The scented products we put in our washers and dryers are coming out of the dryer vents and it’s not good news for us or for the environment. According to a study led by Anne Steinemann at the University of Washington, fragranced laundry products lead to the venting of over 25 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which are highly toxic.
The researchers used two different residential washer/dryer units, and thoroughly cleaned them out with vinegar and repeated rinse cycles. They then loaded the units with pre-rinsed new organic cotton towels and ran each through three types of cycles: with no products, with scented detergent, and with both scented detergent and scented dryer sheets. Air quality measurements were taken inside the dryer vent opening. As I said, the news was not good.
Among the VOCs emitted from the scented loads were seven hazardous air pollutants, including acetaldehyde and benzene, both carcinogens with no safe limit. This extremely limited study did not examine different types of fragrances or products (dryer sheets versus liquid fabric softener, for example). However, in the interim, Steinemann recommends choosing unscented products wherever possible.