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Are Dryer Sheets Necessary? (And What You Can Use Instead)

Are Dryer Sheets Necessary? (And What You Can Use Instead)
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We have two small boys at home that get into everything, so as you can imagine, we do a lot of laundry. For as long as I remember, we’ve always used either a fabric softener in the washer or dryer sheets in the dryer. Is this necessary, and is it recommended?

Dryer sheets are relatively inexpensive for how many you get in a box, but every recurring purchase you eliminate helps at least a little in the long run. Plus, there are other reasons why it would be beneficial to stop using dryer sheets, such as cutting down on the amount of waste you produce.

In this article, you’ll find out whether or not dryer sheets are necessary to use. Before diving in, let’s find out why you would even use a dryer sheet in the first place.

What Is the Purpose of a Dryer Sheet?

Sock Stuck to Shirt by Static

Without going into too much detail, the main purpose of dryer sheets is to keep your clothes from sticking to each other. When you run your dryer, the friction between each item creates static electricity, sometimes causing one piece of clothing to cling to another.

Do You Have to Use Dryer Sheets?

While dryer sheets do have some benefits, no, you do not have to use them. In fact many people stay away from them due to their reputation for containing harmful chemicals that have the potential to cause illnesses in humans.

Further down in this article, I’ll cover some alternative methods to try that produce similar results.

However, it’s completely fine to wash and dry your clothes without using any sort of fabric softener, as long as you understand that your clothes won’t be as soft, won’t have the same scent, and may cling to each other (especially during the winter months, when the air is typically dry).

Dryer Sheets vs. Fabric Softener

Putting Fabric Softener in the Washer

Dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener serve similar purposes: to reduce static electricity in order to keep your clothes from sticking to each other during the drying cycle.

Liquid fabric softener is typically added to a small compartment in the washer to be released during the wash cycle, while a dryer sheet can be tossed right into the dryer with your clothes.

Both types of fabric softeners are also known to soften fabric and often add a pleasant scent to your clothing (unless you buy an unscented version). Many people use fabric softeners for these benefits, not realizing the main purpose, which is to reduce static.

One difference between the two types of fabric softeners is the way they’re absorbed by your clothes. Liquid softeners permeate the fabric, which often leads to softer clothes, but can also potentially cause staining.

Dryer sheets, on the other hand, work by coating your clothing when heated. This produces a similar result, but may not be as effective.

Some people use both dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener together, but this isn’t necessary. Since they serve the same purpose, you can pick whichever one you prefer.

When Not to Use Them

Towels in the Dryer

As mentioned earlier, dryer sheets provide several benefits, such as softening your clothes, adding a pleasant smell, reducing wrinkles, and removing static.

However, because they work by coating your clothing in a waxy substance, it’s not always a good idea to use them (plus, it’s always better to stay away from unnecessary chemicals, when possible).

One such instance when it doesn’t make sense to use dryer sheets is when drying towels. When a dryer sheet is heated, the chemicals that make up its surface melt and transfer to your clothing (or towels).

Because the purpose of a towel is to absorb liquids, it’s not a good idea to put something on it that lessens its ability to absorb.

You should also avoid using dryer sheets when drying fire-resistant clothing. The chemical coating that I just described above can also decrease the effectiveness of the fire-resistant material.

Alternatives to Dryer Sheets

Wool Dryer Balls

It’s good to know that you don’t have to use dryer sheets, but what if you still want to get similar results? Fortunately, you do have some options, many of which don’t involve any added chemicals.

The most common alternative to using a dryer sheet is to use fabric softener. Any modern washer should have a small compartment to add fabric softener before you begin the load. This allows the softener to be released at the appropriate time.

While some of the concerns with dryer sheets also apply to fabric softeners, they’re considered to be a slightly better alternative.

Another popular alternative to using dryer sheets is to use a wool dryer ball. A wool dryer ball can easily be found online. When you consider that they can last over 1,000 cycles and contain no artificial ingredients, they provide an attractive option from both a financial and health perspective.

While not suitable for all situations, another way to dry your clothes without creating a ton of static is to air dry them. There are some obvious drawbacks to this, such as time and effort, but it’s the cheapest option on this list and doesn’t involve using any products or chemicals.

I’ve given you a few ideas, but there are plenty more that I haven’t included such as using vinegar, baking soda, tennis balls, or even foil. You can easily find more information about these other methods with a quick online search.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re trying to cut down on expenses or stay away from potentially harmful chemicals, it is completely fine, and reasonable, to not use dryer sheets.

While they do provide your clothes with some benefits that some people may find difficult to do without, you won’t do your clothes any harm by not using them.

If you want the benefits of dryer sheets without using them, your best options are to either use a liquid fabric softer in your washer or to use one of the alternative methods outlined above.

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