What’s The Point of Dryer Sheets?
Dryer sheets are a very useful yet underrated component in your drying cycle. They add the final touch of softness and freshness to your fabrics. However, no one knows exactly where they come from, what they do, and how they do it. Some even claim that they can damage dryers. If your dryer has been damaged recently you can get it fixed by a technician by searching for “dryer repair near me”. Let’s check out what’s the point of dryer sheets:
- Dryer sheets origin – Fabric softeners were introduced in the mid-20th century to make clothes cleaner and softer. Later on, chemicals were added to the softener to make clothes free from static. However, they were far from convenient. Softeners had to be added after the first wash cycle in the washer since they were positively charged while detergents were negatively charged. Thus, adding them both was counterintuitive and reduced the effectiveness of both those products.
Later on, in the early 60s, they figured out how to treat small sheets of certain materials with fabric softeners. When these sheets went into the dryer, the heat softened the sheets and spread the softener across all fabrics inside the dryer. This was the birth of dryer sheets.
- Dryer sheets working principle – As mentioned above, dryer sheets have a thin layer of fabric softener on them. When they are added into the dryer along with your washed clothes, the heat activates the softener on the sheets and spreads them over all your clothes. When you dry clothes without dryer sheets your clothes don’t come out soft with less static electricity on them.
That’s because chemicals in the dryer sheets target electrostatic charges and eliminate them from the surface of fabrics. This means there are zero shocks when your dryer load comes out and they turn out softer as well.
- Benefits of dryer sheets – You already know that dryer sheets soften fabrics and reduce the buildup of static electricity. They also help prevent future stains and clothes from gathering lint. This makes ironing easier as well. Some dryer sheets even add a pleasant fresh fragrance to your clean and dry clothes.
That’s not all. Dryer sheets also have many uses outside the laundry room. They can be used for freshening up drawers, cabinets, luggage, and even for pest control. It’s also important to note that dryer sheets don’t need to go in all loads. For instance, they reduce the absorption properties of microfibers, diapers, and towels.
- Harmful effects of dryer sheets – Like everything else dryer sheets are not all roses and sunshine. Studies have linked the chemicals in dryer sheets to many harmful respiratory diseases and even cancer. Some researchers even found dryer sheets to have as many as 15 endocrine-disrupting compounds and chemicals linked to asthma. They also contain compounds that aren’t good for the environment.
They can also damage your dryer. They contain chemicals that leave a residue on your clothes and the dryer. This residue can clog the lint filter and make the problem worse after every use. If you’re not careful and clean the lint filter frequently your dryer may get stressed out due to the clogged filters and break down more often.
- Dryer sheet alternatives – Fortunately there are many alternatives to dryer sheets. All of them are harmless to you, some of them are harmless to the environment and a few are even cheaper options compared to dryer sheets. Let’s check them out:
- Baking soda/ Vinegar – If you want to soften your clothes without any chemicals you just need to look in your kitchen. Add a tablespoon of baking soda with the detergent in the washer load. That does a fine job of softening your clothes. The same can be achieved by replacing baking soda with vinegar. However, don’t mix vinegar with baking soda. That would have an adverse effect and deliver you flashbacks of the volcano experiment from third grade.
- Wool dryer balls with essential oils – While vinegar and baking soda do a good job of softening your fabrics, they aren’t great at reducing wrinkles and static from your clothes. Instead, you can try out wool dryer balls. Just throw in a couple of wool dryer balls along with your dryer load and it does the same things as dryer sheets without the chemicals. Moreover, they can be used numerous times and can be a cheaper alternative to dryer sheets. If you want your clothes to smell great out of the dryer, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the dryer balls.
- Foil balls – Foil balls are a great alternative to dryer balls if you need to eliminate static from your clothes. Simply compress aluminum foils into balls and throw a few of them in the dryer. However, they won’t make your fabric softener. If you don’t want to use wool dry balls, you can soften your fabrics with vinegar or baking soda in the washer and then throw in foil balls into the dryer to get rid of static.
- DIY dryer sheets – If you don’t want to use mass-produced dryer sheets laden with harmful chemicals you can also make your own organic dryer sheets. Cut a large enough piece of cloth from old t-shirts, scrap fabric, or old towels and put them inside airtight containers. Add in vinegar and essential oil to dampen the cloth. Don’t soak it. Next time you need to dry your clothes, just pull out one of these soaked fabrics from the container and throw them in with the dryer load.
As you can see dryer sheets can be very useful in your laundry process. They make your clothes smell fresh, reduce static and also get fewer wrinkles on your clothes. However, it’s not all good and there are better alternatives like wool balls and steel balls. On the other hand, if your dryer is broken you can get it fixed by a technician by searching for “dryer repair near me”.