For years, gardeners have claimed that putting Bounce® fabric softener sheets in their pockets is an effective way to repel pests like mosquitoes and gnats. Any Internet search will uncover countless articles about the bug-repelling properties of Bounce®. Are these claims valid or simply folklore?
The authors of a new study say that until now, no quantitative data has existed to substantiate these claims, but their latest research has revealed a definitive answer: Bounce® sheets do indeed repel adult gnats.
In a report just published in HortScience, Kansas State University Department of Entomology professor Raymond Cloyd and colleagues discussed a series of five replicated experiments they conducted to ascertain whether Bounce® dryer sheets…repel fungus gnat adults under laboratory conditions. “In all five experiments, the mean proportion of fungus gnat adults collected in the sample compartments containing the dryer sheets were significantly fewer, ranging from 12% to 18% ,whereas the compartments without dryer sheets contained 33% to 48% of the fungus gnats released in the arena”, said Cloyd…
The research team also analyzed the volatile compounds in the dryer sheets using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. One of the major volatile compounds detected in Bounce® was linalool, a colorless monoterpene alcohol used by cosmetic and perfume companies for its flower-like odor. Linalool—present naturally in plants such as lavender, marjoram, and basil—has been shown to be toxic to a number of different mites and insects. The experiments also indicated high levels of the volatile compound beta-citronellol, found in plants including rose geranium, citronella, and lemon balm, and known for its ability to repel mosquitoes.
I realize these are essentially natural products used for one or another reason in the fabric softener – and they obviously succeed in repelling some small flying insects. Of course, citronella has been around over a half-century and though some folks focus in worrywart fashion about using it as a concentrated insect repellent, I’m not aware of any testing agencies that caution against its use. Particularly in dilute fashion in fabric softener.