If you rely on your tumble dryer, then you likely have a stack of dryer sheets nearby. But, according to experts, they might not be the best thing to be adding to your laundry loads.
Why have dryer sheets become one of many things you shouldn’t put in a tumble dryer? Kate Hanks, washer experience specialist at Hampr (opens in new tab) says, ‘traditional dryer sheets have long been the industry standard choice, however, we are now learning just how harmful they can be to not only our clothing but our dryers and even our environment.’
Here, we break down four dryer sheet alternatives – and the last one may surprise you!
What to use instead of dryer sheets
‘Users typically love dryer sheets for the scented fragrance that they leave on clothing, however, the chemicals that make up that very fragrance are what coat the inside of the dryer and, over time, can disrupt the internal mechanisms that allow the dryer to function properly,’ explains Kate Hanks of Hampr.
‘Dryer sheets are also shown to reduce the absorbency of towels and break down the fire-resistant materials in children's pajamas. And they create unnecessary waste for our landfills and emit potentially harmful chemicals into the air. In short, dryer sheets just aren’t as great as we once thought they were.’
Kate is a 'Washr' specialist for Hampr, making her an expert in all things washing and laundry.
1. Wool dryer balls
The most common dryer sheet alternative is wool dryer balls, readily available online at Amazon (opens in new tab).
‘Made from 100% sheep wool, these dryer balls naturally soften your laundry without the use of synthetics or chemicals in dryer sheets – making them a perfect fit for those with sensitive skin,’ explains Ryan McKenzie, co-founder of Tru Earth (opens in new tab). ‘Wool dryer balls also help improve airflow in the dryer while absorbing moisture, shortening drying time which results in less energy used and cutting energy bills.
‘Using dryer balls also prevents heavy items from getting scrunched up and tangled, helping your clothes dry more evenly,’ Ryan continues. ‘They also can be re-used hundreds of times, continuously helping prevent static-cling, as well as soften and fluff towels, your clothing, sheets, blankets, and more.
‘With dryer balls, you’re able to stop using synthetic dryer sheets that are bad for our planet, can harm your skin, and leave a chemical residue on your clothes and dryer.’
Ryan began Tru Earth in a bid to improve his children's futures by limiting the use of single use plastics and help other go sustainable. His goal is to help beat skepticism around eco-friendly products.
2. Silicone dryer balls
‘A similar alternative to wool dryer balls are silicone dryer balls,’ continues Kate Hanks, washing specialist at Hampr. ‘These have all of the same perks as their wool counterparts, but some users find them preferable in an attempt to avoid using animal products completely.’
Switching to silicone dryer balls can also appeal to those who like to think about the aesthetics of their utility rooms or laundry rooms down to the finest details, Kate adds. ‘Oftentimes users also love the unique styles offered with silicone dryer balls as opposed to wool dryer balls. They can be found in cute shapes like a cactus plant, as on Amazon (opens in new tab) or in a variety of colors to match your laundry room decor!’
3. A cloth dampened with distilled white vinegar
Oftentimes, you won’t have to spend much money to find a suitable dryer sheet alternative around your home – ideal if you are using your tumble dryer in a pinch.
‘If you don’t have dryer balls but still want to soften clothing and reduce static electricity, lightly spray a clean washcloth with distilled white vinegar and throw it into the dryer with the clothes,’ suggests Tonya Harris, author of Slightly Greener Method (opens in new tab). ‘The vinegar scent will fade but the vinegar will help to soften clothes and remove persistent odors left after doing laundry.’
Tonya is an environmental toxicity specialist and author of The Slightly Greener Method, available on Amazon (opens in new tab). She aims to help people, especially families, detoxify life and find easy ways to go green when cleaning.
4. Aluminum foil
Perhaps the most surprising dryer sheet alternative is something found in your kitchen drawers. ‘A surprising alternative to dryer sheets is to use aluminum foil. Yes, you heard that right!’ enthuses Kate Hanks of Hampr. ‘Rolling about three feet of an aluminum foil sheet into a smooth ball will act as an amazing temporary dryer ball!
‘When clothing is rolling around in the dryer, the friction creates an abundance of electrons, which is what causes them to want to stick together. The aluminum helps to break that cycle – keeping positively charged clothes away from negatively charged clothes. Science!’
What to do with leftover dryer sheets
If you are left with surplus dryer sheets after making the change to a safer, more eco-friendly option, then the good news is that there are several home cleaning tips that use the sheets in safer ways.
From using dryer sheets to clean shower doors and break down soap scum, to cleaning baseboards and banishing dust, their practical uses are almost endless and ensure you haven't wasted money or created waste out of unused products.
What happens if you don't use dryer sheets?
If you do not use dryer sheets or an alternative, then your clothes may not smell as fresh once dried. In the worst case, static can build up in your dryer (possibly leading to sparks and a fire if you have a full lint trap).
Can I make my own dryer sheets?
You can make alternatives to dryer sheets yourself at home. Simply combine equal parts water and fabric softener and spray over a clean cloth until damp. Throw this cloth into your dryer in place of dryer sheets to help reduce static and scent laundry.
Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.
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