How Dryer Sheets Work


Other Uses for Dryer Sheets
As one of its many off-label uses, some people use dryer sheets to remove dust.
As one of its many off-label uses, some people use dryer sheets to remove dust.
©iStockphoto.com/Dmitriy Yakovlev

Do a search online for dryer sheets, and you'll find just how popular they are for off-label uses. People have found dozens of ways to re-purpose dryer sheets, from scrubbing counters to removing dust. Most of these off-label uses are related to the dryer sheets' main purposes: reducing static, chemically softening clothes and producing a pleasant scent. Here are some examples:

  • Static related -- Dryer sheets have become popular for rubbing against dust-prone surfaces such window blinds. The sheets impart a positive electrical charge, which pushes away dust particles, preventing them from landing. This applies anywhere dust is involved; a dryer sheet in a vacuum bag, for instance, can keep dust from clogging the tubes.
  • Cleaning and scrubbing -- Some of the fabric softening and fragrance chemicals on dryer sheets can assist in cleaning. Try scrubbing dead bugs off your car with a dryer sheet, or throw one in with any paintbrushes you're cleaning -- some dryer sheets may use acetone, which is also common in paint thinners.
  • Scent and fragrance -- Although you might think dryer sheets smell good, household pests have the opposite opinion. Ants, bees and mice have been reported to avoid dryer sheets. You can also leave dryer sheets in musty places, such as old shoes or closets, to improve their odor.

You'll find plenty of other off-label uses, and you might even think up your own. Just remember that dryer sheets aren't appropriate for every use -- such as removing loose fur from your pet cat or dog, for instance. It might make sense, since the same method is sometimes used for removing lint, but doing this to your pet is bound to leave behind some chemicals, which it could easily get in its mouth and poison it.

Learn even more about the science behind dryer sheets and softening fabric by following the links below.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • American Conference of Governmental Hygienists. "Selected Chemicals Which Pose a Skin Absorption Hazard." North Carolina State University. 2005. (Accessed Oct. 27, 2009) http://www.ncsu.edu/ehs/www99/right/handsMan/lab/skin%20absorption.pdf
  • Beaty, William J. "What IS Static Electricity?" Science Hobbyist. 2005. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009) http://amasci.com/static/what_is_static.html
  • Gavigan, Christopher. "5 Secrets Conventional Cleaning Product Manufacturers Don't Want You to Know." The Huffington Post. April 29, 2009. (Accessed Nov. 18, 2009)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-gavigan/5-secrets-conventional-cl_b_191845.html
  • Hickey, Hannah. "Toxic chemicals found in common scented laundry products, air fresheners." University of Washington News. 7/23/2008. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009)http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=42872
  • Kendall, Julie. "Health Risks from Perfume: The Most Common Chemicals Found in Thirty-One Fragrance Products by a 1991 EPA Study." Immune Web. 1995. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009) http://www.immuneweb.org/articles/perfume.html
  • Kozen, Frances. "Liquid surfactant on dryer sheets coats fabric, eliminating cling." Cornell University -- Ask a Scientist. Feb. 8, 2006. (Accessed Nov. 18, 2009)http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/index.html?quid=1078
  • Krasicky, John. "Dry air makes static electricity more noticeable in the winter." Cornell University -- Ask a Scientist. Jan. 22, 2004. (Accessed Nov. 17, 2009)http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/index.html?quid=464
  • Main, Emily. "Virtuous Cycles: Laundry Detergents." National Geographic Green Guide. 4/30/2007. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009)http://www.thegreenguide.com/home-garden/cleaning/laundry-detergents
  • Steinemann, Anne C. "Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients." Environmental Impact Assessment Review. July 23, 2008. (Accessed Nov. 18, 2009)http://www.national-toxic-encephalopathy-foundation.org/undisclosed.pdf
  • Toedt, John; Darrell Koza; and Kathleen Van Cleef-Toedt. "Chemical composition of everyday products." Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn.: 2005. (Accessed Nov. 18, 2009)http://books.google.com/books?id=UnjD4aBm9ZcC&pg=PA22&dq=fabric+softener+ionic#v=onepage&q=&f=fale
  • Wang, Linda. "Dryer Sheets." Chemical & Engineering News. 4/14/2008. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009)http://pubs.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/86/8615sci2.html

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