There are many chemicals used in the making of dryer sheets. They are used to get the nice fresh scent or to expel static from a load of laundry. These types of chemicals are not healthy to be released in the air through our dryer vents, absorbed through our skin or exposed to our pets.
Here is a list of chemicals used in the making of fabric softener products, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS): benzyl acetate; benzyl alcohol; ethanol; limonene; A-terpineol; ethyl acetate; camphor; chloroform; linalool; and pentane. Some of these chemicals might cause conditions in humans such as pancreatic cancer, upper respiratory tract irritations and central nervous system disorders.
There is a popular-but-dangerous tip about using dryer sheets to remove the loose hair and static from our pets. This might not be a safe tip for pets. Dryer sheets do repel static because they contain cationic (used in the making of fragrances) and other chemicals that vary from product to product. But many pests will digest these dangerous chemicals through licking; cats are especially in danger of this.
Dryer sheets cause a film in clothes dryer vents; they can cause the heating unit to burn out or catch fire. The waxy film on dryer sheets can also coat the dryer lint filter. To check if this has happened in your dryer, simply place the lint filter screen under running water. If the water puddles on the filter instead of draining through, it is time to clean the filter with mild soap and a brush. This should be done twice a year to prevent damage to the dryer.
There are many healthy alternatives to commercial dryer sheets. Line drying laundry is an option; it is especially helpful for synthetic fabrics that are the real static culprits in the dryer. Vinegar and baking soda are natural fabric softeners; add 1/2 cup of either in the wash cycle. Do not mix with chlorine bleach as it will cause noxious fumes.
For added fragrance, fill a small drawstring cloth with dried aromatic herbs or flowers and add to the clothes in the dryer. Lavender is especially popular. Another method of safety with dryer fragrances is using a few drops of essential oils on a cloth and tossing into the dryer.
When considering dryer sheet safety, it is nice to know that there are also alternatives. Many companies are now producing healthier products that can be purchased online or at health-food stores.