What to Use Instead of Dryer Sheets

If you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact and save money, ditching dryer sheets can be a great first step. Traditional dryer sheets are often laden with chemicals, fragrances, and synthetic materials that can be harmful to both humans and the planet. Fortunately, there are numerous eco-friendly and cost-effective alternatives to dryer sheets that can leave your clothes soft, static-free, and fresh-smelling. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the best options available.

What to Use Instead of Dryer Sheets

1. Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls are a natural and reusable alternative to dryer sheets. Made from 100% wool, these balls help to soften clothes, reduce static cling, and cut down on drying time. As the balls tumble around in the dryer, they create spaces between the clothes, allowing hot air to circulate more efficiently. This not only saves energy but also helps to prevent wrinkles and over-drying.

Wool dryer balls are incredibly easy to use – simply toss them into the dryer with your wet clothes, and they’ll do their job without leaving any residue or harmful chemicals behind. Additionally, these balls are long-lasting and can be used for several years with proper care.

Why Choose Wool Dryer Balls?

  • Eco-Friendly: Made from renewable and biodegradable materials, wool dryer balls are an environmentally friendly choice.
  • Cost-Effective: While the initial investment may be higher than traditional dryer sheets, wool dryer balls can be reused for years, making them a cost-effective option in the long run.
  • Gentle on Fabrics: Unlike dryer sheets, which can leave a residue on clothes, wool dryer balls are gentle on fabrics and won’t cause any buildup or fading.
  • Versatile: Wool dryer balls can be used with any type of fabric, including delicates and athletic wear.

Tip: To refresh the scent of your wool dryer balls, you can add a few drops of essential oils to them before tossing them into the dryer.

2. Vinegar

White vinegar is a versatile and inexpensive household item that can be used as a natural fabric softener. Simply add 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine. The vinegar helps to break down the residue left behind by detergents, leaving your clothes soft and fresh-smelling.

Vinegar is also effective at eliminating static cling, thanks to its acidic nature. Additionally, it can help to brighten whites and colours, making it a great all-around laundry aid.

The Benefits of Using Vinegar

  • Affordable: Vinegar is an inexpensive and readily available household item, making it a budget-friendly choice for fabric softening.
  • Natural and Safe: Unlike many commercial fabric softeners, vinegar is a natural and non-toxic alternative, making it safe for use around children and pets.
  • Versatile: Vinegar can be used as a fabric softener, static reducer, and even a natural laundry brightener.
  • Eco-Friendly: Since vinegar is a natural product, it’s biodegradable and won’t contribute to environmental pollution.

Note: While vinegar is generally safe for most fabrics, it’s always a good idea to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first, especially with delicate or colored fabrics.

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda is another pantry staple that can be used as a natural fabric softener and static reducer. Simply sprinkle a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of baking soda into the dryer drum before adding your clothes. The baking soda will help to absorb moisture and prevent static buildup.

Baking soda is also effective at neutralizing odours, making it a great choice for gym clothes, towels, and other items that tend to hold onto unpleasant smells.

Why Use Baking Soda in Your Laundry?

  • Natural Deodorizer: Baking soda is a powerful yet gentle deodorizer, making it ideal for tackling tough odours in your laundry.
  • Softens Fabrics: The mild abrasive properties of baking soda help to soften fabrics without causing any damage or fading.
  • Environmentally Friendly: As a natural and non-toxic product, baking soda is an eco-friendly choice for your laundry routine.
  • Versatile: In addition to fabric softening and odour removal, baking soda can also be used as a natural laundry brightener and stain remover.

Tip: For an extra fresh scent, you can add a few drops of essential oils to the baking soda before adding it to the dryer.

4. Aluminum Foil Balls

If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution to static cling, aluminium foil balls might be the answer. Simply crumple up a few sheets of aluminium foil into tight balls and toss them into the dryer with your clothes.

As the foil balls tumble around, they’ll help to discharge static electricity, leaving your clothes soft and static-free. This method is particularly effective for heavy fabrics like denim and flannel, which are prone to static buildup.

The Advantages of Aluminum Foil Balls

  • Inexpensive: Aluminum foil is an affordable and readily available household item, making this method a cost-effective choice.
  • Quick and Easy: Unlike some other alternatives, aluminium foil balls require no preparation and can be used immediately.
  • Reusable: The foil balls can be used multiple times before needing to be replaced, reducing waste and saving you money.
  • Safe for All Fabrics: Aluminum foil is a non-toxic and gentle material, making it safe for use on all types of fabrics, including delicates.

Note: While aluminum foil balls are effective at reducing static cling, they won’t necessarily soften fabrics or add any fragrance to your laundry.

5. Soap Nuts

Soap nuts, also known as soapberries, are a natural and eco-friendly alternative to traditional laundry detergents and fabric softeners. These nuts contain saponins, which are natural surfactants that can effectively clean and soften clothes.

To use soap nuts, simply place a few of them into a small cloth bag or muslin pouch and toss it into the washer with your clothes. The agitation of the washing machine will release the saponins, creating a gentle and effective cleaning solution.

Soap nuts are biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and free from synthetic chemicals, making them an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin or environmental concerns.

The Benefits of Soap Nuts

  • Natural and Eco-Friendly: Soap nuts are a completely natural and biodegradable product, making them an environmentally friendly choice for your laundry.
  • Hypoallergenic: Since they are free from synthetic chemicals and fragrances, soap nuts are a great option for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
  • Versatile: Soap nuts can be used for washing clothes, as well as for other cleaning tasks around the home.
  • Cost-Effective: While the initial investment in soap nuts may be higher than traditional detergents, they can be reused multiple times, making them a cost-effective choice in the long run.

Tip: To enhance the cleaning power of soap nuts, you can add a small amount of washing soda or borax to the wash cycle.

6. Hair Conditioner

Believe it or not, hair conditioner can be used as a fabric softener in a pinch. The same properties that make conditioner effective for softening and detangling hair can also work wonders on your clothes.

Simply add a small amount (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) of conditioner to the rinse cycle of your washing machine. The conditioner will help to soften fabrics and reduce static cling, leaving your clothes feeling fresh and rejuvenated.

Using Hair Conditioner as a Fabric Softener

  • Affordable: A hair conditioner is an inexpensive and readily available product, making it a budget-friendly option for fabric softening.
  • Gentle on Fabrics: Conditioners are formulated to be gentle on hair, which means they are also gentle on fabrics and won’t cause any damage or fading.
  • Fragrant: Many hair conditioners are lightly scented, which can leave your clothes with a pleasant, fresh aroma.
  • Versatile: You can use any type of hair conditioner, including those formulated for specific hair types or concerns.

Note: While hair conditioner can be an effective fabric softener, it’s important to use it sparingly, as too much can leave a residue on your clothes.

7. DIY Fabric Softener Spray

If you’re looking for a custom solution, you can easily make your fabric softener spray at home. This DIY option allows you to control the ingredients and scents, ensuring that your clothes are treated with only natural and safe components.

To make a simple fabric softener spray, mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. You can add a few drops of essential oils (e.g., lavender, lemon, or eucalyptus) for a pleasant scent. Shake the bottle well and spray lightly onto your clothes before tossing them into the dryer.

Advantages of a DIY Fabric Softener Spray

  • Customizable: By making your spray, you can tailor the ingredients and scents to your personal preferences.
  • Eco-Friendly: Using natural ingredients like vinegar and essential oils, this DIY spray is an environmentally friendly option.
  • Cost-Effective: Homemade fabric softener sprays are much more affordable than store-bought alternatives.
  • Safe for Sensitive Skin: By avoiding synthetic fragrances and chemicals, this spray is gentle and safe for those with sensitive skin.

Tip: For an extra boost of softness, you can add a small amount of vegetable glycerin or hair conditioner to your DIY fabric softener spray.

8. Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable glycerin is a natural and plant-based ingredient that can be used as a fabric softener and static reducer. This clear, odourless liquid helps to attract and retain moisture, leaving clothes soft and static-free.

To use vegetable glycerin as a fabric softener, simply add a few tablespoons to the rinse cycle of your washing machine. Alternatively, you can mix it with water in a spray bottle and lightly mist your clothes before drying.

Why Choose Vegetable Glycerin?

  • Natural and Non-Toxic: Vegetable glycerin is a plant-derived product that is safe and non-toxic, making it a great choice for those with sensitive skin or environmental concerns.
  • Effective Softener: The moisturizing properties of glycerin helps to soften fabrics and prevent static cling.
  • Versatile: In addition to fabric softening, vegetable glycerin can also be used in DIY beauty products, such as soaps and lotions.
  • Eco-Friendly: As a natural and biodegradable product, vegetable glycerin is an environmentally friendly option.

Note: When using vegetable glycerin, it’s important to use it in moderation, as too much can leave a sticky residue on your clothes.

9. Yarn Scraps

If you’re a crafter or have access to yarn scraps, you can put them to good use as a natural fabric softener. Simply tie a few pieces of yarn together and toss them into the dryer with your clothes.

As the yarn tumbles around, it will help to soften fabrics and reduce static cling. This method is particularly effective for delicate items like sweaters and baby clothes, as the yarn is gentle on fabrics.

The Benefits of Using Yarn Scraps

  • Eco-Friendly: Repurposing yarn scraps that would otherwise be discarded is an environmentally friendly choice.
  • Gentle on Fabrics: Yarn is a soft and gentle material, making it safe for use on delicate fabrics.
  • Cost-Effective: If you already have yarn scraps on hand, this method is essentially free.
  • Customizable: You can use different types of yarn (e.g., wool, cotton, or synthetic) to achieve different levels of softness and static reduction.

Tip: For added freshness, you can lightly mist the yarn scraps with a DIY fabric softener spray or a few drops of essential oils before adding them to the dryer.

10. Dryer Balls with Essential Oils

For those who enjoy the fresh scent of traditional dryer sheets, you can create a similar effect using dryer balls and essential oils. Simply add a few drops of your favourite essential oil (e.g., lavender, lemon, or eucalyptus) to your wool dryer balls before tossing them into the dryer.

The heat from the dryer will help to release the essential oils, providing a natural and refreshing fragrance to your clothes without the use of synthetic chemicals or fragrances.

The Advantages of Dryer Balls with Essential Oils

  • Natural Fragrance: Essential oils provide a natural and non-toxic way to scent your laundry.
  • Customizable: You can choose from a wide variety of essential oils to find the perfect scent for your preferences.
  • Long-Lasting: The essential oils will continue to scent your laundry for several drying cycles.
  • Eco-Friendly: Both wool dryer balls and essential oils are natural and environmentally friendly products.

Note: Be sure to use high-quality, pure essential oils, as some cheaper varieties may contain synthetic fragrances or additives.

Additional Tips and Considerations

  • Fabric Care: Always read the care labels on your clothing and follow any specific instructions for fabric softening or static reduction.
  • Moderation: When using any fabric softening alternative, it’s important to use it in moderation to avoid residue buildup or damage to your clothes.
  • Combination Methods: For best results, you can combine multiple methods, such as using wool dryer balls with a DIY fabric softener spray.
  • Energy Efficiency: Many of these alternatives, such as wool dryer balls and aluminium foil balls, can help to reduce drying time and save energy.


Ditching dryer sheets in favour of eco-friendly and cost-effective alternatives can be a simple yet impactful step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Whether you choose wool dryer balls, vinegar, baking soda, or one of the other options listed above, you’ll be reducing your environmental impact while still enjoying soft, static-free, and fresh-smelling clothes.

Remember, these alternatives not only benefit the planet but can also save you money in the long run. Many of these options are inexpensive and can be reused for multiple loads of laundry, making them a budget-friendly choice.

So, why not give one (or several) of these dryer sheet alternatives a try? Your clothes, your wallet, and the environment will thank you.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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