True Cellular Formulas Team - August 15, 2023

The Hidden Dangers of Dryer Sheets

What Lies Beneath the Fragrance of Dryer Sheets

The Hidden Dangers of Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are a ubiquitous part of laundry routines for many households. These handy products promise to make our clothes smell fresh, feel soft, and look wrinkle-free. They are as commonplace in our homes as laundry detergent and washing machines, providing a scent that many associate with cleanliness. But what if there's a hidden cost to this convenience? What if those pleasant smells are masking something far more sinister? This article delves into the potential risks associated with dryer sheets, exploring the chemicals that lurk beneath their fresh facade. By understanding these risks, you can make informed decisions about your laundry routine, and perhaps even consider more health-conscious alternatives. Not only will we unravel the truth behind these seemingly harmless sheets, but we will also provide insight into their impact on both human health and the environment.

The Deceptive Nature of Dryer Sheets

Despite their pleasant fragrance and appealing packaging, dryer sheets may be hiding something sinister. The truth is, behind those lovely blossoms and flowers depicted on the box, these sheets can be laden with harmful chemicals that you wouldn't even wish on your enemies. Unbeknownst to many, the ingredients can include known carcinogens, hazardous pollutants, endocrine disruptors, and substances that target organs in harmful ways.[1] This toxic cocktail may not only be damaging to your health but also contribute to environmental pollution. 

Furthermore, manufacturers are not required to list these potentially dangerous ingredients, leaving consumers in the dark about what they're truly putting into their dryers.[2] What's even more concerning is that these chemicals don't just stay in the laundry room; they can enter the air and water supply, affecting not only those who use them but potentially the community at large. It's time to peel back the fragrant veneer and uncover the real story of dryer sheets, understanding how something so commonly used can have hidden risks. In the following sections, we'll delve into the specific dangers of dryer sheets, providing you with the knowledge you need to make more conscious choices in your daily laundry routine.

Unlisted Ingredients and Chemical Compounds

Interestingly, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn't require manufacturers to list the actual ingredients in dryer sheets, including the chemicals used in fragrances. Several studies have aimed to uncover these hidden ingredients by analyzing the compounds detected in dryer sheets and dryer vent exhaust.

Professor Anne Steinemann, a pioneering fragrance researcher, found seven hazardous air pollutants and 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emanating from dryer vents, including acetaldehyde and benzene, which are unsafe at any level.[3]

Health Risks Associated with Dryer Sheets

The health risks associated with these chemicals are concerning. Acetaldehyde, commonly used in fragrance blends, is “potentially carcinogenic to humans” and can impact the kidneys, nervous, and respiratory systems.[4] Other symptoms reported due to scented laundry products include respiratory issues, migraines, skin problems, and gastrointestinal symptoms.[5]

Steinemann's studies found that acetaldehyde emissions from some leading brands constituted about 6 percent of automobiles' emissions.[6] They not only affect personal health but also public and environmental health.

Some alarming findings related to dryer sheets include:

  • 44 percent of scented laundry products tested emitted at least one carcinogenic hazardous air pollutant.[7]
  • Synthetic scents in laundry products can cause immediate dangers like migraines and asthma attacks.[8]
  • Fabric softening products have been linked to limited airflow and pulmonary irritation in animal studies.[9]
  • The number of people reporting irritation from scents coming from dryer vents increased from nearly 10 percent in 2009 to more than 12 percent in 2016.[10]
  • Certain harmful fragrance chemicals are found in high concentrations in dryer sheets, including compounds known to trigger asthma attacks.[11]
  • Some products even contain compounds toxic to wildlife.[12]

Safer Alternatives to Dryer Sheets

Fortunately, there are better alternatives to store-bought dryer sheets. One option is to add white vinegar to the washer’s rinse cycle, which can serve as a natural fabric softener. For those seeking unscented solutions, plant-based, unscented laundry detergents are available. Additionally, hanging clothing outside to dry not only avoids the need for dryer sheets but also saves energy. Another alternative is to use wool dryer balls with organic, therapeutic-grade essential oils, offering a natural fragrance to your laundry. Finally, even when considering "green" laundry products, it is wise to be cautious, as some may still release toxic compounds.[14] By exploring these alternatives, individuals can reduce their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals found in conventional dryer sheets.


The use of dryer sheets is more than just a potential health risk; it's a concern for the environment and the community at large. With more than 12 percent of the U.S. population reporting negative health symptoms related to dryer vent emissions, it's time to seek safer alternatives.

  1. Dodson, Robin E et al. “Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 120,7 (2012): 935-43. doi:10.1289/ehp.1104052
  3.  Potera, Carol. “Scented products emit a bouquet of VOCs.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 119,1 (2011): A16. doi:10.1289/ehp.119-a16
  4.  “Fragrance.” Safe Cosmetics, 15 July 2022,
  5.  Steinemann, Anne. “Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions.” Air quality, atmosphere, & health vol. 9,8 (2016): 861-866. doi:10.1007/s11869-016-0442-z
  6.  “Scented Laundry Products Emit Hazardous Chemicals through Dryer Vents.” UW News,
  7.  Potera, Carol. “Scented products emit a bouquet of VOCs.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 119,1 (2011): A16. doi:10.1289/ehp.119-a16
  8.  Kessler, Rebecca. “Dryer vents: an overlooked source of pollution?.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 119,11 (2011): A474-5. doi:10.1289/ehp.119-a474a
  9. Anderson, R C, and J H Anderson. “Respiratory toxicity of fabric softener emissions.” Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part A vol. 60,2 (2000): 121-36. doi:10.1080/009841000156538
  10. Caress, Stanley M, and Anne C Steinemann. “Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population.” Journal of environmental health vol. 71,7 (2009): 46-50.
  11. Dodson, Robin E et al. “Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 120,7 (2012): 935-43. doi:10.1289/ehp.1104052
  12. “EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.” EWG,