Dryer sheets are great fabric softeners that leave your clothes soft and static-free. However, dryer sheets could be doing some harm to you and the environment. These laundry sheets are generally single-use and not biodegradable. Some dryer sheets may also contain toxic chemicals that can harm some people.
Thankfully, eco-friendly and non-toxic dryer sheet alternatives are much kinder to you and the environment.
Read on to find out some of the best non-toxic dryer sheets you can shop for and natural, non-toxic dryer sheet alternatives you can switch to. And if, after reading, we’re convinced these dryer sheets are the way forward, grab some laundry detergent sheets or refillable zero-waste detergent for convenience and eco-friendliness before and after the wash.
A dryer sheet comprises quaternary ammonium compounds or liquid fabric softeners, fragrances, and lubricants coated on a fabric. When you toss a dryer sheet into a load, the coated ingredients penetrate the clothes.
A typical dryer sheet can include many chemicals like ethoxylated alcohol and the abovementioned chemicals. Brands make these sheets from synthetic fabrics (polyester) that are cut and then packaged in cardboard boxes. They come in a thin size and are used to soften clothes and reduce static, leaving that fresh, laundered scent we all love.
Many brands make traditional dryer sheets from non-biodegradable polyester material. This material also comes coated with a fabric softener agent, chemicals, and synthetic fragrances. Unfortunately, they are only used once and end up as trash in our landfills and oceans. The synthetic fabrics do not break down, polluting the environment.
One study reveals that chemicals used in fabric softener dryer sheets and other laundry products1 are linked to skin irritation, allergic reactions, endocrine system disruption, asthma, and even cancer.
Another study shows that fabric softeners and conventional dryer sheets can cause air pollution as fumes float through the tumble dryer vents2.
You can altogether ditch dryer sheets and avoid toxic cleaning products using eco-friendly fabric softeners. Here are some non-toxic alternatives to dryer sheets that you can switch to:
Wool dryer balls are a great non-toxic alternative to dryer sheets. What’s great about these wool dryer balls is that you can use them repeatedly, lasting almost a year. This saves you money and multiple trips to the store. Natural wool dryer balls are hypoallergenic, chemical-free, and great for sensitive skin.
Wool dryer balls do not completely remove static. However, you can improve this by adding a safety pin to your wool dryer ball. Also, we find dryer balls better for small loads and less so for large loads.
These wool balls from Kind Laundry come in 100% Pure New Zealand Wool and naturally reduce wrinkles, soften clothes, prevent static cling, and reduce your drying time by 25%.
Another eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners is baking soda. Adding a quarter cup of baking soda to your wash cycle can help remove odors and soften your clothes. Baking soda can also help brighten your clothes.
Vinegar is a non-toxic and eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets. You'll find it works amazingly to help keep your clothes soft and smelling fresh. It’s also a great fabric softener that keeps your towels soft and fresh without distorting their absorption qualities. However, vinegar is not very effective at preventing static. You can add a quarter cup of vinegar or add vinegar to a wash cloth and add it to your dryer. You don’t have to worry about the vinegar smell; it will dissipate as it dries.
Soap nuts are dried shells from soapberry nuts. People use soap nuts to wash clothes and soften them. Many brands also use soap nuts to make shampoos and other household cleaners.
To use soap nuts as a fabric softener, put them in a cotton soap-saver bag and tumble dry them with your clothes. The heat from the dryer will release the saponin from the shells and into your clothes. This will leave your clothes static-free, soft, and freshly scented. Soap nuts are also reusable and compostable.
An interesting alternative to conventional dryer sheets is aluminum foil balls. Roll foil into balls and put them in your laundry. It will soften your clothes and eliminate static from them. Foil balls are affordable and recyclable.
Dryer bags are a great alternative to your regular dryer sheet. They are porous and allow soap and water to pass through them while protecting your clothes.
Trader Joe’s laundry dryer bag is filled with dried lavender flowers, adding a clean scent to your clothes. Once the flowers lose their fragrance, compost them or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
If you’re not ready to use other alternatives, you can start with reusable dryer sheets. You can use these sheets as many times as you like. They do a great job of softening your clothes and removing static.
Attitude’s fabric softener sheets (here on Amazon) are reusable and free of toxic chemicals. You can use these reusable fabric softeners for as many as 300 loads.
If you don’t want to buy dryer sheets, you can make yours. The best part is dryer sheets are easy to make. For example, vinegar and essential oils can make good fabric softeners. To make your DIY dryer sheet, you can soak a clean fabric scrap in vinegar, add a few drops of essential oil and toss it in the dryer. There are many other recipes you can find online for DIY fabric softeners that only require ingredients you have in your home.
One of the most natural alternatives to dryer sheets is using nothing. You can simply line-dry clothes out in the sunlight. Not only does it save you money, but it also saves electricity. Whether hanging them on the line outside or a rack in your laundry room, simply leave them out in the breeze. The air will give your clothes a fresh, clean smell that costs nothing.
If you are not ready to switch to any dryer sheet alternatives listed above, there are safe and eco-friendly options to reduce static and leave your clothes soft.
Seventh Generation is a sustainable brand that makes some of the most eco-friendly products using plant-based ingredients, including scents from 100% pure essential oils. Their eco-friendly products also come in recyclable packaging.
These Seventh-generation dryer sheets are designed to reduce static cling and soften clothes.
What we love about these sheets is their natural scents that smell amazing. You won't have to worry if you have sensitive skin, as these sheets come in fragrance-free options. They are also non-toxic, free of dyes and harsh chemicals.
Biokleen makes these all-natural dryer sheets from plant-based ingredients, free of artificial fragrances, brighteners, and toxic chemicals that are great for sensitive skin.
These dryer sheets soften your clothes and release a citrus scent, leaving your clothes smelling fresh.
With no synthetic fragrances or chemicals, you don’t have to worry about any toxic residue on your clothes or wastewater running into your environment after a wash cycle.
Made entirely from plants, these fabric softeners are great for you and the environment. Free of harmful chemicals, these non-toxic fabric softeners eliminate static, leaving your clothes soft. These laundry fabric softeners are also fragrance-free and gluten-free. After a rinse cycle, your clothes are left with a light scent.
Being locally produced, these fabric softeners from Public Goods arrive in local US stores with less energy. The brand is transparent, providing a detailed list of ingredients used. Products also come in packaging made from recycled and natural materials.
Thanks to this dryer sheet from Better Life, you can ensure your laundry is soft and smell good. They smell great and can eliminate static and soften your clothes without irritating your skin. These non-toxic sheets are free of parabens, dyes, and synthetic fragrances and are safe around your kids, pets, and the planet.
You can choose from dryer sheets with Grapefruit Lavendar and unscented fragrances. With just half a dryer sheet, you can wash a load of laundry. All you need to do is divide the perforated sheet into half, put it on wet clothes, and let the magic begin. You can also compost your dryer sheets after use.
Made with plants and pure essential oils, these vegan fabric softeners effectively reduce static and soften your clothes. They are free of harsh fragrances, dyes, waxes, animal derivatives, or harmful chemicals, ensuring your clothes smell great and look their best. Also, these non-toxic fabric softeners are an excellent option if you are prone to allergies or have sensitive skin. To use, simply toss these compostable dryer sheets into your load.
Molly’s Suds is a brand that prioritizes superior cleaning without compromising your safety and the environment. Their products also come in recycled, recyclable and biodegradable cardboard packaging. The brand has other household products, including laundry detergent, natural wool balls, laundry sheets, laundry stain remover spray, etc.
Made with plant and mineral-based ingredients, these sheets from Grab Green naturally soften your clothes and reduce static cling. These dryer sheets are free of dyes, parabens, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals. They are available in four fragrances: Olive leaf, Rose Petal, Birch Branch, and Oak Tree. You can also get their Fragrance-free Rain which is their unscented sheets option. Their unscented option is both hypoallergenic and compostable. A box contains 160 sheets with water-based inks on their recyclable packaging.
Grab Green is a US-based women-owned brand that provides non-toxic laundry, home cleaning, and personal care products.
Mrs. Meyer’s dryer sheets come in plant fibers that soften your clothing, remove static, and leave your clothes smelling fresh. Other ingredients include essential oils and other carefully selected eco-friendly ingredients. Their birchwood natural dryer sheet is lightly scented, leaving your clothes with a fresh forest scent.
These sheets come with Leaping Bunny Certification, meaning the brand makes them with cruelty-free formulas.
To use these sheets, simply remove a single sheet, tear it at the perforation, and add it to your dryer with wet clothes. The dryer sheets also come in recyclable packaging.
These fabric softener sheets are plant- and plastic-free, making them gentle to the most sensitive skin and the environment. They come in clean, effective ingredients (free of parabens, phthalates, artificial dyes, and other chemicals) that soften your clothing while reducing static. You can get them in fragrance-free, fresh scent, lavender, and sweet petals fragrance options. These softener sheets are also cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable. They also come in paper-based packaging.
Clean People makes laundry products that are good for you and the environment. They are transparent with their ingredients, which is everything eco-friendly. For every 96-pack sold, the brand plants a tree.
The answer is no. You don’t need to use dryer softener sheets. Many people use dryer sheets and liquid softeners to soften their clothes and remove wrinkles. However, if you don’t use a dryer and simply air dry your clothes, you won’t need them.
Overall, they are laundry products you can do without. To avoid starchy and wrinkled clothes, take them out once the drying cycle is complete and shake them to reduce wrinkles.
The regular dryer softener sheets are great for softening your clothes, reducing static, and keeping your laundry fresh and clean. However, they come with non-biodegradable materials and toxic chemicals that harm you and your environment.
Fortunately, there are many non-toxic options you can switch to in place of a dryer sheet. You can choose reusable options, wool dryer balls, foil balls, baking soda, vinegar, and other natural dryer sheet alternatives.
Anne C. Steinemann, Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Volume 29, Issue 1, 2009, Pages 32-38, ISSN 0195-9255.
Kessler R. (2011). Dryer vents: an overlooked source of pollution?. Environmental health perspectives, 119(11), A474–A475.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.