Ditch the Dryer Sheets! Be Free and Green Without Sacrificing a Single Thing

I have a pet peeve with dryer sheets – I refuse to use them for a variety of reasons.  First, I think they are the biggest marketing con game that’s been played on the public. I am old enough to remember when dryer sheets first came on the market.  At the time, they were the best thing since sliced bread.  We had a savior for our laundry – the demon static cling was forever zapped from our lives lulling us into believing we can’t live without them.  Then there were the commercial’s promising our bath towels would be fluffy enough that they would “bounce” right into our closets.  Yeah right, not so much… news flash everyone, this is a gimmick - clothes can still be dried without dryer sheets and no static cling with 1 simple ingredient added to the wash, white vinegar.

Thanks to slick marketing companies have created a toxic "soap" mix that’s causing health and environmental problems. According to an article published in Scientific American, "Greener" Laundry by the Load: Fabric Softener versus Dryer Sheets: Is one method better than the other or do both fabric softener and dryer sheets damage the environment? States that both dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener include benzoyl acetate which has been linked to pancreatic cancer.  Other ingredients used in these products:

  • Benzoyl Alcohol – upper respiratory tract irritant
  • Ethanol – linked to central nervous system disorders
  • Limonene – known carcinogen
  • Chloroform – neurotoxin and carcinogen

 These products leave a waxy coating on the fabric which gradually seeps out and absorbed by the skin and inhaled. In addition, these chemicals are released into our air outside through the dryer exhaust so there is a double dose of chemicals that cause respiratory problems to humans and in animals (our pets). Think about all the birds and wildlife living outside in the neighborhood and beyond breathing multiple dryer exhaust fumes.  Then there is the material the sheets are made from. It’s a synthetic fabric that is difficult to breakdown, if ever, adding to the massive trash and toxic waste problems.  

My Discovery and Reason for Going Green

Shortly after learning my daughter had a stroke before she was born and suffered extensive brain damage, I figured out she was chemically sensitive to all commercial soap products.  Several of the offenders were the laundry products that I used.  

  • Dryer sheets
  • Bleach
  • Perfumed laundry detergents
  • Fabric softener’s

It's been 20 years since I stopped using these products specifically, the dryer sheets and commercial fabric softeners.  I haven't missed them one bit.  However, for convenience reasons, I have reintroduced powdered laundry detergent rather than making it myself.  My daughter’s world is less painful now and I can get away with using some commercial products on a limited basis.   

My Laundry Recipe:    

  • White vinegar in place of bleach: Vinegar is a great water softening agent – we have extremely hard water and no water softening system. I use 1 – 2 cups per load depending on how big my loads are.
  • Borax: This is a detergent booster, deodorizer, and water
  • Basic no frills unscented powdered laundry detergent.

For the most part, static cling is not a problem except on occasion during the winter months.  We tend to wear more synthetic fabrics which create static cling in my dryer.  To resolve this, I throw in 5 tennis balls for a few rounds and that usually resolves the problem. But to be brutally honest, the real secret to eliminating static cling is adding white vinegar in the bleach receptacle of your washing machine.  It’s that simple.  If you are concerned about your clothes smelling like vinegar – they won’t.  Everything gets rinsed out in the rinse cycle.  It really works like a charm!  

The Experiment!

Lately, I've been experimenting with making my own eco-friendly dryer sheets using essential oils and white vinegar.  In the past, I've made lavender dryer sachets from the dried lavender I grow in my garden with ok results. The scent wasn’t strong but I could smell the lavender.  

According to the article, I came across for eco-friendly dryer sheets  – you make squares (any size you want will work) from 100% cotton fabric.  Tea towels, old scrap fabric will work fine. Soak the squares in the vinegar / essential oil mixture and when you need a square, simply toss a wet one (but not soaking) into the dryer. 

I thought this was a brilliant idea and wanted to give it a try.  At the same time, I wondered if these squares would give my laundry a stronger scent than my dried lavender sachets. 

My experiments have been fairly successful. I have no static cling (although I wouldn’t expect to since I put white vinegar in the washing phase).  My laundry smells “clean and fresh” and there is a faint scent of lavender and no hint of vinegar.  The lavender isn’t strong but I think there is room for adjustments with the EO.  I didn’t have that option with my lavender dryer sachets. 

Adjust your Expectations

Expectations will need to be adjusted if you decide to try this recipe.  Naturally, green products are not meant to be perfume, so don't expect a strong scent. Experimentation will be key - you will have to play with the essential oil(s) and white vinegar ratio and adjust as you go. 

Basic Reusable Dyer Sheet Recipe 

2 - Qt containers w/ lids

White Distilled Vinegar

Essential oil of your choice (lavender, lemon, geranium, mint will all work well)

100% cotton fabric square (at least 4)

Fill 1 container with vinegar and add a minimum of 25 drops of essential oil.  Dip fabric square in vinegar EO mixture and squeeze excess out.  Place wet square in container 2 and store until ready to use.  Adjust as needed with EO and size of the fabric square.  I find that large capacity loads need larger fabric squares.

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