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Dryer sheets may not sound like the biggest problem our planet is facing right now. With so many big and bulky pollutants, what harm can a humble sheet do?
Look at it this way. A family of four probably does their laundry some eight times a week. If there’s a baby or two, make that at least ten. Even if they use the same dryer sheet twice, that’s over 200 thin polyester sheets per family that will end up in a landfill every year.
Multiply that with the number of households (128 million in the US alone). There’s the main reason why you should start using dryer sheet alternatives right now!
6 Alternatives to Dryer Sheets
Our grandmas knew it: the most useful items are often those we already have in our households. Or is it the other way around?
Anyhow, all of the below items are very cost-effective. So, even if you have to buy them, they will save you a lot of money down the line.
Aluminum foil is a staple item in every household for a thousand reasons and one. Not only can you use it to wrap food or keep it from burning in the oven, but also for cleaning your pots and pans, sharpening your scissors and cutlery, improving your wi-fi signal and so much more.
Well, you’re gonna need a roll of aluminum foil for your laundry room too. Take a few foil sheets and roll them up firmly into balls. Put a couple of those into your machine, both for washing and drying cycles. They will deal with the static cling and act like a great dryer sheet alternative.
Aluminum is one of the best dryer sheet alternatives because it is fully recyclable. Furthermore, you can reuse the same ball dozens of times. Your laundry, the environment and your wallet will thank you for it!
It’s not just for dressing and pickles. You can also use vinegar for softening your clothes in an eco-friendly way. As little as 1 2 cup will do a better job than a dryer sheet, plus it will help preserve the colors.
Just make sure that it’s white vinegar. Any other kind may contain natural or artificial dye, which could make a mess of your laundry.
Enter vinegar’s best pal! Baking soda can not only replace yeast in your bread, deal with limestone buildup in your kitchen and bathroom, treat heartburn, neutralize foul smells and serve as a natural mouthwash. It’s also great as an all-natural fabric softener.
Half a cup of baking soda added to the rinse cycle will soften your clothes and get rid of all unpleasant odors. You can mix it with some salt and vinegar for even better results.
This natural substance can’t act as a fabric softener on its own. However, you can add a drop or two to your vinegar or vinegar and baking soda solution, and pour it in the softener dispenser or ball.
The only issue I see here is that essential oils are not very sustainable in their own right. So, I usually opt for a scent-free solution for my family.
Wool Dryer Balls
For those of you who don’t have time or patience to come up with DIY dryer sheets alternatives, there are eco-friendly solutions on the market. One of the best performers, I’ve found, are Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls.
What makes dryer sheets so effective are chemicals that are being released to coat up your laundry and reduce static electricity. The problem is that these are often irritating or even toxic chemicals that can not only cause eczema and other skin problems, but also cause damage to your tumble dryer in the long term.
Need I mention how harsh these chemicals are on the environment?
These six reusable wool dryer balls are a bit expensive to begin with, but you’ll be able to use each ball for over a thousand loads. Considering that you won’t use all six in each load and won’t be buying fabric softener or dryer for the next three to four years, that’s a lot of money saved right there!
Plus, once you’re done with them, you can compost or even upcycle them.
They also prevent pet hair from sticking to your clothes and can even shorten up the drying time. Less work for your clothesline!
Reusable Dryer Sheets
Better than disposable, worse than all other alternatives – that’s the gist of reusable dryer sheets in my opinion.
This product should work for about 500 loads, which would account for a year’s worth of laundry drying. In other words, you’ll send just two of these sheets to a landfill per year, instead of hundreds of disposable ones. And you’ll spare the earth 10-15 pounds of fabric softener per year.
Strictly speaking, polyester is recyclable, though the question remains controversial. One thing is certain: it is not biodegradable. That’s why I consider reusable dryer sheets the least desirable alternative to disposable dryer sheets.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if you don’t use a dryer sheet?
If a sock in your dryer went missing, reach out into the sleeve of your cotton shirt. Found it? Now slowly, gently try to peel it off. Only then can you deal with all the lint and dust that’s glued to the shirt.
Sounds familiar? That’s what happens when you forget to put a dryer sheet in. As your clothes tumble and bounce around the dryer drum, static electricity comes in. That’s what causes the notorious stiffness and wrinkles.
Is it okay to dry clothes without a dryer sheet?
Technically, yes. Static cling is a nuisance, but all the huffing and puffing about it might be a bit exaggerated. You can somewhat reduce the static by separating cotton and wool from synthetic materials.
Or you can use some of the aforementioned techniques to get fluffy clothes without dryer sheets.
Can you make homemade dryer sheets?
Yes, and it’s a very easy process. All you need are a few smaller rags or washcloths made of cotton. Soak them in a liquid fabric softener – preferably an eco-friendly type. Let them dry completely and that’s it! When the laundry day comes, just throw one of those into the washing machine, and that’s it.
If you prefer to steer clear of fabric softeners and their toxic scents, you can always use some white vinegar sprinkled with a few drops of essential oils on your washcloths. That should give your clothes that fresh smell your kids are so fond of.