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Using Essential Oils In The Dryer: Good Idea Or Recipe For Disaster?

Paper Model of a Washing Machine on a Minimal Blue Background
Image by Cactus Creative Studio / Stocksy
September 22, 2020

The only thing better than opening a dryer and taking out clean, warm clothes? Taking out clothes that are warm, clean, and smell like a field of lavender in the French countryside.

Adding essential oils to the dryer is a quick way to leave clothes, sheets, and towels with a fresh scent that lingers. But, like all essential oil applications, this one should be carried through with a bit of caution.

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Why you should check on an oil's flash point before putting it in the dryer.

Different essential oils have different flash points. The flash point is the temperature at which enough of that oil has vaporized into the air that it could ignite. Once oils are exposed to temperatures that exceed this flash point, they become a potential fire hazard. This is why it's important to check on the flash point of any oil before popping it directly into a hot machine.

"The average dryer gets up to about 135 degrees Fahrenheit, so I use oils that have flash points closer to 200 degrees," essential oil aficionado Sarah Villafranco, M.D., says as a general rule of thumb.

Some of her favorite oils for the dryer that have flash points above 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius) include:

  • Sandalwood
  • Palmarosa
  • Geranium
  • Cedarwood
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Oils that have low flash points (closer to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) and should stay away from laundry day include:

  • The mint family (peppermint, spearmint)
  • The citrus family (lemon, lime, bergamot, wild orange)
  • Eucalyptus

A few more things to keep in mind when using EOs in the dryer.

Once you have your oil picked out, you'll want to use it sparingly as an extra safety precaution. Luckily, a little oil tends to go a long way, so it shouldn't take more than two to three drops to leave your laundry smelling lush. Villafranco recommends adding them to a reusable wool dryer ball instead of dropping them directly into your machine. This should help distribute the smell nicely. (Bonus: Wool dryer balls are a more eco-friendly alternative to single-use dryer sheets.)

"It's very important to use high-quality essential oils because if they've been adulterated, your flash point information won't be accurate," Villafranco adds. This essential oil beginner's guide will give you a good sense of what to look out for on the bottle to make sure you're getting a quality product.

Finally, remember that some oils can cause irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. In the small chance that your clothes leave behind rashes after being washed with essential oils, you'll want to go back to an unscented routine.

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The bottom line.

Before drying your clothes with essential oils, you'll want to check on that oil's flash point and ensure that it's lower than the temperature of your machine. Limiting the amount of oils you use to a few drops will also reduce the likelihood of any aromatic accidents.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.