Still tossing in a dryer sheet every time you do your laundry? It might be time to leave that old habit behind.
You may have been using dryer sheets to soften, add fragrance, or remove static from your clothing. But what you probably don’t realize is that those sheets are doing more harm than good to your clothes, your dryer, and, most important, the environment.
First, dryer sheets don’t actually make your clothes any softer, although it might feel that way, said Patric Richardson of the Laundry Evangelist. The sheets are coated with a chemical solution that transfers to your garments when heated up during the dry cycle.
“It’s the coating that goes on fabric that feels soft,” said Richardson, the author of Laundry Love. “It’s the equivalent of putting a thick layer of lotion on your hand. Your skin isn’t actually softer, it just feels softer.”
Over time, that residue accumulates on your clothes. As lingerie expert Cora Harrington said in a Twitter thread in 2021, dryer sheets are “at best, absolutely useless” and, at most, “do actual damage to your clothes.”
“They work by putting a film of lipids and fragrances on your garments, which builds up over time and can contribute to clothing and towels smelling ‘musty’ or ‘stale’ even after they’ve been washed and dried,” Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie, told HuffPost via email.
“And if you share a machine, such as by using a laundromat — which I do — those lipids and fragrances can affect everyone else’s garments well.” (Plus, the scents and other ingredients in dryer sheets can be irritating to some people with asthma, allergies, migraines, or sensitive skin.)
This chemical coating can affect the properties of certain fabrics, too, said Sumit Mandal, an Oklahoma State University assistant professor who specializes in textile science. For example, it can make towels less absorbent, make your athletic gear less moisture-wicking, and reduce the flame resistance of some children’s sleepwear.
That film also builds up in your dryer, which can affect the appliance’s effectiveness over time, Richardson said. One example: The residue may prevent the electronic moisture sensor in the drum from working correctly. This can lead to over-drying and increase your utility bill, according to the Spruce. And be warned that the buildup can also coat the mesh of the lint catcher, making it a potential safety concern down the road.
Dryer sheets aren’t just a waste of money; they’re wasteful, too.
“They’re litter,” said Harrington, noting they can’t be reused and don’t decompose easily. “When you consider that many people use at least one dryer sheet — and sometimes much more — that’s a lot of trash.”