You may love the way your clothes smell coming out of the dryer after using a dryer sheet, but there are many drawbacks to using them, so we’d like to suggest some alternatives.
What’s Wrong With Dryer Sheets
The “Fresh Spring” or “Lavender” aromas associated with dryer sheets have actually been shown to induce headaches and respiratory difficulties for many people. Science analysts at the Environmental Working Group note that dryer sheets contain ammonium compounds (QACS) that worsen asthma and cause skin irritations. In testing the air that comes through dryer vents, more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA, are being generated.
They Don’t Work Like You Think They Do
Dryer sheets don’t actually make your clothes and towels “softer.” They instead coat surfaces with a slick coating of melted, stearic (fatty) acid that temporarily prevents static and makes clothes feel softer. This coating also collects inside the dryer and venting, creating a sticky film that clogs the screen of the lint filter. Over time, this film restricts airflow through the filter so that more lint is deposited on your clothes. Buildup of film and lint in the dryer vent can lead to fires. More dryer vent fires occur in homes where dryer sheets are used than those that forego softener and dryer sheets.
To add insult to injury, this film also makes your towels less absorbent.
What You Can Use Instead
These nifty balls do wonders in your dryer. Not only do they create actual softness, but they also decrease drying time by separating clothing and creating more even airflow. The repeated contact with fabric works to pound out lumps and soften fabrics as well. They will also collect some of the lint on their surfaces. A set of two will last up to two years. Experts advise steering clear of spiked versions as these can cause snags and runs.
Not good for softening clothes as much, but these work wonders on static cling by keeping the negatively charged clothes away from the positively charged ones (think synthetics). You can create your own by balling up three to four feet of kitchen aluminum foil. Make sure no sharp edges are left. You can eliminate these by rolling the ball with the palm of your hand over a countertop. Use these with the wool felt balls and you’ll have soft, static-free clothes.
Designed to last more than 500 loads, these cloth sheets work to reduce static and can be used with essential oils to add scent to your laundry.
Vinegar will brighten, whiten and reduce odors in your clothes, as well as soften them. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener dispense during the final rinse of your wash cycle. You can add a few drops of essential oil if you are worried your clothes will smell of vinegar.
Baking soda acts as a deodorizer and a natural suspension agent – keeping detergent and minerals from redepositing on clothes (which can make them feel stiff). Mix ½ cup of baking soda with detergent and add as usual to your laundry cycle.
DIY Dryer Sheets
Make your own dryer sheets with old scraps of cloth, vinegar, and essential oils. Cut the fabric into squares and place in a sealed jar with enough vinegar to make them damp, not soaked. You can add essential oils like lavender or lemon. To use, wring one out and toss it into the dryer with wet clothes.
If you don’t want to waste the dryer sheets you have and still be friendly to the environment, you can put them in shoes to deodorize them; place one in a mailbox, outdoor power box, or any other place bugs and wasps may want to nest; wipe down computer screens or scrub soap scum; or tuck them someplace in your car to use as an air freshener.
Sources: LifeHacker, Amazon, Insider.com