7 Eco-Friendly Dryer Sheet Alternatives For Sustainably Soft, Static-Free Laundry
Laundry routines are meant to keep our clothes clean, and yet they dirty our homes and the planet with toxic chemicals and plastics.
Conventional dryer sheets only add to the mess—which is why we’re sifting through piles of dirty laundry to find the best non-toxic dryer sheet alternatives which you can pair with your eco-friendly laundry detergent.
Most single-use dryer sheets are manufactured out of a non-woven polyester plastic that is coated with chemicals, softeners, and synthetic fragrances.
Not only are many of us allergic to these chemicals, but one study of five brand-name dryer sheets found them to emit chemicals associated with hormone problems, asthma, and more.
Swapping unhealthy commercial dryer sheets with natural and reusable dryer sheet alternatives will not only protect your loads of laundry, but also your home’s air quality, AND the planet.
But what’s better than dryer sheets?
The Best Dryer Sheet Alternatives For Low-Impact Laundry Day
Friendsheep Wool’s 100% ethically-sourced sheep wool dryer balls fluff up your fashion while preventing microplastic pollution and reducing dryer time up to 40%.
You can also opt for DIY dryer sheets with items you probably have in your zero waste kitchen. Just soak an old clean rag in vinegar and add it to your drying laundry. No, your favorite T-shirt won’t come out smelling like a salad.
Hang (dry) until the bottom of the article, where we discuss how we found these options and tumble with whether you need eco-friendly dryer sheets at all.
1. Wool Dryer Balls
Using Wool Dryer Balls As Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Dryer Sheets
Let’s start with the most popular choice for compostable dryer sheet alternatives: wool dryer balls.
Usually made from 100% wool for best absorbency, adding a set to the dryer improves warm airflow while the balls simultaneously soak up water in your wet clothes.
This means reduced drying time and less energy used, which is handy for both the environment and your wallet—especially given the average family does more than 300 laundry loads every year.
For vegans out there, they can also be made of organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo.
Dryer balls are also a popular dryer sheet alternative because they can reduce static cling and leave you with softer clothes.
Missing a fresh scent to your fresh laundry?
Turn your wool balls into scented dryer sheet alternatives by adding a few drops of essential oil (like lavender) to the balls to make them smell botanical and clean.
You’re sure to feel anything but blue with the way Certified B-Corp Blueland’s wool dryer balls save on drying time, cost, static cling, and waste.
Friendsheep Wool’s are rave reviewed and made from fair trade and organic Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free New Zealand wool. You can use these as a dryer sheet alternative for pet hair, static cling, and softening solutions, all in one.
Putting an emphasis on the “reusable” in “reusable dryer sheets”, either of these brands’ will last upwards of 1000 loads of laundry, and when they’ve tumbled their final load, these organic dryer sheet alternatives are compostable.
Or you can opt for Superbee’s organic New Zealand Sheep’s wool dryer balls which we love.
2. Eco Nuts
Using Eco Nuts As Biodegradable Dryer Sheets
Using a nut for your laundry isn’t so nutty, after all.
Soap nuts are actually 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 100% biodegradable saponin from the shells, leaving freshly scented, static cling-free and softer clothes.
Soap nuts are both compostable and reusable dryer sheets. Allow them to dry after every use, and they’ll be good to go tumble for laundry loads to come.
Using Vinegar To Make DIY Dryer Sheets
Doesn’t the answer always seem to be vinegar when it comes to eco-friendly cleaning?
If you’re looking for dryer sheet alternatives, DIY some by using plain white or apple cider vinegar. Here’s how to make your own dryer sheets:
- Use an old, clean cotton towel, rag, or other fabrics scraps like old clothes you’ve been looking to repurpose, perhaps?).
- Add ½ cup of water and ½ cup white or apple cider vinegar to a bowl
- Place the cloth in the bowl
- Toss the wet vinegar cloth into the dryer with wet clothes for the full drying cycle
Don’t worry: the scent vanishes quickly and won’t leave your pants smelling pickled.
While this option doesn’t reduce drying time, it will leave clothing soft and static cling-free. And because vinegar can often be bought in bulk or refilled using your own containers, it’s perhaps the best eco-friendly dryer sheet alternative.
Caution: Don’t do this if you’ve heavily bleached the clothes—they’re dangerous if inhaled together, defeating the point of your new non-toxic dryer sheets.
4. Baking Soda
Using Baking Soda As A Natural Dryer Sheet Alternative
It turns out your box of baking soda won’t just sit at the back of your fridge for all eternity.
Baking soda works as a natural softener and helps remove odors from dirty clothes. Because it adjusts the water’s pH levels, it reduces bacteria and eliminates funky smells.
While using it will replace dryer sheets, this option goes for the wash cycle, not the dryer.
Simply 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.
When your laundry is complete, you’ll notice they are cleaner and softer. You can also add essential oil to the rinse cycle for an extra fresh scent.
5. Aluminum Foil Balls
Using Aluminum Foil Balls As Dryer Sheet Alternatives For Static
Wondering, “What can I use instead of dryer sheets 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.
Simply 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, meaning your clothing won’t have any whatsoever. Thank you, science!
This option won’t soften clothes; it can only reduce static cling.
Reuse your aluminum foil balls for dozens (if not hundreds) of tumble drying cycles.
6. Hang Dry
Using Hang Drying As An Environmentally Friendly Dryer Sheet Alternative
If you’re looking for a zero waste dryer sheet alternative in the purest form, skip the dryer altogether.
The most eco-friendly alternative to a dryer sheet is to harness the power of nature.
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.
For winter months—or if you don’t have outdoor space to hang—line drying your clothing indoors in a warm room works well, too.
As a bonus, hang drying your laundry inside can help humidify your home in the winter months.
In addition to leaving clothes cling-free, they’ll last longer and you’ll conserve energy at home.
7. Ice Cubes
Using Ice Cubes As A Sustainable Dryer Sheet Alternative
Tossing some ice cubes in the dryer is a simple sustainability tip for solving the issue of wrinkled and static clothes.
Add two to four ice cubes to your drying laundry, and the cubes will turn into steam and release wrinkles.
Add the ice cubes in the last fifteen minutes of your drying cycle, to best iron out your clothing.
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What Is A Dryer Sheet & Do You Need Them?
Dryer sheets first bounced onto the scene with Procter and Gamble’s Bounce sheets in 1975.
Nowadays, you can find them under many different brand names. Most, according to Chemical & Engineering News, are made from a “nonwoven polyester material coated with a softening agent”.
Dryer sheets operate similarly to beaded or liquid fabric softener; they add a fresh scent, reduce static cling, and make clothes feel softer.
When a dryer sheet is placed in the dryer, the heat quite literally melts its exterior and this residue melds with your drying clothes.
It is the sheet’s slippery residue that really gives you the impression your clothes are softer, while the chemicals balance positive and negative ions in the dryer to remove static.
Typically, dryer sheets come from a large roll of web materials put through factory machines that coat, smooth, and dry the chemicals onto the sheets.
Then they’re cut into squares and packaged in branded cardboard boxes to line the shelves of the supermarket, our laundry room, and eventually… landfills.
Doesn’t sound so clean and healthy, does it?
Do you need dryer sheets?
The answer is no, you absolutely do not need to use dryer sheets.
The benefits of dryer sheets are really nothing more than modern luxuries. Having static-free, less starchy clothes is far from essential.
That’s not to say it’s bad to desire those qualities in your minimalist wardrobe. It’s just to emphasize that we need to be making more sustainable choices, especially regarding something that doesn’t have much effect outside personal comfort.
Do you need dryer sheets if you use fabric softener?
If you already use softeners, you definitely don’t need laundry sheets, as they’re basically just dousing your clothes with a double dose of chemicals.
However, we would like to point out that fabric softeners are also an unnecessary laundry additives—especially since many natural laundry detergents possess plant-based softening enzymes.
Why Choose Sustainable Dryer Sheet Alternatives?
Using store bought dryer sheets means adding unnecessary chemical coating to your clothes.
The 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, or alkali metal soaps of fatty acids.
The chemical scents added to dryer sheets have been linked to “irritation of the eyes and airways, contact dermatitis, migraines, and asthmatic reactions”.
While the FDA currently approves all ingredients in dryer sheet formulas and more research is needed, it potentially affects both air quality and human health negatively.
Beyond that, that same toxic dryer sheet ends up in a landfill to contribute to excess waste, the microplastics crisis, and greenhouse gas emissions.
So, what are the benefits to choosing an eco-friendly dry sheet alternative?
Aside from reducing waste, they’ll provide a more natural laundry cycle, improve the breathability of clothes, introduce fewer irritants to your skin, and ensure your laundry vents aren’t spewing potentially asthma-causing chemicals that degrade air quality.
How We Found The Best Eco-Friendly Dryer Sheet Options
In this instance, we were opting for dryer sheet options that are easy, affordable, eco-friendly, ethical, zero waste and non-toxic.
When it comes to the most popular dryer sheet alternative—wool balls—we looked for cruelty-free ethical wool (i.e. non-mulesed) used in pure blends to make for compostable dryer sheets.
When it comes to soap nuts, we want to ensure they are sourced ethically with fair wages for farmers, and then shipped in compostable or recyclable packaging.
As for the rest of our options when it comes to the best dryer sheet alternatives, we sought out the best DIY approaches with common household products or items that can be repurposed for a cleaner, non-toxic laundry routine.
Final Words On Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Dryer Sheets
Not only is regular use of dryer sheets expensive, it’s also toxic.
Even after washing and drying laundry, clothes will carry chemical residue from dryer sheets which can be absorbed by your skin.
And who wants contact dermatitis (skin dryness, irritation, and scaling) from the formaldehyde, or potential cancer from the synthetic scents they emit?!
Comparing a dryer sheet alternative vs a conventional dryer sheet, there are numerous environmental and health benefits to choosing the former.
Protect your loads of laundry, your skin, your home’s air quality, and the planet by choosing any one of these alternatives to dryer sheets, a combination of them, or, best of all, hang drying clothes.
If hang drying isn’t possible, healthy dryer sheet alternatives are an easy way to start to create a greener laundry routine.
The next time someone asks, “Do you need dryer sheets?” share this article to bounce the sheets out of laundry rooms everywhere.