I don't know one person who doesn't crave soft clothes that smell clean and amazing after a wash and dry. I really enjoy it, and I missed those aspects of conventional laundering when I first gave up chemical-laden dryer sheets and fabric softener almost 10 years ago. Since then I've found a couple of superb alternatives that fulfill my needs while keeping my laundry routine natural and non-toxic.
The Trouble with Dryer Sheets
Conventional dryer sheets have a nasty list of negative health effects including headaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of muscle coordination and central nervous system damage. Some brands even contain carcinogenic chemicals. UGH.
And then there's the synthetic scent. But are fragrance chemicals really that bad? Oh yes, they are. Get this: Fragrance is a term that legally encompasses over 3,000 ingredients. So when you read the label on your dryer sheets (or any other product) and you see fragrance on the list, be aware that there could be just one fragrance ingredient or there could be all 3,000 of them in your product. Crazy, isn't it? Fragrance is a dangerous umbrella term you should always avoid.
Air quality isn't the only victim either. When you use dryer sheets, those same chemicals coat clothing with a layer of chemicals which can then be absorbed into your skin when you wear the garments. And what's worse, growing children are very susceptible to endocrine-disrupting, cancer-causing chemicals like those found in dryer sheets.
Quitting your dryer sheet habit is a super effective way to eliminate indoor airborne toxins. It's also the first step to removing hazardous chemicals from your clothes. In fact, it's one of our top 5 tips for people just getting started on the journey to toxin-free living.
In addition to these easy DIY dryer sheets, we also recommend purchasing a set of wool dryer balls. They do an incredible job of softening clothes, they shorten drying time and last forever, and you can scent them with a few drops of your favorite essential oil as well.
How to Make Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets
This is such a simple and affordable project anyone can do at home. In just a few minutes with a couple of ingredients, you have a pleasing alternative to toxic dryer sheets. And it's a huge relief to know exactly what's in there. No worries here!
Note: Vinegar has a potent scent, but it evaporates during the drying process, leaving just the light smell of essential oils.
- 4+ pieces of clean cloth (small towels, washcloths, rags, cloth scraps, etc)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 25+ drops high quality essential oil (my faves for laundry are lavender, geranium, sandalwood and eucalyptus)
- Glass storage container with lid (I use a 32oz mason jar)
- Place the pieces of cloth in your container.
- Mix your vinegar and essential oils in a separate bowl.
- Pour over cloth in jar until moistened, but not dripping with saturation. Keep any excess vinegar mix in another lidded mason jar for the next round.
- Use one cloth in the dryer per load of laundry.
- Repeat the process after the cloths have been dried, and run through the wash every 2-3 weeks depending on usage (or when you're ready to change scents).
TIP: I keep a second set of clean cloths on backup to rotate in while I wash the first set.
More Green Cleaning Tips
We've written a number of other articles detailing ways to green your cleaning. Here are some you might find useful:
- How Do You Remove Toxic Fragrance Chemicals from Clothes?
- Dryer Sheets and Trouble at the Homestead
- First 5 Steps You Should Take to Lighten Your Toxic Load
- 25 Ways to Create a Safe, Non-toxic Environment for Your Baby
- Green Cleaning Guide: Top 7 Toxic Cleaners and Safer Alternatives