Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We've Tumble Tested (& Love)Image by Sustainable Jungle#dryersheetalternatives #alternativestodryersheets #substitutefordryersheets #whattouseinsteadofdryersheets #dryersheetreplacement #sustainablejungle
Image by Sustainable Jungle

Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We’ve Tumble Tested (& Love)

Amber McDaniel

Conventional dryer sheets—typically made of non-woven polyester plastic that is coated with chemicals, softeners, and synthetic fragrances—may help soften our clothes, but they’re anything but soft on the health of us or our planet.

Analysis of house dryer vents found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants.

That’s scary amount of chemicals you might be bringing into your home—especially considering you absolutely do not need to use dryer sheets. Their benefits really nothing more than modern luxuries.

But we appreciate our clothes having less starchiness and static, so if you’re not ready to embrace the no dryer sheet life just yet, join us in sifting through piles of dirty laundry to find healthy dryer sheet alternatives to go along with your eco-friendly laundry detergent.

The Best Alternative To Dryer Sheets On Low-Impact Laundry Day

We’ve tried all the methods on this list and here are our two go-to’s:

Wool dryer balls fluff up your fashion and add some subtle scent while reducing dryer time up to 40%. We personally like Blueland’s 100% wool dryer balls. We’ve been using ours for years and they’re still in great shape, but if they ever do wear out, we know we can toss them in our compost.

But our favorite healthy alternative to dryer sheets is bypassing the dryer altogether. Jump below to read why this is the best choice for you, your clothes, and the planet.

1. Wool Dryer Balls

Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We've Tumble Tested (& Love) Image by Sustainable Jungle #dryersheetalternatives #alternativestodryersheets #substitutefordryersheets #whattouseinsteadofdryersheets #dryersheetreplacement #sustainablejungle
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Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Static, softening, scent, absorbing moisture

Dryer balls (especially those made of wool) have become the most popular substitute for dryer sheets, but softening and static reducing isn’t all they can do. Adding a set to the dryer improves warm airflow while the balls simultaneously soak up water in your wet clothes—reducing drying time and energy use.

If you’re wondering what to use instead of dryer sheets for adding after-wash scent to your clothes, you can add a couple of drops of essential oils to your dryer balls to infuse your laundry with a fresh, non-synthetic scent.

We personally use Certified B-Corp Blueland’s ethically-sourced New Zealand wool dryer balls any time we run the dryer.

We’ve measured the drying time for the same comforter both without dryer balls and with three of Blueland’s, and found these shaved a whopping one hour off our dry cycle—though for full disclosure, we have a combo washer/dryer, which means the dryer function works through steam-drying as opposed to vented drying, so your dry times may differ a bit from ours.

We’ve been using ours for two years now and know we’ll be using them for many more since they’re rated to work for about 1000 loads of laundry.

2. Eco Nuts

Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We've Tumble Tested (& Love) Image by Linda Hall #dryersheetalternatives #alternativestodryersheets #substitutefordryersheets #whattouseinsteadofdryersheets #dryersheetreplacement #sustainablejungle
Image by Linda Hall

Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Softening, scent, static

For a zero waste laundry detergent and zero waste dryer sheet all in one, soap nuts—like NaturOli’s—will both clean and soften clothes.

Soap nuts are dried berries that come from saponin-containing trees of India. The saponin in the soap nut acts as a surfactant, meaning it helps to remove grit and grime from laundry.

Just as you would add them to your eco washing machine to clean clothes, add them to your dryer in lieu of a dryer sheet by placing your soap nuts into an organic cotton cloth bag and tumble drying with your wet clothes. The heat from the dryer will help release the saponin from the shells, leaving freshly scented, static-free, and softer clothes. 

Soap nuts are both compostable and reusable, so allow them to dry after every use, and they’ll stay in tip-top tumble shape for laundry loads to come.

3. Vinegar

Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Softening, static

When it comes to eco-friendly cleaning, vinegar is a miracle liquid, and laundry day is no exception. You can use it to make your own dryer sheet alternatives, DIY style.

Use an old, clean cotton towel, rag, or other fabrics scraps, and put it in a bowl with ½ cup of water and ½ cup white or apple cider vinegar. Then just toss the wet vinegar cloth into the dryer with wet clothes for the full drying cycle.

While this option doesn’t reduce drying time or add any nice scent to your clothes (and don’t worry, it won’t leave your pants smelling pickled), it does leave our clothing feeling softer and static cling-free.

Caution: Don’t do this if you’ve heavily bleached the clothes—they’re dangerous if inhaled together, though we encourage you to stop using bleach altogether because of its toxicity.

4. Baking Soda

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Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Softening, odors

Just like that open box of baking soda removed odors from your fridge, baking soda helps remove odors from dirty clothes. Because it adjusts the water’s pH levels, it reduces bacteria and eliminates funky smells, in addition to making clothes feel a bit softer.

While using it will replace dryer sheets, this option goes for the wash cycle, not the dryer. Add 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of baking soda to your laundry before you add the laundry detergent. Wash at the settings you normally would. 

We like using this method for particularly stinky loads of laundry and definitely notice it removes the odors and makes clothes feel a bit softer—though perhaps not quite as soft as the former three options.

5. Aluminum Foil Balls

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Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Static

Aluminum foil is the cheapest and easiest way to deal with static cling. While this disposable kitchen staple is not our favorite sustainable food storage means, if you already have some lying around the house, you might as well put it to good use. 

Crumple up aluminum foil into two or three fist sized balls, toss in the dryer with your wet clothing. Because of the negative ions from the aluminum foil, it discharges static. We can confirm that is absolutely works for this, but note that aluminum foil balls won’t do anything to soften your clothes.

Because the process doesn’t really wear them out, we reuse the same aluminum foil balls over and over to prevent waste.

6. Hang Dry

Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We've Tumble Tested (& Love) Image by Sustainable Jungle #dryersheetalternatives #alternativestodryersheets #substitutefordryersheets #whattouseinsteadofdryersheets #dryersheetreplacement #sustainablejungle
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Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Wrinkles, static

If you’re looking for a zero waste replacement for dryer sheets in the purest form, skip the dryer altogether. Hanging your clothes to dry outside leaves clothes smelling fresh, without any chemicals. Plus, the sun naturally bleaches and disinfects—though we recommend keeping colored clothes in shady spots to avoid premature fading.

During the summer months, our dryer doesn’t get used once. Even in winter, we typically only run a half dry cycle to reduce the bulk of the moisture before hanging our clothes around the house to dry the rest of the way, whick also helps humidify our house in these dry months.

The best part about this method isn’t just that you’ll save all that energy consumed by a clothes dryer—on which Americans spend over $9 billion a year!—but that it also preserves the life of your clothes. Most wardrobe wear-and-tear happens not when we’re actually wearing it, but in the dryer (Just think about your lint trap; that all comes from somewhere).

7. Ice Cubes

Dryer Sheet Substitute For: Wrinkles, static

Tossing some ice cubes in the dryer is a simple way to solve your problems with wrinkled and static-ridden clothes.

Add two to four ice cubes to the last fifteen minutes of your drying cycle. The cubes will turn into steam and release wrinkles.

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Why Choose A Natural Alternative to Dryer Sheets?

Conventional dryer sheet are typically made up of non-woven (non recyclable) polyester.

As if the end-of-life of such a material wasn’t bad enough, then there’s the added chemical softener coating. Heat melts and melds this coating with your drying clothes, balacing positive and negative ions to remove static and give them that soft feel and “fresh” scent—while secretly also making clothes less absorbent and more flammable.

Ingredients vary from brand to brand, but can include more than 15 additional endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and chemicals associated with asthma—such as formaldehyde, ethoxylated alcohols, alkali metal soaps, and chemical scents linked to various health problems.

These chemicals then release volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and benzene from dryer vents and into the atmosphere.

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Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We've Tumble Tested (& Love) Image by Sustainable Jungle #dryersheetalternatives #alternativestodryersheets #substitutefordryersheets #whattouseinsteadofdryersheets #dryersheetreplacement #sustainablejungle
Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives We've Tumble Tested (& Love) Image by Sustainable Jungle #dryersheetalternatives #alternativestodryersheets #substitutefordryersheets #whattouseinsteadofdryersheets #dryersheetreplacement #sustainablejungle

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