6 Alternatives to Dryer Sheets + 2 Reasons You Should Care

Posted on October 16 2023

By: Annie B Bond

A few days after friend’s daughter started doing some office work for me, I became bothered by the smell of dryer sheets from her clothes. I had to ask her to stop using them — at least on the clothes she wore when she came to my house. She said she was glad to comply, but didn’t know you could dry clothes without using dryer sheets. My jaw hung open, and I marveled at the power of advertising.

Are you bothered when you walk through your neighborhood and the smell of dryer sheets/fabric softener wafts into the air from dryer vents? The smell has become ubiquitous — and those fumes can cause burning skin, respiratory irritation, anxiety attacks, nervous system disorders, and irritability. And those are just the short-term reactions that you can feel. Also concerning are the long-term effects on your liver, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract from toxic chemicals such as benzyl acetate, A-terpineol, camphor, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde and more. (Just go put any one of these chemicals into scorecard.org’s database of toxins to learn about the scary health effects.)

But yes, Virginia, there is a way to run the dryer without a dryer sheet. In fact, there are at least six!

  1. Wear natural fabrics to avoid static cling. Fabric softeners are mostly static cling busters, and synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and lycra, are prone to static. Wear natural fiber clothing, which doesn’t get static cling.
  2. Make your own dryer sheets. The key is to use an acid, so another idea floating around the internet is to saturate a small rag with one teaspoon of a natural hair conditioner, and put that into the dryer as a homemade dryer sheet. (Hair conditioners are designed to return the hair and scalp to an acidic pH.)
  3. Toss in reusable, chemical-free dryer sheets. Reusable dryer sheets aren’t doused with chemicals, and they can be reused thousands of times. It’s the fabric they’re made of that helps prevent static.
  4. For softness, add vinegar to the wash. Many successfully substitute vinegar for fabric softeners. Just add ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse water of the laundry cycle.
  5. Use an eco-friendly fabric softener. There are a number of alternative “green” fabric softeners on the market that made with natural scents or are scent-free.
  6. Try dryer balls. Many consumers report great results when they toss a couple of rubbery dryer balls in with each load in the dryer. They soften fabric by virtue of their nubby texture that helps fluff up the fibers.