It's time to stop using harmful dryer sheets: laundry experts say these 4 alternatives are better

One of the replacements may surprise you, and you likely already have it at home

laundry room with a washing machine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you rely on your tumble dryer, then you likely have a stack of dryer sheets nearby. But, according to experts, they might not be the best thing to be adding to your laundry loads.

Why have dryer sheets become one of many things you shouldn’t put in a tumble dryer? Kate Hanks, washer experience specialist at Hampr says, ‘traditional dryer sheets have long been the industry standard choice, however, we are now learning just how harmful they can be to not only our clothing but our dryers and even our environment.’

Here, we break down four dryer sheet alternatives – and the last one may surprise you!

What to use instead of dryer sheets

‘Users typically love dryer sheets for the scented fragrance that they leave on clothing, however, the chemicals that make up that very fragrance are what coat the inside of the dryer and, over time, can disrupt the internal mechanisms that allow the dryer to function properly,’ explains Kate Hanks of Hampr. 

‘Dryer sheets are also shown to reduce the absorbency of towels and break down the fire-resistant materials in children's pajamas. And they create unnecessary waste for our landfills and emit potentially harmful chemicals into the air. In short, dryer sheets just aren’t as great as we once thought they were.’

Here are four options that can help you save money on laundry, be more sustainable at home, and prevent dangerous home hazards.  

Kate Hanks
Kate Hanks

Kate is a 'Washr' specialist for Hampr, making her an expert in all things washing and laundry.  

1. Wool dryer balls  

wool dryer balls on a towel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The most common dryer sheet alternative is wool dryer balls, readily available online at Amazon

‘Made from 100% sheep wool, these dryer balls naturally soften your laundry without the use of synthetics or chemicals in dryer sheets – making them a perfect fit for those with sensitive skin,’ explains Ryan McKenzie, co-founder of Tru Earth. ‘Wool dryer balls also help improve airflow in the dryer while absorbing moisture, shortening drying time which results in less energy used and cutting energy bills.

‘Using dryer balls also prevents heavy items from getting scrunched up and tangled, helping your clothes dry more evenly,’ Ryan continues. ‘They also can be re-used hundreds of times, continuously helping prevent static-cling, as well as soften and fluff towels, your clothing, sheets, blankets, and more.

‘With dryer balls, you’re able to stop using synthetic dryer sheets that are bad for our planet, can harm your skin, and leave a chemical residue on your clothes and dryer.’

XL Wool Dryer Balls | $23.99 at Amazon

XL Wool Dryer Balls | <a href="https://a.co/d/7hoJx42" data-link-merchant="a.co"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">$23.99 at Amazon
Using wool dryer balls saves time, money, and energy during your laundry cycle. Use three laundry dryer balls for small/medium loads, and five to six for large.

Ryan McKenzie
Ryan McKenzie

Ryan began Tru Earth in a bid to improve his children's futures by limiting the use of single use plastics and help other go sustainable. His goal is to help beat skepticism around eco-friendly products. 

2. Silicone dryer balls  

dryer balls in machine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

‘A similar alternative to wool dryer balls are silicone dryer balls,’ continues Kate Hanks, washing specialist at Hampr. ‘These have all of the same perks as their wool counterparts, but some users find them preferable in an attempt to avoid using animal products completely.’

Switching to silicone dryer balls can also appeal to those who like to think about the aesthetics of their utility rooms or laundry rooms down to the finest details, Kate adds. ‘Oftentimes users also love the unique styles offered with silicone dryer balls as opposed to wool dryer balls. They can be found in cute shapes like a cactus plant, as on Amazon or in a variety of colors to match your laundry room decor!’ 

Reusable Silicone Dryer Balls | $9.99 at Amazon

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Reusable dryer balls offer faster drying times by lifting and separating laundry for better airflow.

3. A cloth dampened with distilled white vinegar  

folded neutral cloths

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Oftentimes, you won’t have to spend much money to find a suitable dryer sheet alternative around your home – ideal if you are using your tumble dryer in a pinch. 

‘If you don’t have dryer balls but still want to soften clothing and reduce static electricity, lightly spray a clean washcloth with distilled white vinegar and throw it into the dryer with the clothes,’ suggests Tonya Harris, author of Slightly Greener Method. ‘The vinegar scent will fade but the vinegar will help to soften clothes and remove persistent odors left after doing laundry.’ 

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | &nbsp;$11.99 at Amazon

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This specially formulated white vinegar is perfect for a range of household cleaning tasks, including laundry. 

Tonya Harris
Tonya Harris

Tonya is an environmental toxicity specialist and author of The Slightly Greener Method, available on Amazon. She aims to help people, especially families, detoxify life and find easy ways to go green when cleaning. 

4. Aluminum foil  

Perhaps the most surprising dryer sheet alternative is something found in your kitchen drawers. ‘A surprising alternative to dryer sheets is to use aluminum foil. Yes, you heard that right!’ enthuses Kate Hanks of Hampr. ‘Rolling about three feet of an aluminum foil sheet into a smooth ball will act as an amazing temporary dryer ball!

‘When clothing is rolling around in the dryer, the friction creates an abundance of electrons, which is what causes them to want to stick together. The aluminum helps to break that cycle – keeping positively charged clothes away from negatively charged clothes. Science!’

What to do with leftover dryer sheets  

White dryer sheets stacked on white bathroom tiles

(Image credit: Unsplash)

If you are left with surplus dryer sheets after making the change to a safer, more eco-friendly option, then the good news is that there are several home cleaning tips that use the sheets in safer ways. 

From using dryer sheets to clean shower doors and break down soap scum, to cleaning baseboards and banishing dust, their practical uses are almost endless and ensure you haven't wasted money or created waste out of unused products.  

What happens if you don't use dryer sheets? 

If you do not use dryer sheets or an alternative, then your clothes may not smell as fresh once dried. In the worst case, static can build up in your dryer (possibly leading to sparks and a fire if you have a full lint trap).

Can I make my own dryer sheets?  

You can make alternatives to dryer sheets yourself at home. Simply combine equal parts water and fabric softener and spray over a clean cloth until damp. Throw this cloth into your dryer in place of dryer sheets to help reduce static and scent laundry.  

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.