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Ditch the Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener: Use Dryer Balls!

We used to use dryer sheets like they were going out of style. I liked how they left my clothes feeling soft and smelling great. Then I learned a bit more about them. In case you weren’t aware, as dryer sheets tumble around with your clean laundry in the dryer, they coat everything with what I can only describe as a chemical-filled film. This film helps to soften the laundry and leaves it smelling pretty.

But what’s in this “film”? The sheets themselves are coated in a fabric softening chemical and (usually) various fragrance chemicals. Some of these chemicals are toxic, and at the least, many of them are known allergens. Plus, dryer sheets aren’t even essential to our laundry. That means it’s just an added expense and exposure to something potentially toxic for no reason.

When we first ditched dryer sheets, I’ll admit my laundry struggled. I didn’t care about or even miss the nice fragrance, but we had some major issues with static. Plus, it was the dead of the winter when it was dry and cold–that didn’t help my cause. I headed to the internet to do some research on how to reduce static.

Reducing Static Cling

The first thing I discovered was that I needed to be air drying certain fabrics rather than letting them tumble around in the dryer. These particular fabrics are the biggest culprits for creating extra static. For us, that meant (and continues to mean of course) air drying fleece and polyester especially:

  • Fleece–blankets, pullovers
  • Polyester–mesh shorts, most other workout clothes, most of our polo shirts

When it’s nice outside (or when my indoor drying rack has the space), I also like to air dry much of our other laundry as well. It saves energy from running the dryer and helps clothing and other things to last longer.

I also read that dryer balls were an excellent way to reduce static AND reduce drying time! You can certainly make your own (do a quick Google search, and you’ll find directions everywhere), but I found these on Amazon and ordered them in a jiffy. Dryer balls are simple to use. I keep all six of them in the dryer and let them tumble with each load. They last for thousands of loads and contain no toxic chemicals!

Some folks recommend adding a few drops of essential oil to each ball before each load if you like a fragrance boost out of your dryer. Personally, I’ve found the fragrance to be faint, so I don’t bother. However, if you want to freshen your sheets before making your bed, for example, 3-4 drops of lavender on each ball is nice.

Fabric Softening

The other thing you might be wondering about is how to soften your fabric without dryer sheets. Sure, you could go to the store and buy liquid fabric softener for your washing machine, but then, that would defeat the whole purpose of ditching the dryer sheets, right? Well, I have a solution for you!

A simple, nontoxic alternative to fabric softener is distilled white vinegar! It’s inexpensive (especially when you buy it in the huge jugs at Costco like I do), and it works great. And I promise it won’t leave your laundry smelling like vinegar. I keep a quart-size glass bottle (originally a Heinz vinegar bottle) in our laundry room and refill it as needed. I find it easier to pour from than the big gallon+ jug.

To each quart, I also add 15-20 drops of lemon essential oil (optional). You’ll want to shake it gently before each use, as the essential oil will separate from the vinegar. Simply add it to your fabric softener compartment before each wash, and your laundry will be softened–just like that. As an added bonus, vinegar is a great stain and odor remover, so you’ll get a nice boost with each load on that front as well.

Oh, and if you’re looking to remove even more toxic chemicals from your laundry room, check out my post on homemade laundry soap! You’ll not only be happy with the natural ingredients, but your pocket book will thank you as well!

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