News from CRIS: Dryer Sheet Ingredient Safety

April 11, 2022

What is a dryer sheet?

A dryer sheet is a nonwoven polyester material that manufacturers coat with ingredients to improve laundry's softness, decrease static electricity, and frequently add a desired fragrance (1,2,3).

What are common dryer sheet ingredients? What do they do?

The most common ingredients include (1,2,3):

  • Dipalmethyl hydroxyethylammoinum methosulfate: a softening and antistatic ingredient
  • Fatty acid, fatty alcohols, and/or alcohol ethoxylates: softening agent
  • Polyester substrate: the carrier material (e.g., sheet) the ingredients are coated on 
  • Clay: a rheology modifier that controls how other ingredients on the dryer sheet flow and disseminate as they're heated
  • Fragrance

Are there safety concerns?

A 2011 study showed that dryer vents containing most, if not all, products involved in the washing and drying process, not exclusively dryer sheets. Dryer vents may introduce harmful airborne compounds called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies seven of the VOCs as hazardous air pollutants (HAP) (remember, a hazard is only one part of determining risk). The paper did NOT look at the impact on human health and suggested further research be conducted, to see if there are any human health concerns.

As of publication, we at CRIS could not find any evidence in the current scientific literature to support that dryer sheets (or even dryer vents) negatively impact human health.

What about fragrances in dryer sheets? Is that a concern? 

For most individuals, fragrances do not impact health. However, some scents may contain ingredients that may cause allergic reactions, asthma, migraines, and contact dermatitis in sensitive populations (1,2).

If you have sensitive skin or have other health sensitivities, it's important to work with your physician to learn your triggers and avoid fragranced products when needed.

Unscented dryer sheets and other laundering products are available for individuals who do not wish to use fragranced products or have sensitivities (1).


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