Dryer sheets are one of those innocuous — and perhaps completely unnecessary — domestic staples that are often considered to be towards the bottom of the list when it comes to overall household environmental impact. There are bigger fish to fry (like dryers themselves). Yet, when you Google search key words like “dryer sheets,” “toxic,” and “environment,” a whopping amount of results come up.

Here’s the eco-dirt one of the top search results had on dryer sheets:  

... a list of just some of the chemicals found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets:
• Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
• Benzyl alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
• Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's hazardous waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
• A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
• Ethyl acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's hazardous waste list
• Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
• Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
• Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
• Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
Yikes. Luckily, a green switch-up is easy if you can't go without 'em. Below are dryer sheets and dryer sheet alternatives that will render your laundry soft, snuggly and static-free without the aid of petro chems, possible carcinogens and artificial fragrances. These eco-friendly options, aside from being chem-free and often biodegradable, are also sans tallow, a ubiquitous ingredient in conventional dryer sheets (it’s what gives each sheet that waxy sheen). Softening your clothes with animal fat? Double yikes. 

Method Squeaky Green Free & Clear Dryer Cloths @ Drugstore.com ($5.59/40 ct)

Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Geranium Dryer Sheets @ Terra Sage($7.99/80 ct)

Dryer Balls @ Gaiam ($18/set of two)

Seventh Generation Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender Fabric Softener Sheets @ Drugstore.com ($5.99/65 ct)

Sun & Earth Dryer Sheets (citrus or unscented) @ Sun & Earth ($5.99/80 ct)

Our friends at Sun & Earth are offering Mother Nature Network readers $5 worth of Sun & Earth coupons. Simply email lynn(at)sunandearth(dot)com with your name and address and Sun & Earth will mail the savings right to your door. Visit www.sunandearth.com to locate a retail store near you or for more information on the full Sun & Earth product line. Happy Cleaning!

If you do decide to use dryer sheets, “natural” or not, there are tons of ways to reuse them around the house after they’ve served their initial purpose: dust mini-blinds, TV screens and furniture; place them in drawers and laundry hampers; perform pet hair clean-up, etc. They’ve found another targeted use in college dormitories, too, that won’t be discussed here.  

Do you use another another type of natural (or homemade) fabric softener? I that hear white vinegar (AKA the all-purpose miracle liquid) does the trick nicely. 


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The dirt on dryer sheets
Want to keep laundry soft, snuggly, and static-free without using conventional dryer sheets? Check out these alternatives.