Recently someone told me that dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals which stick to clothing, remaining in contact with the wearer and then getting washed into the water when laundered. Our current box of sheets only lists as ingredients “softening agents (cationic type)” and “perfumes”, so I don’t know what’s in them, but here are some relevant articles at Grinning Planet, Grist, Green Living Tips, and News Target, plus the Wikipedia entry on fabric softeners.
I’ve never been a big fan of dryer sheets, but used them to control static electricity. A little googling turned up some suggested alternatives. The first one I tried was putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer; I tried this once (with three foil balls) and it didn’t completely eliminate the static. Two other suggestions were to leave static-prone items out of the dryer; and to dry the load incompletely, hanging it to finish. I don’t have much space so I plan to combine the two, drying the load partially, hanging the static-prone items, and finishing the rest in the dryer. Supposedly adding 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle will soften & eliminate static, but I’m holding off on that one.
Of course, it’s best to skip the dryer altogether when the weather’s warm enough. Clotheslines don’t use electricity or chemicals, don’t produce static electricity, and they make the clothes smell nice. Some neighborhood associations (the type more concerned with “property value” than community) ban clotheslines because they find them “unsightly”. What a narrow-minded, environmentally-destructive attitude! Hanging the wash is a totally homey, traditional American thing to do. Not only are these people indifferent to the Earth, but clearly they hate America.
[formerly at http://www.colintedford.com/downpower/2007/12/12/doing-the-laundry/]