We love fuzzy winter socks and sweaters as much as the next person, but keeping them soft sometimes comes with a price. If you’re like many people, you probably grew up popping dryer sheets in with your laundry without even thinking about what it means for your health, or the environment.
Thankfully, there are now loads of eco-friendly dryer sheets and dryer sheet alternatives to keep your clothes soft, scented, and static-free without harming you or the planet.
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What’s wrong with regular dryer sheets?
The first dryer sheet was invented in the 1960s when Conrad Gaiser added fabric softener to a piece of cotton to make doing laundry easier for his wife, Audrey. The couple lived in an apartment and were tired of running to the ground-floor laundry room to add softener to the rinse cycle every time they washed their clothes. Proctor and Gamble bought the invention in 1969 and released it as “Bounce” in the 1970s.
These days, most modern dryer sheets are made from non-woven polyester coated with fabric softener, anti-static agents, and synthetic fragrances. These materials are not recyclable or biodegradable and often end up in landfills, or, worse, our oceans. They also contain fatty acids that can affect your tumble drier’s performance, causing you to use more energy over time.
Although you can use them to make your laundry smell cleaner, feel softer, and appear less wrinkled, some studies show they may have negative health effects. The most concerning ingredients in dryer sheets are fragrances. Research shows many fragranced softeners can cause allergic reactions and air pollution when their fumes float through tumble drier vents.
Best Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets
While avoiding dryer sheets (or using the dryer at all) is probably the safest, there are some non-toxic options to try if you really love what they do for your clothes. Here are some of the best natural dryer sheets on our shopping list:
ATTITUDE is a household name in all things eco-friendly, and they’ve done it again with their reusable dryer cloths that reduce static and keep your clothes wrinkle-free, while reducing waste.
Unlike traditional dryer sheets that are single-use, this eco-friendly alternative can be used for up to 300 loads! You can simply wash them with your laundry every few months to keep them clean.
They are fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and safe for children’s clothes and cloth diapers. They’re also vegan, cruelty-free, and produced with the environment in mind.
Grab Green is a women-owned local business that specializes in non-toxic cleaning products. Their Stoneworks range is proudly USA-made, cruelty-free, and scented with 97% natural ingredients to create unique fragrance blends.
These eco-friendly tumble dryer sheets are made from compostable materials and they are packaged in 100% recycled paper boxes.
Simply throw one in the dryer with your wet clothes and they’ll come out soft, and with a beautifully mild and natural scent.
These eco-friendly fabric softener sheets contain plant-based softening agents and are a USDA-certified Biobased product.
Seventh Generation is committed to sustainability and uses plastic-free packaging for its dryer sheets and many other of their eco-friendly products.
The company also supports various social justice advocacy campaigns and runs a foundation for organizations owned by indigenous people.
These dryer sheets come in a dermatologically-approved, fragrance-free variety for sensitive skin and three scented options that contain essential oils.
Biokleen’s USA-made, all-natural dryer sheets contain only four plant-based ingredients that soften your clothes without harsh chemicals.
Have sensitive skin or a detergent allergy? These sheets are free from phosphates, chlorine, and ammonia and contain no synthetic coloring, brighteners, or fragrances.
No synthetic chemicals mean no toxic residue left behind on your clothes – preventing any nasty stuff from running into our rivers on the way to the wastewater plant.
These earth-friendly laundry sheets by The Clean People are a biodegradable fabric softener made from plant-derived ingredients – helping you reduce plastic waste with every wash.
They contain no parabens, phosphates, phthalates, chlorine bleach, ammonia, artificial dyes, or fragrance, making them safe for even the most sensitive skin!
These laundry sheets are vegan and cruelty-free, and The Clean People plant a tree for every 96-pack (or larger) they sell.
We love Grab Green’s range so much that we had to feature it twice! Company co-founders Patricia Spencer and Michael Edel are both parents of two who strive to make cleaning products that protect their kids’ health.
These gentle dryer sheets for baby clothes contain 97% natural ingredients that soften your little one’s linens and prevent nasty static shocks.
Grab Green’s baby range also contains calming chamomile essential oil to soothe fussy newborns and promote restful sleep. And unlike most store-bought dryer sheets, these natural products can be thrown in your compost after use.
Public Goods is committed to absolute transparency – it publishes detailed ingredient lists for each product on its website and uses no-nonsense packaging made from recycled materials.
Its sustainable dryer sheets are baby-safe, biodegradable, and fragrance-free – keeping your family’s clothes soft without any toxic chemicals that can hurt your skin, or the earth.
They’re made in Wisconsin, so they use less energy to arrive in your local store (if you’re US based) than imported brands. Public Goods also plants a tree for every online order.
Best Alternative to Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets don’t affect how clean your clothes come out, and you don’t really need to use them. If you are looking for an eco-friendly substitute for dryer sheets, look no further.
Wool dryer balls are an eco-friendly dryer sheet replacement that you can use over and over again. They typically last an entire year – saving you countless trips to the grocery store and saving the planet from single-use dryer sheets.
Wool is a sustainable material that fluffs and softens your clothes naturally, and using these balls can even help you dry the laundry faster!
These handmade, organic wool dryer balls from Friendsheep are made from New Zealand wool, are cruelty-free, Leaping Bunny-certified, and they’re are ethically made in Nepal with fair trade labor.
Bamboo is a fast-growing crop that requires very little water and produces 35% more oxygen than trees. It can also be turned into yarn, which people can use to make clothing, home linens, and of course, natural dryer balls.
Bamboo dryer balls are a vegan-friendly alternative to traditional wool balls as they contain no animal products.
We love these handmade bamboo dryer balls from Etsy creator Deneen Perkins. They also contain natural activated charcoal that attracts and absorbs odors for fresher-smelling laundry without the use of artificial fragrances.
This eco-friendly dryer sheet alternative comprises a fabric sachet filled with dried lavender flowers.
The lavender adds a subtle, clean scent to your dry clothes and you can toss the blooms in your compost once they have lost their fragrance, or simply add a few more drops of your favorite essential oil!
Trader Joe’s lavender dryer bags are a popular choice among local eco-warriors who want fresh-smelling laundry without harsh chemicals. Or you can make your own sachets if you have lavender in your garden!
These egg-shaped dryer balls have been scientifically proven to reduce drying time by up to 28%. Drying your clothes faster can help you save energy, which is kinder to the planet too.
EcoEgg dryer eggs are made of BPA-free and recyclable plastic with a three-year guarantee, and you can keep your EcoEgg for decades, eliminating single-use laundry products completely. They’re also packaged in FSC recyclable paper.
EcoEgg dryer eggs have a knobbled surface to soften clothes, and you can use them with matching fragrance sticks to add a subtle scent to your laundry.
Make your own Reusable Dryer Sheets
The good news is that dryer sheets are super simple to make! All you’ll need is store-bought cloths or scraps of fabric (a good way to reuse old clothes!), vinegar, and essential oils.
Vinegar is a natural softening agent, and despite its strong smell, it won’t leave your clothing with any scent – this is where the essential oils come in.
To make your DIY dryer sheets, simply soak your fabric in vinegar, add a few drops of essential oil, and pop it in the dryer.
Aluminum Foil Balls
Another alternative to conventional dryer sheets is aluminum foil! You can crumple up a sheet of aluminum foil to make your own eco-friendly dryer balls in a flash.
They keep your clothes soft and static-free and are 100% recyclable, so you can add them to your recycling once they’ve served their purpose.
Line-dry your Clothes Instead!
The best environmentally-friendly dryer sheets is to use none at all! Why not take advantage of the sunshine and hang your clothes out to dry when the weather is nice? It’s the most eco-friendly way to dry your clothes and uses zero energy while creating zero waste.
Whether you’re after organic dryer sheets or dryer sheet substitutes, there are plenty of options to help you save the planet and protect your health one load at a time. Ditching regular dryer sheets for non-toxic alternatives gives you peace of mind that your laundry is soft, safe, and chemical-free.