Dear SafeMama: Dryer Sheets and Vaseline

By Kristie Turck •  Published 08/27/08 •  3 min read

Q: I have been reading about how fragrances used in a lot of products (candles, air fresheners, etc) are toxic.  I was wondering about the fragrance in dryer sheets.  Are scented dryer sheets safe to use?  Should we be using unscented ones, or should we be using something else all together?

Scented and unscented dryer sheets, and fabric softeners often contain a toxic cocktail of chemicals.  It sounds alarmist to say that but unless you’ve read over a list of possible chemicals contained in them, you may not be aware of the contact and respiratory dangers you could be exposing yourself to.  This short article in the Associated Press covers a quick list of chemicals they contain.

Additionally, the sheet itself is yet another thing sitting in a landfill while the chemicals are one more thing helping ruin the environment.  There are better choices for commercial dryer sheets if you must use them.  Some are more fragrant than others so if you have skin allergies or sensitivities then avoiding them all together is wise.

Mrs Meyers Dryer Sheets, Shaklee Dryer Sheets (recyclable!), and Method (these aren’t the BEST but are better) are a few.

SafeMama Tips for less toxic/ eco-friendly laundry:

Q: I have read mixed messages on if Vaseline (petroleum jelly) is safe to use on babies for diapering.  On the Skin Deep website, it says that it has a rating of 0 (no hazard), but I have also read many other places that refined petroleum is not safe.  Can you help clear this issue up?

Petroleum jelly has been used on infants and adults for many years and is still widely used and recommended by doctors and hospitals.  Petroleum jelly is a semi-solid mix of hydrocarbons which was discovered at oil rigs when it was causing the rigs to malfunction.  It started being used for cuts ans scrapes to protect them from dirt and infection.  While it has a low hazard score of 0, that’s a sketchy assessment and should be taken with a grain of salt.  The popular form of petroleum jelly, usually purchased as Vaseline, is a refined version of pure petrolatum.  The refining process is resource intense and can leave the refined version contaminated with other things… and there isn’t any way of knowing whats in there.  Petrolatum’s only known concern is possible contamination from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are linked to cancer risks.  But it’s a toss up whether the tub of Vaseline you buy at CVS contains it or not.  On top of that, its not a renewable resource.

I would leave it up to every parents discretion on deciding to use it or not.  When I do need something like Vaseline I opt for Un-Petroleum Jelly which works just as well and didn’t come from an oil rig.