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Are Dryer Sheets Bad for Clothes?

December 5, 2023

Certain types of clothing will get stiff and hard after being washed. To prevent this, many people will add laundry products such as fabric softener during the washer’s rinse cycle.

The product will coat the garments with a wax-like substance, which will help soften the fabric.

An Alternative to Fabric Softener: Dryer Sheets

are dryer sheets bad for clothes

Dryer sheets are an alternative to fabric softeners. Rather than adding them to the washer, as you would with fabric conditioner, however, you put them into the dryer.

Not only are they easy to use but they’re fairly affordable too. For example, you can get an entire box of name-brand dryer sheets for under $10. The only thing is that you do have to remember to take them out of the dryer afterward as they’re one-use items.

What are Dryer Sheets Made Out Of?

Dryer sheets are typically made of polyester material, though it differ from brand to brand. Despite being paper thin, they are covered with a cocktail of chemicals.

More specifically, they contain a variety of softening agents. These surfactants, as they’re called, have two different sides—one that grabs ahold of fat and oils and another that grabs onto water.

What is the Purpose of Using Dryer Sheets?

Dryer sheets are essentially fabric softeners in sheet form. They contain softening agents that are released when the dryer is turned on, which will coat your clothes so that the fabric feel softer.

Not only that but dryer sheets can also be used to prevent static electricity on your clothes. By adding a dryer sheet to the machine, you’ll be able to balance out the ions. That is, they’ll neutralize the negatively charged ions that are on your clothing.

What Happens if I Don’t Use a Dryer Sheet?

purpose of dryer sheets

Certain types of fabric can become stiff if you don’t use a dryer sheet or conditioner. Why? The short answer is that the cloth fibers will rearrange themselves when dried, which results in them being more rigid and coarser.

The buildup of soap can also make your clothes stiff. This can happen if soap residue gets stuck within the cloth fibers.

If you don’t add a dryer sheet, static charges can also build up inside the machine. This happens as a result of the fabrics rubbing against each other in the dryer. The static cling is particularly worse during the winter months when the humidity in the air is low.

Things to Remember When Using Dryer Sheets

We mentioned this earlier but it’s important that you take out the dryer sheets after every use. If you leave them inside, dryer sheet residue and lint will scatter and accumulate throughout the machine.

Not only will your laundry be covered with lint and residue, which can lead to skin irritation for those with sensitive skin, but it can clog the dryer vent and filter, which can turn into a fire hazard.

Even if you to take out the sheets, it’s good practice to clean the lint filter and dryer vent once in a while.

Are Dryer Sheets Bad?

There’s no doubt that dryer sheets are effective. Before adding them to the dryer, however, you want to consider the type of material that you’re dealing with.

For instance, you never want to use them with synthetic fibers as it can damage the fabrics.

Certain types of dryer sheets may also contain volatile organic compounds (basically hazardous air pollutants), which may pose a danger to human health.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Dryer Sheets for Synthetic Materials

what do dryer sheets do

Synthetic materials are unique in that they are naturally moisture-wicking. This means they are capable of pulling moisture (e.g. sweat) away from the skin; it then evaporates from the surface. In other words, you won’t be wearing wet clothes during your workout.

If you add dryer sheets to a load of activewear, it will coat the fabric with a wax-like residue, which in return, will hinder its ability to wick moisture.

As a result, sweat will be held on the inside; this would cause unpleasant odors. Not to mention that it would also make the clothes more uncomfortable to wear.

Avoid Using Dryer Sheets for Microfiber Materials

Microfiber is known for attracting and locking in dirt and dust; it is also highly absorbent.

While dryer sheets would help reduce the static that often comes with these products, they would also render them useless.

By depositing a layer of wax-like substance on the surface, the microfibers would no longer be able to attract dirt, nor would it be able to absorb liquids properly.

Do Not Use Dryer Sheets on Lingerie

when shouldn't you use dryer sheets

Dryer sheets leave a layer of chemicals on your lingerie and that can lead to skin irritation. Not only that but it would also stink up your garments by trapping in body oils, sweat, and odors.

Dryer Sheets Shouldn’t be Used on Sleepwear

Sleepwear is often designed to be flame-resistant, especially those for children. If dryer sheets are used, the material will lose this property.

In some cases, the wax from the softener will make it even more flammable (there’s a reason why candles are made out of wax).

Alternatives to Dryer Sheets

The bottom line is, dryer sheets are not suitable for all types of clothing. Fortunately, there are several non-chemical alternatives that you can try.

Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls are effective and reusable. All you have to do is put a few into the dryer. Not only will they soften up your clothes (mainly by agitating the fibers), but they will also reduce static and quicken drying times.

If you want, you can even opt for the ones that come with fragrances; that way, you’ll still have the fresh scent of dryer sheets.

Making Your Own Aluminum Foil Balls

dryer sheets alternatives aluminum foil balls

Did you know that you can make your own dryer balls using aluminum foil? While they won’t provide your clothes with fragrances, they will help eliminate static in the machine.

By absorbing electrical charges, your laundry will remain static free. That’s not all, they’ll also soften your clothes to some degree.

Adding White Vinegar to the Washing Machine or Dryer

White vinegar can also be used to soften your clothes. Simply pour half a cup into your washing machine’s softener dispenser during the wash cycle.

For added fragrance, you can add a small amount of essential oil.

Alternatively, you can use white vinegar. Dampen a washcloth with a small amount and put it into the dryer with your laundry; this will soften your clothes and reduce static cling. You won’t even be able to smell the vinegar!

Add Baking Soda to the Washer

Baking soda can also be used as a fabric softener. Just add 1/4 of a cup into the washing machine during the rinse cycle; this will soften and freshen up your laundry.

If anything, you’ll be surprised as to just how effective it can be. Keep in mind, however, that this method will only work if you add it before your clothes are washed. If you’ve already washed your clothes, you’ll want to try a different method.

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Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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