About a year ago, I added dryer sheets to the long list of things around the house that worry me. Some urban legend or another probably found its way to my inbox and convinced me the teddy bear’s box of sweetly vanillaesque sheets would be the cause of a disastrous conflagration in the dungeon that is my laundry room. I found myself meticulously washing the lint screen with a soft toothbrush and Castile soap suds to dislodge any potential fire starting, fab-smelling lint and fuzzies lest we should burn like witches for our dependence upon lavender and moonbeams.
During that time, my friend Bebe turned me on to a fascinating idea: chemicals in my personal products, indeed all of our household products might be interrupting my endocrine system. Perfumes and petrochemicals might be the cause of all the allergies, rashes and headaches at our house! After doing some research you’re going to be hearing a lot about in these postings, I realized my zeal for a sterile but homey-smelling home might be the cause of many auto-immune health problems and sensitivities. That’s when I ditched the dryer sheets and opted for dryer balls instead (I also got a wooden dryer rack to cut back on dryer use - duh).
Dryer balls are nubby rubber balls that you toss into the dryer with your wet clothes. As the garments spin, dryer balls pummel the fabrics into soft submission, so the items dry faster and fluffier, saving wear and tear on the machine as well as on your threads. I find them to be particularly effective on towels, which are also more absorbent if they are not washed or dried with softener. You use less energy and actually get better results. I have seen them in a wide variety of stores for about $10. My grandma told me years ago I should dry things like comforters and down jackets with clean tennis balls, so I just want to kick myself for not thinking of inventing these first.
Aside from the ridiculous amount of trash generated by the damn things, the perfumes used in dryer sheets may – or may not be laden with carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde. Because “fragrances” are considered trade secrets, their ingredients don’t have to be disclosed on ingredient lists, and may actually read more like hazardous waste than what one would expect from baby/spring/summer/tropical freshness.
In an article debunking the myths of dryer safety, Consumer Reports maintains dryer sheets are safer to use than liquids on many frequently laundered household items.
“Avoid using liquid fabric softener on all-cotton clothing made of fleece, terry cloth, or velour. In our flammability tests, liquid fabric softener added to rinse water accelerated the burning speed of these fabrics. If you want a softener, use dryer sheets” the article suggests. For safety’s sake and for our environment I say get some balls instead ---for the laundry room, silly, the laundry room!