Dryer Sheets

The Best Eco-Friendly Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets were made to reduce the clinging together of items, soften them up to the touch, and infuse a pleasant smell. Today, folks aren’t only using these sheets in the dryer, but they’re also using them as dusters or polishers, to keep bugs away, or to add a bit of fragrance to a travel suitcase or gym bag. In 2021, the dryer sheet market was valued at $12 billion USD, and over the next ten years, it is expected to reach $19 billion USD.


Navigating the least environmentally harmful and the healthiest way to purchase dryer sheets can be really difficult due to super limited transparency. Here’s the gist: opt for fragrance-free sheets to eliminate a concoction of undisclosed chemicals. Most dryer sheets are made of non-recyclable and energy-intensive polyester, so if it’s an option, choose a non-polyester pulp that will offer more disposal options when you’re done using it. Alternatively, options like wool dryer balls may be a solution if you’re looking to ditch sheets altogether.


Sheet Material


The vast majority of commercial dryer sheets are made of polyester - a synthetic polymer that’s derived from non-renewable petroleum, aka crude oil. That means it’s directly tied to the fossil fuel industry which, as we know, is a massive contributor to climate change. Creating approximately two pounds of polyester requires 35 kWh of energy and 31 lbs of CO2, equivalent to driving more than 37 miles in a car, making it a high-impact material to produce. 

Because dryer sheets are only intended for a single use before disposal, the emissions released from extracting and transporting the petroleum needed to make the polyester are too great to be offset during the rest of the sheet’s life cycle. This differs from, say, a durable polyester winter coat with a long use phase and opportunities to mend and refurbish. With dryer sheets, it’s a one-and-done situation where you get very little “bang” for your environmental “buck”. 

Sheet Coating

If you’ve touched a dryer sheet, you’ve probably noticed the slightly tacky feeling it leaves on your fingers. That’s the softening agent, or surfactant, that coats the fabric. Once it reaches a melting point in the dryer, the softener transfers onto the clothing giving them a smooth feeling when the cycle’s complete. Here are a few key ingredients that make up the coating on dryer sheets:

Dipalmethyl hydroxyethylammoinum methosulfate 

Dipalmethyl hydroxyethylammoinum methosulfate is a tough ingredient to be knowledgeable about since very few studies have been done on it and easily understandable and accessible public information is scarce. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes that it’s an asthmagen (a substance that can cause asthma), can cause respiratory, developmental, and reproductive damage, and is toxic to aquatic life. Therefore, products that are EWG verified cannot contain this chemical. More on that in the Certification section below.

Stearic Acid

A fatty acid component also acts as a softener and is usually stearic acid. It’s classified as an irritant, although EWG scores it as low risk for allergies and toxicity. An important note for vegans: stearic acid is primarily derived from rendered fat of farm and domestic animals, so technically, it’s considered a substance of animal origin.


Montmorillonite, better known as bentonite clay, is a natural clay mineral. While generally considered safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require pre-market approval of cosmetic ingredients, so ingredient transparency when it comes to these products - including ‘natural' ones - is pretty darn murky. From what we can tell, if quality can be guaranteed, bentonite is harmless. However, the FDA may issue an advisory when a product is found to have surpassed dangerous ingredient thresholds, which is what happened in 2016 when bentonite clay products were found to have elevated levels of lead.


Let’s talk about the “F” word. Sometimes, the highest concentration of chemicals in a product comes from fragrances. When a label simply lists “perfume” or “fragrance” there can be dozens of chemicals behind it. Nailing down a nice fragrance is a competitive business, so brands usually won’t disclose their formula (since the FDA doesn’t enforce it), making it hard for folks to really understand what’s touching their skin or being inhaled. 

While many people aren’t bothered by fragrance, it can cause allergic reactions, migraines, asthma, and contact dermatitis in more sensitive or allergy-prone populations. One study analyzing endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products found concentrations of synthetic fragrance chemicals including bucinal, HHCB, methyl ionone, AHTN (acetyl hexamethyl tetralin), isobornyl acetate, and phenethyl alcohol in a composite dryer sheet sample. Another study noted that AHTN, when exposed to a single large dose, caused liver toxicity in animals. Similar but less prominent effects were seen with HHCB. Both of these fragrances are synthetic musk compounds known to bioaccumulate in human tissue and are sometimes even present in breast milk.

Synthetic fragrances are a mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), organic compounds that have high vapor pressure at room temperature. They can mix with other pollutants in the air and form new compounds that are often more irritating or allergenic than the original substance, causing a reduction in air quality within homes.

Our M.O.? Go fragrance-free or opt for essential oils derived from plants.


Typical dryer sheets are not recyclable or compostable. A few tips? Cut them in half so you’re only using one sheet every two dryer loads which will help slow down consumption and make the product last longer. After the dryer, the sheets retain some of their fragrance and anti-static properties so use them as dusters to tidy up other areas around the home to reduce the use of paper towels or other spray cleaners. Some brands make dryer sheets that are compostable in municipal or industrial facilities, meaning they only break down in specific controlled environments. So, in order for them to properly be composted, you’d need to have access to industrial composting.

Another option to reduce dryer sheet waste is to opt for a reusable option, like wool dryer balls, instead.


When we’re in a bind or overwhelmed by greenwashy-messaging, certifications can help us make choices that keep the environment and social good in mind. Here are some certifications and standards to look out for on dryer sheets.

EWG Verified Certification

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Environmental Working Group has created a database that aims to be the gold standard in rating personal care and cleaning products based on their ingredients, ensuring products are free from chemicals of concern. Look for the EWG logo to make sure you’re avoiding those pesky ingredients.

EPA Safer Choice

EPA Safer Choice

The EPA Safer Choice label indicates that the chemicals in a product have been reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency to meet strict safety criteria for both human and environmental health. The EPA also tests the quality of these products to ensure that they perform as well as conventional products.

Peta Cruelty Free Badge

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals

Brands that sign on with PETA pledge they do not, and will not in the future, test ingredients or finished products on animals.


The cleaning product and “cosmetic” (aka fragrance) industry has super limited transparency. Always keep an eye out for third-party certifications that can keep us on the right track when it comes to disclosure and quality standards for potentially harmful chemicals. When it comes to fragrances, the devil is in the details - or lack thereof. Remember that “fragrance” is a catch-all term for many other ingredients. Conventional polyester dryer sheets aren’t recyclable, so reusing them or choosing a reusable alternative will help cut down on excess waste.


What is the most sustainable dryer sheet?

Products labeled ‘sustainable’ or ‘eco-friendly’ are not an indication of the safety of the product, and these should still be held to the same rigor and standards as all other products. If dryer sheets are part of your laundry process, check out our Top Products page to browse what we consider to be the best options.

Are there alternatives to the standard dryer sheet?

There are! If you still want soft, static-free clothes, we totally hear you. In lieu of dryer sheets, consider wool dryer balls that serve the same purpose. Not to mention they’re reusable, and depending on how often you do laundry (no judgment…), they can last years flopping around thousands of laundry cycles. Since wool dryer balls require, well - wool, and sometimes other stuff, they too have an impact. But since the usable life of a wool dryer ball significantly outlasts a single-use dryer sheet, you’ll have the opportunity to offset the impact of the purchase. And guess what? We’ve rated those for you too.