Dryer sheets may seem like a laundry-day essential—how else are we supposed to keep our clothes soft and static-free?—when in reality, they may be doing more harm than good.Not only are they damaging our wardrobe, but also our health.
The Environmental Working Group’s senior research and database analyst Samara Geller told Apartment Therapy that dryer sheets contain a potentially harmful chemical called quaternary ammonium compounds (QACS). According to Geller, at the very least it’s been known to cause and/or worsen asthma and skin irritations. However, it’s also been linked to more serious long-term conditions, like cancer and reproductive issues.
Even if the product appears safe—i.e. is marked “green” or “fragrance-free”—that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free of dangerous chemicals. “Labeling is a massive issue with cleaning products, and their ingredients are disclosed less often,” Gellar said.
On top of that, the coating on dryer sheets can make towels less absorbent and wear away the wicking abilities on socks and activewear, CNET reports.
So what are we supposed to use instead? Geller suggests wool dryer balls, which unlike dryer sheets can last you up to years. “Dryer balls help to lift and aerate the clothing and shorten dryer time,” Geller said. “The less dryer time, the less static there will be.” They’ll move around in the dryer with your clothing, separating the fabrics and allowing heat to disperse more effectively. You’ll avoid that annoying static. And when they look like little hedgehogs or cacti? Even better.