Dryer sheets are one of the most common cleaning products that you see in retail stores as well as people’s homes. In fact, most people use dryer sheets every time they do their laundry. Are you one of them?
Despite the immense popularity, most people have no idea what dryer sheets are made of and how they work. All they know is that it makes your clothes feel and smell nice.
That brings us to the question, “Are dryer sheets necessary?” Do you have to use a dryer sheet every time you do your laundry? How effective are they? Can you use alternatives?
Let’s find out.
- What are Dryer Sheets?
- How Do Dryer Sheets Work?
- What Are Dryer Sheets For?
- How Effective are Dryer Sheets?
- What if You Don’t use Dryer Sheets?
- What is a Good Substitute For Dryer Sheets?
- Fabric Softener vs Dryer Sheets
- Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets
What are Dryer Sheets?
A dryer sheet is basically a super-thin piece of paper or polyester coated with fabric softeners and fragrances. It was invented by a chemist named Conrad J. Gaiser who wanted to help his wife, Audrey, with the laundry.
Here’s the story behind the dryer sheet. In the 1960s, Conrad and Audrey lived on the top floor of a four-story duplex. The laundry room was on the ground floor of the building. Every time Audrey had to do laundry, she had to rush down before the final rinse so that she could add fabric softener to the load. Many modern washing machines have a separate slot for the fabric softener now, however, that wasn’t the case in the 60s.
Conrad had worked for several years in the soap and detergent industry, and he wanted to make life easier for his wife. He applied fabric softener to a piece of flannel, and that was the first dryer sheet ever used.
Conrad J. Gaiser patented his invention in 1969. A short while later, he sold the rights to Procter & Gamble.
Procter & Gamble was responsible for introducing the dryer sheet to America in 1975 under the brand name “Bounce.” Today, the market is flooded with dryer sheets from hundreds of brands.
How Do Dryer Sheets Work?
Dryer sheets typically contain a softening agent and fragrance. Although there are many brands available in the market, there isn’t much difference between them, except for the surfactant used.
Some dryer sheets may also contain calcium clay that prevents your clothes from getting stained due to the fabric softener present in the dryer sheet.
A dryer sheet works by reducing static electricity in clothes. Say, you have put two clothing items in the wash- a top and a sweater. When these two items rub together in the machine, they can build up an electric charge. That is what we call static cling.
If you have ever seen your sock sticking to your sweater when you take them out of the dryer, it is because of static cling. You can reduce the static by adding a dryer sheet to the laundry.
The heat of the dryer melts the fabric softener on the dryer sheet, which is then transferred to your clothes. It gives your clothes a slippery feeling that gives the impression that your clothes are softer.
What Are Dryer Sheets For?
Dryer sheets have no role in the cleanliness of your clothes since they do not contain any cleaning agent. However, they contain fabric softener and fragrance. That makes your clothes feel softer and fresher after a wash.
Dryer sheets are mainly used for:
Softening your clothes
Your clothes may start feeling a little rough after washing. Dryer sheets have a softening agent that leaves a coating of wax on your clothes, making them feel softer. The coating also reduces static and makes them less prone to snagging when stored.
Making clothes smell fresher
Dryer sheets are loaded with fragrance, which is why your clothes come out smelling oh-so-nice from the dryer. Some dryer sheets contain more fragrance than others. If you are sensitive to strong fragrances, then you should consider staying away from heavily scented dryer sheets.
Preventing clothes from wrinkling
Dryer sheets help your clothes hold their shape while in the dryer, preventing them from wrinkling. It also prevents your clothes from shrinking, creasing, or scrunching during the drying cycle.
Removes static from clothes
Since dryer sheets leave a chemical coating of fabric softener on your clothes, it prevents static buildup in clothes. Your clothes don’t stick together and you are less likely to receive a shock when in contact with them. Cold, dry air in the winters can make the static worse, which can be prevented by using a dryer sheet or liquid softeners.
How Effective are Dryer Sheets?
When it comes to your clothes feeling softer and fresher, dryer sheets can be considered quite effective. However, is using a dryer sheet a good idea? Not really.
The downsides of using dryer sheets regularly include:
Not suitable for all fabrics
Using a dryer sheet means that you are adding chemicals to your clothes. The sheets are infused in softening agents and fragrance, after all. These chemicals are not suitable for all clothes. For instance, you should not be using fabric softeners for washing children’s or baby’s clothes. Like we said earlier, fabric softeners leave a coat of wax on clothes, which may make some clothes less flame-retardant.
Microfiber towels have become quite popular due to their high absorbency. Using a dryer sheet when washing your microfiber towels could make them less absorbent over time.
Athletic wear is mostly made of moisture-wicking fabric. However, dryer sheets could reduce their moisture-wicking properties. That’s because your athletic wear gets coated with chemicals every time you use a dryer sheet when drying them.
Damages the dryer
Well, it is quite clear that long-term use of dryer sheets is not good for your clothes. But what about your dryer? Thankfully, dryer sheets do not cause permanent damage to your dryer, but they could definitely impact the operating efficiency. And, with reduced efficiency, you have higher utility bills.
The softening agent in the dryer sheets leaves a residue on the clothes. Similarly, they also leave a residue inside your dryer. This residue could clog your lint trap and hamper the air circulation. Proper air circulation is necessary for your clothes to dry properly and to prevent your dryer from overheating. An overheating dryer could be dangerous because it can lead to fires.
Ideally, you should clean the dryer lint trap after every load of laundry. However, if you use dryer sheets frequently, you should also clean the screen of the lint trap at least once a month. You can clean the screen with a fine brush and a mixture of dishwashing detergent and water. Rinse the screen and allow it to dry completely before fixing it back to the dryer.
Sometimes, dryer sheets can get stuck in the lint filter or in a vent, preventing proper airflow. Ensure that you remove the dryer sheet with each load of clothes.
Harmful to the environment
Dryer sheets are a disposable, single-use product. As such, they contribute to environmental waste. According to a study, fragranced laundry products, such as fabric softener dryer sheets have been found to emit volatile organic compounds that cause air pollution.
Harmful to your health
Also, the fragrance used in dryer sheets may irritate sensitive skin. Besides hurting sensitive skin, the fragrance in dryer sheets has also been linked to eye irritation, headaches, asthmatic reactions, and contact dermatitis. Also, the volatile organic compounds that are emitted through your dryer vents when you use dryer sheets can also cause long-term health complications.
What if You Don’t use Dryer Sheets?
Are dryer sheets necessary? Can you wash and dry your clothes without using dryer sheets? Can you skip dryer sheets?
No, dryer sheets are not necessary. You can wash and dry your clothes just as well without dryer sheets. In fact, there are many dryer sheet alternatives that you can consider to soften fabric and give a pleasant smell to your clothes.
Are you worried about static electricity and static cling? Don’t worry. Even if you skip dryer sheets, you do not need to live with stiff clothes and static cling. There are many eco-friendly dryer sheet alternatives to soften fabric and make your clothes smell nice, without using a chemical coating or artificial fragrances.
What is a Good Substitute For Dryer Sheets?
There are several alternatives that you can use to get results similar to dryer sheets. We have compiled a list of a few of them.
Liquid fabric softener
You can add liquid fabric softener to your load of laundry instead of using dryer sheets. However, adding too much fabric softener could damage your clothes and cause skin irritation because it leaves a chemical coating. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the back of the bottle to see how much you need to add to each load.
Adding the right amount of liquid fabric softener is important because then you don’t have to worry about the residue on your clothing. All the residue from your clothing will get washed away in the rinse cycle. It is a good alternative for all those worried about harmful chemicals on your clothes or skin irritation.
Wool dryer balls
Are you looking for natural alternatives to dryer sheets? If you are, then you must try wool dryer balls.
These dryer balls trap the heat of the dryer and help your clothing items tumble around more. This helps reduce static cling and wrinkles. You can buy these dryer balls ready-made or you can even make them yourself with wool yarn.
If you want to make your own DIY alternatives, be sure to use 100% wool yarn to make dryer balls for the best results. Also, ensure to tie a tight knot at the end of the dryer balls so that they do not come undone in the dryer.
Apple cider vinegar
The second on the list of natural dryer sheet alternatives is apple cider vinegar. It is a natural fabric conditioner that makes your clothes soft and reduces static electricity. You can mix one part of apple cider vinegar in four parts of water and add it to your wash cycle.
Alternatively, you can also add apple cider vinegar to one or two microfiber drying towels and wash it along with your other clothing. It is one of the best alternatives to dryer sheets because it can be used on all kinds of fabric. There is no residue or wax coating left behind and the smell dissipates once the clothes are dry.
Baking soda is a natural fabric softener and deodorizer, and an excellent replacement for dryer sheets. Just add a couple of spoons to your wash cycle and you are good to go.
It is a natural alternative to dryer sheets and does not leave behind any residue or chemical coating on your clothing. It also removes odors from your clothes, making your clothes smell nice after the drying process.
Baking soda is also a great stain remover. Just make a paste with water and rub it onto the stain before throwing the clothes into the dryer.
Aluminum foil balls
Do your clothes come out wrinkled after every wash? Try using balls made of aluminum foil.
Just crumple up some aluminum foil to make a few balls. Throw them into the dryer along with your clothes. These balls will help your clothes tumble around more and are also effective in reducing wrinkles.
Aluminum foil balls are also great at reducing static electricity because it absorbs the electric charge from your clothes. Since there are no harmful chemicals involved, it is a perfect alternative for those with sensitive skin.
Do you only use dryer sheets because of their pleasant scent? If you do, then you should try essential oil instead.
Essential oils make great dryer sheet alternatives because they are natural fabric softeners, leave a pleasant smell, and also reduce static. Just put a few drops on a microfiber towel and throw it in along with your laundry. You will have great-smelling clothes after the drying process is over.
Did you know tennis balls could be used as an alternative to dryer sheets? Just grab a few tennis balls and toss them into the dryer with your load.
These balls will help your clothes bounce around the dryer, and as a result, reduce static. Tennis balls also remove wrinkles and make your clothes feel softer.
Fabric Softener vs Dryer Sheets
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets serve the same purpose. They reduce static electricity and prevent your clothes from sticking to each other during the drying cycle.
Generally, you add liquid fabric softener to a small compartment of your washing machine. On the other hand, dryer sheets can be tossed in along with your load of laundry.
Both do the same job of making your clothes soft and adding a nice scent unless you buy the fragrance-free type. However, the way they are absorbed is different. Fabric softeners permeate the fabric, which is why they can also leave a stain sometimes. The fabric softener in the dryer sheets melts in the heat of the dryer and leaves a coating on your clothing items. Dryer sheets provide a similar effect as a fabric softener, but they may not be as effective.
Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets
Dryer balls are a chemical-free alternative to dryer sheets. Unlike dryer sheets, dryer balls are typically made of wool and do not contain any chemical compounds.
Both dryer balls and dryer sheets work to reduce static but in different ways.
Dryer sheets release positively charged particles, thereby balancing the electrons that are released when clothing rubs against one another. On the other hand, dryer balls reduce static cling but do not eliminate it entirely. They do so by separating clothing items as they tumble. Wool dryer balls absorb moisture and increase the level of humidity during the drying cycle. The increased humidity helps to reduce static electricity.
Dryer sheets make your clothes softer by coating them in a layer of wax. However, it also renders your clothes less flame-retardant. Dryer balls do not leave any coating or residue behind.
Dryer sheets are infused in synthetic fragrance which gives your clothes a pleasant scent. However, dryer balls do not have any added scent. If you want your dry clothes to smell nice, you can add a few drops of essential oil to your balls before adding them to your wet clothes.
Since dryer balls create a separation between clothing items, they allow hot air to circulate better. This reduces the drying time considerably. However, dryer sheets have no effect on the drying time.
If you want to reduce the drying time of your wet clothes and your electricity bill, consider using dryer balls instead.
If you want to stay away from harmful chemicals, you should start using dryer sheet alternatives. These alternatives give you all the benefits of dryer sheets, without the harmful after-effects.