You add a dryer sheet to your laundry to help eliminate static cling, but that’s not its intended purpose when putting it in the mailbox. This little trick actually works to help deter bees, wasps, hornets, and other nasty insects, preventing them from building nests and attacking unsuspecting mail carriers or folks retrieving their latest sweepstakes win. The concept is simple and effective, and this guide will explain why placing a dryer sheet in a mailbox makes perfect sense.
Certain insects would love to set up shop in a mailbox. In that nice, cozy, enclosed space, they’re protected from rain and unbothered by breezes. Mailboxes also frequently have gaps around their seams (particularly older models), which flying and crawling insects can easily access to get in and out without needing to use the door.
But which pests will move into a mailbox? Some fairly nasty ones, unfortunately: stinging insects like yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets, as well as spiders like black widows and brown recluses (depending on the region). Even ants may call a mailbox home.
If these insects feel territorial, they may attempt to sting or attack someone as they disturb the mailbox whether opening the door, adding or retrieving mail, or shutting the door again. A bite or a sting may be likely.
The concept is that dryer sheets work because they have strong scents. When it comes to the pest control industry, it’s well-known that some strong, natural odors can chase many types of bugs away. Plants like mint, citronella, and lavender are extremely fragrant, and this makes them a formidable barrier against many insects.
One of the dryer sheets’ main functions is to make laundry smell fresh, and they often do so by utilizing similar scents as the plants mentioned above. These plants contain a chemical called linalool. Because the ingredient is a natural pest repellent, many people believe that’s what makes dryer sheets effective in fending off insects. When enclosed in a mailbox, the scent of the dryer sheet intensifies. The hope is that any pests that fly or crawl up to an opening will get a whiff of the strong smell and immediately turn around.
Linalool is a proven pest-repelling chemical, and it’s common to find it in the most popular brands of bug sprays. For this reason, any dryer sheet that contains linalool stands a good chance of chasing away spiders and stinging insects. However, not all dryer sheets contain linalool, so shoppers should examine the ingredient list carefully. Bounce dryer sheets do contain linalool, making them a favorite among mail carriers and other folks looking for pest-deterring dryer sheets.
But keep in mind that “a good chance” does not always guarantee success. There hasn’t been any research that proves the dryer sheets are effective at repelling bugs.
If you notice your mailbox is particularly busy with pest activity, inserting a dryer sheet in the box may be smart before they build a nest and make it their home. In this case, the earlier the better.
However, if there is already a nest in the mailbox, putting a dryer sheet inside (or placing anything inside, for that matter) is a bad idea. If wasps feel threatened, they may attack with the entire force of their nest.
It’s better to think of a dryer sheet in the mailbox as a preventative measure rather than a solution to an existing issue. Start adding a dryer sheet to the mailbox in the spring and then stop once the weather cools in the fall.
There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how often to switch up the dryer sheet in the mailbox. However, the sheet will lose its potency over time. Factors like winds, moisture, heat, and other environmental conditions can impact how long a dryer sheet can last, and it might be better to replace one more often than not.
As a guideline, it’s a good idea to change the dryer sheet after any heat wave or bouts of extreme moisture. Otherwise, change it once every 10 to 14 days to ensure the scent is strong enough to keep any potential stinging or biting tenants from moving in.
While there may not be any hard research on the matter, it may be worth trying this science project on your own. And remember, if you find a dryer sheet in your mailbox, leave it there. Your mail carrier likely noticed something amiss, and they left that sheet behind to protect everyone who uses the mailbox—another reason to appreciate your friendly neighborhood mail carrier!