Drying without dryer sheets – the best alternatives!

  • Date: May 14, 2022

Tumble dryer sheets are used in households worldwide – they reduce static on your clothes whilst making them smell great and feel soft! But its not all good news. They can’t be recycled, and most types can’t be composted either. They can also result in higher utility bills. As well as transferring a chemical lining to your clothes, they also coat your tumble dryer – although this will not damage it permanently, it will reduce its efficiency and increase bills.

Here we will take a look at some of the options available if you want to avoid these environmentally unfriendly sheets. The first couple might not be popular…

Don’t use anything

This is perhaps a controversial option – but dryer sheets are not essential for drying your clothes. You don’t need them. If a garment comes out particularly static-y you can simply run a metal object over it to discharge the electricity. You can use anything metal such as a coat hanger or a thimble. Just make sure that you don’t use a sharp bit that could snag your nice new top. I used this trick on vacation a few weeks ago, my woolen sweatshirt came out the tumble dryer electrified – the metal hook of a coat hanger instantly removed the charge. A great laundry hack!

Air-dry your clothes

Although not ideal for some people’s living arrangements – if possible, try to air dry some of your garments. Even if it is just outdoors for a couple of months in summer if that’s what the climate in your area allows. Not only is it better for your wardrobe – the dryer is a major culprit when it comes to damaging and misshaping clothes – but it will also reduce your energy bill and save you money! We outline some other benefits here.

Softener subsitutes

Many people use fabric softener in their washing cycle instead of adding a dryer sheet to their tumble dryer. However, depending on the brand, this can bring the same chemical issues that conventional dryer sheet bring. To avoid this, but have a soft and static-free laundry load, you can add softener substitutes. Baking soda is a particular favorite of mine. Simply add a ¼ of a cup of baking soda during the main wash cycle and these will do the same job – unscented, of course. This alternative is cheap and easy, and many people have this item already in their cupboard.

Aluminum foil balls

If you don’t have time to hang around for your clothes to air-dry or forgot to pop baking soda in the wash, one of the simplest alternatives is to use squeeze aluminum foil into a ball shape (the size of a baseball is enough) and chuck it in with the load. As well as being an item you already have in your kitchen drawer, it also has the added benefit of being re-usable AND recyclable. What not to like?!

Wool dryer balls

Although dryer balls come in a variety of materials – wool, rubber and plastic – the wool variety are my favorite. They biodegrade more quickly than rubber (plastic can biodegrade to some degree, depending on the type but some fail to decompose at all) and you can even make your own with very few materials. Have a look at the video below, Crafty Patti will tell you everything you need to know about DIY wool dryer balls:

Handmade or not, you can also add a couple of essential oil drops onto each wool ball – something not possible with the dryer ball varieties. Let them dry then throw them in with the load. Experiment with different scents, or even mixtures of different scents on different balls, and find your favorite!. Do not add any more than a couple of drops to the dryer balls – large amounts of oils on tumble dryer items can be a fire hazard.

The dryer balls work by creating spaces between the laundry, meaning air can flow more easily and garments dry more quickly. This quicker drying is an added advantage of using dryer balls over conventional sheets. Many dryer ball users, however, insist that they do not quite have the same static-reducing effect as sheets do. Although, their ability to reduce static can be remedied by attaching a metal safety pin to the dryer ball (another advantage of wool balls over rubber or plastic balls!) to eliminate the charge.  

Re-usable dryer sheets

Out of all the alternatives covered here, re-usable dryer sheets seem to strike the best balance between being eco-friendly and removing static. These just get thrown into the tumble dryer like the standard dryer sheets but they can be used for up to 500 loads and don’t contain any harsh chemicals; it’s a no-brainer.

The bottom line

Dryer sheets (the nonwoven polyester kind) are destined for many years in landfill. Using alternatives, like the ones described here, can help the environment but also save you money. And not just from a waste point of view – by speeding up the drying process, dryer balls (of any variety) will reduce the energy used. Try out the different alternatives and see which one you prefer. Despite all having their pros and cons, they are all more planet-friendly than the one-use polyester sheets.