Is Putting Essential Oils In The Tumble Dryer Safe? (best tips)

Essential oils have grown in popularity in recent years and with good reason. They’re natural and cause less damage to the environment than many of the chemicals used to make the fragrances in detergents and fabric softeners. But is it safe to put essential oils in the tumble dryer?

The truth is, it’s not always 100% safe to use essential oils around any heat source, tumble dryers included. However, many people have, and do, use a few drops of essential oils added to wool dryer balls which are then put in the tumble dryer, which is usually fine to do.

For the full facts and how to safely use essential oils in your laundry, keep reading.

Why Is It Considered Unsafe To Put Essential Oils In A Tumble Dryer?

The reality is, it’s not safe to put anything that’s flammable in a tumble dryer. Essential oils are just that, oils. And oils are flammable, but what matters here is the flashpoint.

What Is Flashpoint?

The flashpoint is the temperature that the oil creates enough gas or vapour for it to become ignited by heat or a spark. This is different from the fire point. 

The flashpoint has a lower temperature and doesn’t always cause a lasting fire. 

Why Does The Flashpoint Matter When It Comes To Tumble Dryers?

The important factor here is the temperature the dryer achieves when drying clothes. The low heat setting of a typical tumble dryer is around 52 degrees C. Whereas a medium setting is around 58 degrees C and a high heat setting is around 63 degrees C.

Many essential oils have flashpoints that range between 39 C to 55 C. Many of these essential oils are considered to be the oils with fragrances that freshen laundry including;

  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Tangerine
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Fir
  • Frankincense
  • Juniper Berry
  • Rosemary
  • Spruce

Even though many of these essential oils have a flashpoint capable of causing a fire under the right conditions, many are regularly used in tumble dryers without any apparent ill effect. 

With that said, there have been fires which have been reported to have started by using essential oils in a tumble dryer. The main contributing factor seems to be the heat setting used when drying clothes.

As can be seen above, there’s less likelihood of the essential oils reaching a flashpoint if the dryer is operated at low temperatures. As only a few drops of essential oil is used, there’s less potential for any harm.

That doesn’t mean that essential oils cannot ignite at low temperatures, just that they’re unlikely to. What you need to consider is that as the clothes dry, they get closer to the flashpoint of the essential oil which increases the chances of them igniting.

Plus there’s also the very real possibility that the temperature settings on tumble dryers varies from appliance to appliance. Low heat on one model could well be hotter than the low heat setting on a similar model.

Unless you are 100% certain of the temperature of your tumble dryer on its low heat setting, maybe you might want to reconsider using any essential oils.

However, the flashpoint of paraffin is 47 C. Would you feel safe putting any item of clothing in the tumble dryer knowing it had paraffin on it? Bearing that in mind, many essential oils have flashpoints that fall into the same temperature range as paraffin.

Tumble Dryer

A Brief Word On Wool Dryer Balls

If you decide to use wool dryer balls in your tumble dryer and you want to add an essential oil, we would suggest in the interests of safety that you dilute the oil with the same amount of water. 

Using a 1:1 mixture halves the potential risks of reaching the flashpoint and causing a fire.

You should also wash the wool balls to eliminate a buildup of essential oil which could increase the risks of fire even further.

What About Fragrance Oils?

Fragrance oils are man made oils made to imitate a natural scented oil. They are made in laboratories and are not made by distillation or cold press methods.

Many fragrance oils can contain as many as 80 separate chemicals!

Fragrance oils are not natural products and are synthetically made. However, they’re still oils and will still have a flashpoint. This means you shouldn’t use fragrance oils in a tumble dryer either.

Safety When Handling Essential Oils

Essential oils have a classification of class 3 flammable liquids. Which means there have to be certain precautions exercised when transporting them. This includes transporting by air, sea or land.

If these products are not considered safe to transport without certain precautions, why would you assume they’re safe for use in the tumble dryer?

Then there’s the effects some essential oils can have on sensitive skin. If any undiluted essential oil comes into contact with your skin it should be washed off immediately with hot soapy water.

Many essential oils can be harmful to pets too so it’s always best practice to keep pets away from essential oils. 

While we’re on the subject of safety, we would also recommend always having a fire extinguisher to hand in the laundry, just in case.

Other Ways Of Using Essential Oils To Freshen Laundry

Essential Oil

If, after reading all of the above, you have decided that you don’t want to risk using essential oils in your tumble dryer, there are alternatives. These include;

Using Essential Oils In With The Wash

All you need to do is add 2 or 3 drops of your preferred essential oil into a measured dose of unscented detergent and pour into the dispenser on your washer. 

This will allow the fragrance to permeate the wash load without any risk of fire. This is because of the 14 to 20 gallons of water used in a typical washing machine cycle.

Adding Essential Oils To Homemade Fabric Softener

There are two ways to do this, 

  1. Using white vinegar
    Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. Then add this in the fabric softener dispenser (usually the dispenser with a flower symbol).
  2. Using bicarbonate of soda
    This method entails adding a few drops of essential oil to 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda. This is added to the wash and softens the clothes whilst leaving them smelling fresh and fragrant.

Add Essential Oils To A Homemade Fabric Spray

If you’re not sure about adding essential oils to even the washing machine, this will be the perfect solution. Just add 10 drops of essential oil into 6 tablespoons of distilled water and 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spritz your clothes either just prior to ironing or just before you wear them.

Using Essential Oil In A Steam Iron

Simply add 2 or 3 drops of your preferred essential oil into the water tank on your steam iron. Each steam spray will infuse your laundry with the fragrance of the essential oil.

Adding Essential Oils To Scented Drawer Sachets

To keep clothes smelling fresh whilst in the cupboard, all you need to do is add a few drops of essential oil onto a small fabric sachet and leave it in the drawer. These work just as well if hung inside a wardrobe too.

Is It Safe To Use Essential Oils In A Tumble Dryer?

Technically, it could be considered dangerous to use essential oils in a tumble dryer. However, many people do put essential oil on wool dryer balls which are then used in the dryer without any ill effect.

Our take on it is that if you decide to use essential oils on wool dryer balls, use no more than 1 or 2 drops diluted in water at a 1:1 ratio per ball and only run the dryer at the lowest heat setting, it should be perfectly safe. However, essential oils are flammable if exposed to the right temperature and could potentially catch fire in a hot tumble dryer.

It’s worth remembering that many essential oils have a flashpoint of between 38 to 54 C whilst a typical dryer runs at around 57 to 60 C. This means it is entirely possible for a fire to start in the dryer.

Now we have shown you so many other ways to get your laundry smelling fresh using essential oils. Maybe you don’t need to use them in the dryer.

SEE ALSO: Do Tennis Balls Really Help In The Tumble Dryer?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to use essential oils in the dryer?

Due to the flashpoint (the point where a substance can burst into flames) of many essential oils, it’s not 100% safe to use them in a dryer. The typical flashpoint of essential oils ranges from  38 to 54 C whilst a typical dryer runs at around 57 to 60 C. This gives the potential for a fire to ignite.

Are essential oils flammable in the dryer?

Due to the fact that all essential oils are flammable and that dryers can run pretty hot, there’s a distinct possibility of some essential oils igniting in the dryer.

How do you add essential oils to a dryer?

To help prevent any accidents it is best to add 1 or 2 drops of essential oil to a wool dryer ball and run the dryer on the no heat or low heat setting only.

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