Laundry is a normal part of our weekly household chores. We all love to have our clothes come out of the dryer with a fresh scent, soft to the touch, and free from static cling. To achieve this, we use different kinds of products such as dryer sheets. For the uninitiated, these are tissue-like materials that are tossed in the dryer along with clothes to make it more fragrant, soft, and devoid of static.
However, dryer sheets are controversial for their chemical content that can make people sick. A study published in 2000 at the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health revealed the toxicity of chemicals in certain laundry products that can lead to a number of health risks like respiratory inflammation when inhaled.
Fortunately there are other ways you can rely on that will make you no longer look on dryer sheets. These are a lot safer, cheaper, and can be reused multiple times. Also mentioned are some tips you can follow to avoid having static cling on the clothes that you dry.
Here are some alternatives to dryer sheets:
1. Aluminum Foil Balls
Another cheap yet very effective alternative to dryer sheets. Aluminum foil works by absorbing the electrical charges on your clothes, making them free from static. It also makes your clothes a lot softer as it bounces along with them in the dryer. Just gather enough sheets of aluminum foil until you can compress them into a ball, which you will be including in the dryer with the clothes. Effectiveness can be increased by using more than one ball. However it is not as powerful as other alternatives when it comes to softening, hence you should use vinegar or other natural softeners to compensate.
2. Soap Nuts
These are the fruits that grow from the sapindus tree, and their pulp is a common ingredient in the creation of soap. The shells of soap nut contain saponin, a surfactant glycoside that reduces the water’s surface tension, making it a lot easier to pierce fabrics that are soiled. When you use these berries (yes, they are berries), you will no longer need to use a dryer sheet for your clothes. Many detergents in the market include surfactants, but these are tainted with other chemicals that may prove to be a health risk. Here are some ways on how to prepare soap nuts for your laundry:
a. Crush two soap nuts then boil them for up to 30 minutes. Let it cool before straining into a jar with a piece of muslin cloth. Add a couple drops of essential oil for fragrance. Store the jar in your refrigerator and use it as a detergent when you’re doing the laundry. The leftover nuts and used muslin cloth can still be used for your laundry. Crushing or mashing the nuts helps release more saponin when it is boiled.
b. Place soap nuts in a cloth satchel and you now have a substitute for your laundry detergent. Use one to two soap nuts for hot water, and it can be used twice. For colder water, eight or more will do, and you can use it for six times, more if needed. Squeeze the shells to determine if it can still be used, if it releases a foamy liquid then it’s still good.
3. White Vinegar
Cheap and commonly found in every household, white vinegar fulfills a lot of other purposes aside from being a culinary ingredient. A mere shot of vinegar is enough to make your clothes soft and it also removes static as well. It is way cheaper than any other fabric softener or dryer sheet, not to mention very easy to acquire. However, you should only use vinegar during the rinse cycle or when the water is full, not during the spin cycle as it will end up with you having your clothes reek of vinegar. Aside from directly applying half a cup of white vinegar into your laundry, here are a few ways on how to use white vinegar for your laundry:
a. Mix baking soda with vinegar in a pail with hot water. Use a big pail as this combination will result in fizzing. Once it no longer fizzes, transfer the mix into bottles and throw in only one-fourth of a cup every rinse cycle. Make sure to properly mix the bottle as the baking soda doesn’t completely dissolve.
b. Stir the half cup of vinegar with an essential oil of your choosing for a more fragrant outcome. You can also include essential oils on the baking soda and vinegar combination.
c. Cut cotton cloths into small strips and put them in a jar. On a separate bowl, mix white vinegar and your favorite essential oil, then pour it into the jar. To use this, just take one cloth, squeeze out liquid back into the jar, then throw it into your dryer. You can return the cloth back into the jar for future use. Alternatively, you can use hair conditioner instead of an essential oil.
4. Wool Dryer Balls
Balls of wool can be purchased in many stores, or you can easily make one at home. These little spheres do wonders for your laundry as they make clothes dry faster, reduce static, and naturally soften as they bounce around with your garments Wool balls don’t leave any bad scent, and they’re very cheap to buy or make as well. Four to six balls are good for regular laundry loads, and six to eight balls for larger ones. If you decide to make your own wool dryer balls, make sure that the yarn you will use is 100% wool. After wrapping them into balls, wrap them all together in pantyhose, each separated with a string of yarn. Toss the balls in pantyhose into the dryer with your laundry and set its wash cycle to hot and use cold water for the rinse cycle. Dry it afterwards using your dryer’s hottest setting. Double check if the balls have already felted, if not then repeat the washing and drying process with another set of laundry. Avoid using yarn with colors that may bleed on your clothes like red, and do not choose those labeled as “machine washable” as they will never felt. You can apply a few drops of your essential oil to the balls so they will leave a pleasant smell.
5. DIY Dryer Sheets
You can make your own dryer sheets with cheap materials that may be available in your home right now:
a. Drop an old sock into a bowl full of fabric softener and let it soak for a couple of minutes. After the allotted time, squeeze the sock and hang it outside on your clothesline to dry. Use it as how you would use your dryer sheets. Store the sock in a basket or a bag once done for future use.
b. Cut a sponge into rectangular strips. Pour fabric softener in a plastic container and dilute it with water, then place the strips in the mix. Drop a strip into your laundry and put it back on the plastic container when you’re done with it.
Aside from using dryer sheet alternatives, there are other things you can do to minimize or completely avoid having static cling on your clothes:
a. Hang your clothes outside on a clothesline to dry. This ensures drying without creating static electricity as they are not rubbing, unlike when they’re in the dryer. If the weather opposes, you can hang them indoors instead.
b. After drying, make it a habit to shake your clothes before folding them to the closet. This helps eliminate the possibility of static setting in the fabric.
c. Separate nylon and polyester clothes from your natural fabric garments to avoid the buildup of static on the latter. Try hanging the synthetic fabrics outside while leaving the natural ones in the dryer. Or, if possible, avoid buying clothes made of synthetic fabric.
d. Don’t over dry your clothes. Letting them tumble around your dryer devoid of any moisture will encourage static buildup.
e. Substitute cotton, linen, and wool over synthetic fabrics when it comes to bed sheets, curtains, and other household items that use these. This will help reduce the positive charges on your home that harbor static electricity.