Industry Insights

Could Essential Oils Replace Dryer Sheets?

Could Essential Oils Replace Dryer Sheets?

Dryer sheets have been around since the 1960s when Procter & Gamble quickly picked up the patent from a chemist and then commercialized Bounce as the first major dryer sheet brand. With both softening and scent boosting benefits, dryer sheets are an easy and practical way to make your clothes fresher. Innovation around dryer sheets has not kept up with other areas of fabric care over the past sixty years. 

Overall, essential oils peaked in consumer interest between 2017-2018. Since then, the oils dropped to levels lower than they were in 2015 in consumer search, reviews, and social media mentions.

search for essential oils graph

Despite this drop, essential oils are demonstrating promise in new areas. Previously, the oils were most commonly inhaled for therapeutic benefits and even applied to skin. But recently, the plant-based, concentrated hydrophobic liquid has emerged as a sustainable, healthy alternative to chemical-based household care products.

Using Simporter’s White Space AI tool, our team discovered Essential Oils as a high potential attribute for future innovation in the liquid fabric softener category. With a predicted demand score of 95 out of 100 and a low competition score of around 15 out of 100, essential oils represent a promising area for future innovation where consumers are actively searching for healthier alternatives than traditional chemical-based liquid softeners. It is important to keep in mind that adding oils directly to your clothes would probably stain them. However, including essential oils in future product innovation - even in a different form - may appeal to consumers that actively search to add them in their fabric drying routine.

demand score & lifecycle of attributes graph


When we diving into the data, we discovered consumers are particularly fascinated by essential oils’ high efficiency, scent control, and sustainability. 

In products like Woolzies Laundry Collection, consumers associate essential oils as a sustainable alternative to traditional dryer sheets. Many people associate traditional dryer sheets with chemical toxicity and environmental waste, claiming that their switch to essential oils helps them do their laundry with “less waste and fewer chemicals” and even “save the environment from dryer sheets.” 

Brands should consider including environmental and eco-friendly benefits in future innovations that contain essential oils, especially as sustainability topics continue to grow in consumer minds.

premium selection of essential oil blends


Consumers are also quite pleased with the high efficiency and longevity of essential oils. This is a highly interesting topic because dryer sheets are traditionally very efficient, despite their one time use. To use a dryer sheet, you just need to toss it into a machine and your clothes come out softly with a fresh scent. 

Still, consumers are closely drawn to essential oil’s high efficiency that only requires a few drops per load of laundry, often dropping onto a laundry ball or into a softener liquid. Typically, essential oils come in multi-packs that range from 3-12 bottles of 10ml. With that in mind, consumers claim that “one bottle can last a few months,” meaning a multi-pack of essential oils can potentially last years and replace “pricey, chemical-filled items such as fabric softeners & laundry beads.”

Scent Control

One unique message that fabric care brands can promote with essential oils is that they allow a consumer to control that amount of fragrance. While theoretically, a consumer could cut a dryer sheet in half - doing so is not user friendly. Traditionally, dryer sheets come as one-size-fits-all and if a consumer wants extra scent, they add more dryer sheets.

Since consumers have to manually “drop in” the oils into their laundry, there’s an increased sense of control over their scent output with consumers writing, “I could control the amount of fragrance that I wanted my clothing to have” and “Because you add the scents, you can control how strong a fragrance you want to add. It works like a charm.”

Closing Remarks

Unlike other laundry categories, the dryer sheet subcategory has mostly remained the same across the past sixty years. For major brands looking to get ahead of their competition, creating products that leverage the scent control, high efficiency, and sustainability benefits of essential oils as an alternative to traditional dryer sheets can be a large opportunity over the next few years.

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