How I Slipped on a Dryer Sheet and Opened a Can of Worms

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It amazes me how my life’s journey takes twists and turns and in the process valuable lessons are learned.  The first twist is I have had lower back pain off and on for the last few years.  It happened when huge german shepherd I was working with took an unexpected turn at full speed and wrenched my back out of whack.  Being the hippie and naturalist that I am, I do not seek medical help unless it is a life or death situation.  I’ve probably only been to the Doctor a couple of times in the last decade.  I try to eat healthy, exercise and use natural alternatives to medication when possible.

 The second twist is the great dryer sheet debate that has gone on in my household for years.  My husband Scott hates using dryer sheets and never puts them in when he loads the dryer.  Then I take the clothes out and they are full of static and the inevitable argument ensues.  He says they are full of chemicals and not necessary.  I say it’s hard to look cute if your clothes are plastered to your body like lumpy wallpaper.  To add to the debate, my daughter Rachel has been on me for years about leaving the dryer sheets on the floor after I fold the laundry.  Dryer sheets have been and are destined to remain a hot topic in our family.  The third twist is I lost my job on Monday.
 

Now, on to the valuable life lesson.  Earlier this week I was doing my daily household chores and in the background I heard one of my dogs yelp.  I hurried through the house in search of the commotion (the dog turned out to be fine), but as I was dashing through the laundry room my barefoot stepped on a dryer sheet (the ones I always leave on the floor) and down I went like fat kid on a seesaw.  The dryer sheet skiing foot slid out in front making me do a partial split and I ended up landing on my opposite knee, while sitting down hard on my crumpled non-skiing foot.  After uttering string of words that would make a sailor blush, I was left with a skinned knee and badly bruised toe, but the pain in my lower back was totally gone!  I think may have received an unintentional chiropractic back adjustment.  This is how the karma of my life flows, the good always makes its way back around.  Even bad things can have a positive outcome.  So I’ll try to have faith and not sweat it when life takes the unexpected twist or turn.  Usually there is something better waiting to be discovered around the bend.

This past week has been one of introspect which led me to think about how dangerous those darn little sheets are (Scott and Rachel, you were right and I was wrong). 🙂  So I started searching the internet for similar stories.  To my surprise, I found out that many people complain about getting sick from dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners.  Go ahead and read the ingredients on your dryer sheets, if you can find them.  For some reason, dryer sheets seem to have escaped having to list their ingredients on the package.  Could it be the manufacturers are trying to hide something?   My own dryer sheet ingredients simply say: contains fabric-softening agents (cationic types) and perfume in a non-woven sheet

Here’s a list of just some of the dangerous chemicals found in dryer sheets and fabric softeners.

  • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant.
  • Ethanol: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.
  • Limonene: Known carcinogen.
  • 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

Some of the symptoms experienced from prolonged exposure to the types of chemicals found in dryer sheets include headaches, nausea, vomiting , dizziness, central nervous system disorders, blood pressure reduction, fatigue, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, difficulty concentrating and remembering, cancer, irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract, and liver damage.  This can’t help but make one wonder if dryer sheet usage may somehow be contributing to our current rise in Alzheimer’s disease?

Although I will miss their sweet scent and static control, I am going to make an effort to eliminate them from my household.  Here are some natural alternatives to using dryer sheets and fabric softeners:

  • Hang your clothes outside on a clothesline.  People today think that hanging clothes out to dry in the sun is old-fashioned, but it is actually a more effective way to kill germs than a dryer, does not produce static electricity and is much more environmentally safe.  Go green and put up a clothesline.

colorful clothesline

Click on image above for a great DIY clothesline project.

  • Wear natural fabrics to avoid static cling.  Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and lycra are prone to static.
  • For softness and to kill germs, add vinegar to the wash.  Just add ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse water of the laundry cycle.
  • Use an eco-friendly fabric softener.  There are a number of alternative “green” fabric softeners on the market made with natural fragrance or are fragrance-free.
  • Try dryer balls.  Many consumers report great results when they toss a couple of rubbery dryer balls in with each load in the dryer.
  • Remove clothes while still damp.  You can hang your clothes up damp to avoid static cling.
  • Toss in a dish cloth with a drop of essential oil or add a natural sachet of herbs, such as lavender or mint.  This may not eliminate static, but will add a nice fragrance to your clothes.

With all the natural alternatives, surely we can eliminate those chemically soaked sheets of destruction from our households and maybe in the process improve our overall health.

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29 responses »

  1. For a fragrance sensitve person like myself, dryer sheets have not been an item here for eons! And I don’t miss them. What we do is hang the laundry to dry on the line, then put in the dryer for just the last 8-10 min. It requires less energy but softens the clothes a bit so you are not wearing or drying yourself with blocks of wood. 🙂

  2. You are a very useful hippie Lori! Who woulda thot dryer sheets are so dangerous? I’m going to reblog this post too. And I’m really sorry you lost your job, but at least your back is healed.

  3. i use sheets occasionally for one reason. most washers hold moisture in there at all times. that moisture will lead a minor mold. that mold can stink up your clothes. however, if you use bleach about once a month, you won’t have that mold problem. i rarely use bleach, so i get that slight moldy smell in my clothes sometimes. so i could run an empty load of wash with some bleach once a month, or i can use dryer sheets. maybe i’ll try the bleach instead. i’m sure it’s cheaper.

  4. Wonderful. I’d forgotten about dryer sheets, but am now glad I haven’t been using them. Also glad to read that your back is better. Re: Rich writing about the mold in a washing machine, I learned the following from an appliance repairman; To kill the bacteria and the resulting smell that happens in washing machines, place 4 ounces of dishwashing detergent (yep, d/w soap) directly into the drum of the washing machine and run a hot water cycle, stopping it in the middle to soak for 30 minutes, then finish. There are enzymes in the d/w soap that kills the bacteria in the machine that bleach and laundry detergent can’t. I was told it can be liquid, powder or even those wee soap packets of d/w soap, doesn’t matter, and that this can be done about once a month or when you notice the smell.

  5. You lost your job? Oh, my gosh! What now? Thanks for the info on the dryer sheets. I had no idea. I never put them in the dryer with towels because they actually make them less absorbent, but I use them for everything else. I’m going to see if Trader Joe’s has them.

    • That’s a good idea, I’m sure Trader Joe’s has an all natural alternative. I’ve just switched to a all natural deodorant as well, after hearing about the heavy metal content in most major brands. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  6. My friend!

    There is a bit of “bad news” in this post, but I am jubilant over your back recovery! I believe you wrote this a couple days ago; how do you feel today? Pain still gone? Wow . . . He is SO good!

    Also, thank you for all the info regarding the dryer sheets. This is a hot and cold issue for me; on the one hand, I want to be rid of as many toxins, chemicals, etc… as possible, but then I get to this point where I think that everything has the potential of some calamitous outcome that may or may not lead to my death. It’s overwhelming to say the least. And, as I have found no alternative solutions for getting my clothing soft and fragrant, I just haven’t done all that much about it! While there is virtually no risk of slipping on a dryer sheet in my house (we have carpet everywhere, and the laundry is done is the garage), I think I will do a little research and see what I can come up with. Thank you for bringing a newfound awareness to the subject! This was so well written!

    Xoxox
    C

    • Yes, He IS so good! My back is great, no pain at all and I feel wonderful. Thank you so much for your support and concern. I always look forward to reading your comments. 🙂 You know the older I get, and as see my parent’s and other older loved ones struggle with mild dementia, I get terrified thinking about my own chances of developing a neurological disorder later in life. And are these disorders due to genetics, diet, random chance or environmental?

      You are so right though, it can become overwhelming if you think about it too much. Oh well, we do what we can and leave the rest up to fate.

      Xoxo

      Lori

  7. I don’t know what dryer sheets are, hardly use softnerers and never a dryer. I hang the clothes outside and hope it will not rain… Interesting and important post, Lori. There are too many unhealthy chemicals in our dayly life!

    • I agree, it’s getting very difficult to avoid all the unhealthy items in our environment, food, water etc. By the way, I love looking at all your beautiful photos. 🙂

  8. Such an informative post! I do use perfume-free sheets, but now, after reading your post, I’m really going to try do without. For a while I tried some sort of balls that you can toss in the dryer they help reduce the static (in a chemically free way) and I do think it worked, but for some reason I went back to the sheets (I can’t remember why now).

  9. Hi –
    Glad to read that your dryer sheet slippage worked to your advantage. I am reading your blog entry from the surgical waiting room while my mother has surgery on her knee, broken from slipping one of those drafted things!

    • Oh no, I am so sorry to hear that. Wishing your mother a successful surgery and a rapid pain free recovery.

      They really are dangerous in more ways than one and I have completely eliminated them from our home.

      Thanks for reading and blessings to you and your mother!

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