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Inspired by another recent question about dryer sheets:

According to the retailers of purecosheet, these reusable dryer sheets can make your fabrics "soft and static free" for hundreds of loads.

They claim their fabrics are "chemical free", which is, of course, absurd to anyone who paid attention in high school science, but the word "chemical" has long meant something else to marketers.

They claim the way it works:

a static charge builds up when two dissimilar materials are rubbed together, and a typical household dryer load is made up of a lot of different kinds of fabrics. the friction between these fabrics causes electrons to be transferred from one material to the other. with this transference, some surfaces get positively charged and others get negatively charged, and they attract one another. that attraction is static cling. the more rubbing, the more the electrons move, and the larger the static charge that builds up - sometimes as much as 12,000 volts worth.

disposable dryer sheets are impregnated with a waxy, chemical mixture. The heat from the dryer melts this deposit and leaves a residue all over your clothes and your dryer. this residue "lubricates" your clothing so that cling can't build up.

instead of leaving a chemical residue all over your clothing and your machine, purecosheets act like antennas - conducting, equalizing and removing any potential static charge in your dryer load. we get rid of the static and keep your family's fabrics clean, fresh and natural.

You'll find these claims (with the same capitalisation) here.

Sounds to me like someone has worked out how to apply the placebo effect in the laundry. Is there any plausible mechanism that would allow these sheets to work?

  • only thing I can think of working is if a conductive metal is woven into the sheet (like the fabric of a faraday suit) to ground the static to the drum and the other fabrics in it – ratchet freak Oct 12 '11 at 8:48
  • @ratchetfreak, why would that be any more successful than repeatedly rubbing the clothes against the (presumably metal) drum to begin with? – Oddthinking Oct 12 '11 at 12:02
  • more contact area to the fabrics and and shorting the charge to an opposite charge (other piece of clothing) so the charge isn't likely to be maintained throughout the drying cycle. and the drum may not be a conductor but the sheet will then still be able to short the charge between clothing items – ratchet freak Oct 12 '11 at 14:17
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    "Chemical free"? That's a neat trick! How do you package a vacuum? That's some low overhead. I want in on that racket. – JasonR Oct 12 '11 at 14:20
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    @Brightblades, I fear we lost the fight with marketers over the term chemical-free when the first chemical-free chemistry set was sold. – Oddthinking Oct 12 '11 at 15:51

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