Are Dryer Sheets Bad for the Environment?

Arguably, you need dryer sheets to reduce static in your clothes. There is no doubt that the chemicals in this material are excellent at softening laundry and giving it a great aroma. They comprise softeners, fragrances, and moisture and can be used in applications that are not laundry-related. 

There is no doubt that dryer sheets make life easier, but we are here to discuss the environmental impacts of this cellulose or polyester material. Are dryer sheets necessary? What to use instead of dryer sheets? Are these questions on your mind? Stick around, and you will find the answers! 

Why are Dryer Sheets Bad for the Environment? 

It depends on who you ask, but there are a couple of reasons dryer sheets are bad for the environment. However, the primary reason, which everyone will agree with, is that it is a single-use item. Single-use items are the bane of sustainability – once used, that is the end. 

When dealing with a single-use item, there are many downsides. The primary one is that we only use them once and throw them out. This is a problem when considering the resources and energy that go into production.

But it gets even worse when the item in question leaves detrimental effects on the environment during the disposal process, most often because it is either not recyclable or biodegradable and does not break down fast. 

Dryer sheets are bad for the environment because you cannot recycle them. They are made from cellulose or polyester, and both materials, especially polyester, cannot easily be recycled because of the chemicals they contain. 

When it comes to recycling, you must take care before adding any material to the recycling bin to avoid corrupting other materials and making them unfit for reuse. 

Now, here comes the downer with using dryer sheets. Since they are single-use items, they should be thrown in the trash after use. 

If they are made from polyester, that spells trouble for the environment because this material does not break down. Polyester is a petroleum product, much like plastics. And the detrimental effects of plastic are well-known by all and sundry,

But in case you are unaware, a material like polyester never breaks down finally. It leaves residues called microplastics in the environment, which is bad for you and biodiversity. Because polyester does not break down fast or entirely, it can poison the ecosystem during the process. 

And get this – it may take between twenty to seven hundred years for polyester to degrade finally! 

Dryer sheets contain chemicals that soften your clothes, remove static, and give them an appealing smell. However, these chemical components are bad for the ecosystem and animals that come in contact with it before it dissipates. 

Polyester dryer sheets are bad for the environment because they don’t biodegrade fast, and the process leaves detrimental remnants behind. 

In contrast, cellulose dryer sheets may break down faster because they are made from bioproducts. But again, it is scarce to come across dryer sheets containing environmentally friendly chemicals. Sorry, but that would perhaps defeat the purpose of using them in the first place. 

In the right environment, cellulose will break down, but that is not the problem. 

If you have looked through the ingredients on the box of your dryer sheets, you will notice some vagueness in the manufacturing description. However, one certainty proves why environmentally friendly consumers should not use dryer sheets. 

They contain volatile organic compounds or VOCs, and the lack of regulation around dryer sheets makes their use dangerous to you and the ecosystem at large. 

In a nutshell, dryer sheets are bad for the environment because they are not sustainable or recyclable and contain volatile compounds. 


Are Dryer Sheets Necessary? 

No, dryer sheets are not necessary. And considering the effects they have on the environment and even your clothing, you are likely better off without them. 

The first dryer sheets were created in 1975, and doing laundry without them has seemed like an impossible feat for many since then. If you love static-free clothing, you will agree to this. 

In addition, dryer sheets soften your clothes and make them smell great, but at what cost? By now, you likely know that dryer sheets are not suitable for the environment, so are they really necessary? Can you do without them? 

Well, believe it, you can! Before the first sheets were released for public sale and use, best believe that people wore static-free clothing. It was also possible to do your laundry in a manner that left the loads smelling great and feeling soft.

Dryer sheets are not suitable for some categories of clothing. For instance, you cannot use them for flame-resistant fabrics because they reduce the efficacy of thermal protection. And as much as you would like fluffier or softer towels, fabric softener sheets, as dryer sheets are also called, will ruin your towel and reduce the absorbent capacity.

Some other clothing categories shouldn’t come in contact with l dryer sheets, so what would you do in those cases? 

You can keep reading for alternatives which we will consider in the subsequent section. But if those outfits can do without dryer sheets, your entire wardrobe can. Considering the negative impacts of using this item, the sacrifice is worth it. 

Dryer sheets contain chemicals that are not good for you or the environment, even though you may not notice the effects of the former unless you have sensitive skin, but that does not mean they are non-existent. 

On the other hand, not using dryer sheets means you are doing your part for the environment and biodiversity. The chemicals in dryer sheets are unknown, but the fragrances and softeners can be harsh and harmful to your skin

It is also worth mentioning that dryer sheets are made from a synthetic polymer, or plastic, as you may be familiar with. Not only is it cancer-causing, but it is also bad for the environment. 

You see, synthetic polymers are notorious for their inability to decompose properly. And if they do break down, little pieces of them will be left behind. 

But that is not the scariest part. These particles are called microplastics, the latest ills in the manufacturing world. They can also spread like wildfire and have been found in water bodies, the atmosphere, and the respiratory system of living creatures. 

Believe it, microplastics or leftover pieces of fabric shouldn’t be in your drinking water, food, and the air you breathe in, but they are present there. The effects may not show up now, but if they continue compounding, that is terrible for the system. 

What to Use Instead of Dryer Sheets? 

If you have decided to ditch dryer sheets, you are making a good decision. But even better, you have many alternatives that will make a choice worth it. Consider them: 

Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are an excellent alternative to dryer sheets because they have fewer chemicals. If you purchase eco-friendly options, that is even better for the environment. Products made from are environmentally sustainable and friendly because wool is organic. This means it will decompose when you compost it. 

And if it somehow finds its way into the ecosystem, perhaps after throwing it in the trash can where it ends in a landfill, no toxic chemicals are leeched into the environment. 

And get this – they are more effective, last longer, and do not contain carcinogens. 

The best part is that dryer balls defeat the single-use problem. You can use them almost limitlessly. They are just as effective at softening your clothes, reducing static through their ability to control humidity, and making laundry fluffier. 

Dryer balls can also control wrinkles in clothing. Furthermore, if you want your clothes to retain a wonderful smell despite using dryer balls, add a few drops of essential oils to the balls before throwing them in the dryer. 

Natural Remedies 

Vinegar is one of the natural remedies you can turn to when you want to quit dryer sheets. You can use white distilled vinegar to improve the fragrance, soften your clothes, and control static. And all you need to do is add the right amount to your laundry water, and you are good to go. 

Air Drying 

It may seem like an archaic way to remove moisture from your clothes but using the conventional clothesline can help you reduce static, prevent your laundry from wrinkling, and maintain the fluffy feeling we all love. 

And you may not know this, but air drying your clothes extends their lifespan. This is because you spare them the trouble and trauma of tumbling around in a dryer. 

Another benefit of ditching dryer sheets and air drying your laundry is that it helps you save energy. That’s right. If you have been looking to cut back on your electricity bill, using the dryer less is one way to do it. Get this – a dryer is one of the highest electricity consumers among home appliances. 


Dryer sheets may seem like an indispensable part of doing your laundry, but their effects are not suitable for the environment. In some cases, they cause allergic reactions in users and may even result in defeating the purpose of the fabrics. 

Share on:

About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.