x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Green Queen: dryer sheets

Clean-smelling laundry can be achieved without dryer sheets, the compounds in which have been linked to health problems.

Hanging clothes to dry is an eco-friendly option, but it may not always be possible. Gorrioni / Getty Images / Gallo Images
Hanging clothes to dry is an eco-friendly option, but it may not always be possible. Gorrioni / Getty Images / Gallo Images

It used to be that the main worry with scented dryer sheets was missing one when folding the laundry, only to discover it clinging to your hem once at the office.

Dryer sheets have never been recyclable, although for a while their purported "other uses", such as insect repellent, dusting aid and soap scum remover, made that less of an issue. But evidence is mounting that the chemicals and compounds used to coat and produce these sheets are far more risky than the possibility that your clean laundry may not have a fun, floral smell.

The US-based Environmental Working Group - one of my go-to sites on such issues - recommends against them. Some of the compounds in these sheets have been linked to a variety of short- and long-term problems, everything from nausea to hormone disruption and cancer. And their artificial fragrances can irritate environmental sensitivities and aggravate asthma symptoms.

Also offensive are dryer balls, most fabric softeners and those spray-on "static" removers. Luckily static cling is not much of an issue in this climate, so the main concern is making sure that laundry still smells fresh.

Hanging clothes to dry is the most eco-friendly choice, but if that is not an option, there are alternatives. All-natural brands of dryer sheets are available, although they are hard to find in the UAE. I've seen do-it-yourselfers recommend specially sewn sachets filled with dried herbs and flowers, but that seems like a lot of work. Easier and cheaper options to try: add half a cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle or, if you must have a scent, toss a cloth spritzed with a mixture of water and a favourite essential oil into the dryer.