washes cleaner and feels softer against skin than synthetics," laundry care expert Suzanne Holmes told Apartment Therapy. "This is important because relying too much on dryer sheets can turn items like towels into nonabsorbent, ineffective rags."
The scents in dryer sheets can also cause adverse reactions.
Messing with your towel's absorbency isn't the only reason you should be hesitant about using dryer sheets. A handful of studies have found that using the scented products could result in adverse effects. A study published by Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health in 2016 found that breathing in the scent of dryer sheets led to health complications in up 12.5 percent of people. Some of the effects experienced included respiratory problems, asthma attacks, skin problems, migraines, and gastrointestinal problems.
A chemical present in dryer sheets could be harmful.
Environmental Working Group's senior research and database analyst Samara Geller explained to Apartment Therapy that dryer sheets often include quaternary ammonium compounds (QACS). Geller said this chemical has been linked to long-term health problems such as cancer and reproductive issues, but noted that there haven't been enough studies to make a definitive conclusion. She said that the chemical is common in cleaning products, so cutting it out where you can is helpful.
Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, wrote that QACS could trigger asthma attacks and—since they have antibacterial qualities—overuse could lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
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There are healthier alternatives for your laundry.
Healthline points out that there are a handful of healthier, non-toxic alternatives to using dryer sheets. Reusable wool dryer balls and reusable static eliminating sheets are a couple of options you could look into purchasing. If you want to reduce static with an item you already have at home, Healthline suggests tossing a crumpled ball of aluminum foil into the machine. They also recommend sprinkling some baking soda in with your clothes during the wash cycle or spraying vinegar onto a washcloth and adding it to the dryer.