Are Dryer Sheets Necessary? Here’s what to Consider

There are a variety of reasons you might consider skipping dryer sheets, from helping your clothes last longer, to avoiding potential skin irritation. But can you even do that? Or, are dryer sheets necessary?

Dryer sheets are not necessary. Many people enjoy the benefits of using dryer sheets, such as reduced static, and a fresh scent. However, dryer sheets are not essential and have disadvantages as well. Alternatives to dryer sheets include dryer balls and DIY remedies.

If you’re like me, you probably started using dryer sheets when you first learned to do laundry. Since then, I’ve stopped using dryer sheets entirely and now we use dryer balls instead. Keep reading to see if ditching the dryer sheets makes sense for you too.

What is the Purpose of Dryer Sheets?

Dryer sheets are thin, square pieces of polyester fabric that are embedded with a fabric softener material.  They typically have a pleasant fragrance, such as lavender or a spring meadow.

The primary purpose of dryer sheets is to prevent the inevitable buildup of static to the fabric throughout the drying process and to make your clothes smell nice.  

Because of the subtle wax coating on the sheets, they also help in reducing fabric wrinkles as they toss and tumble in the dryer. Fewer wrinkles and static also mean that clothing is softer and less clingy against the skin.

For these reasons, many feel that dryer sheets are something they can’t live without. On the other hand, we live without them, and are perfectly happy doing so. Next let’s look at a quick overview of the pros/cons of dryer sheets.

Pros / Cons of Using Dryer Sheets

When you’re figuring something out, or considering making a change, there’s nothing like a good ol’ pros and cons list. So here’s a brief one for dryer sheets:

Pros of Dryer Sheets:

  • They reduce static
  • They soften fabric
  • They help reduce wrinkles
  • They reduce cling
  • They deter lint
  • They add a nice fresh smell

You might be able to think of a few more, but these are the big ones. Now, let’s look at the cons.

Cons of Dryer Sheets:

  • May contain harmful chemicals
  • Could cause skin irritation
  • May reduce absorbency of fabrics
  • Can reduce a fabric’s wicking ability
  • May irritate asthma and allergies
  • Money (you have to keep buying them)

With these pros and cons in mind, it’s worth digging a little deeper into a few of these cons, as you may not be familiar with how these can impact things in the real world.

Reasons to Skip Dryer Sheets

Despite all of the cited benefits, not everyone is a fan of dryer sheets. There are certain instances that dryer sheets can hinder the drying of your loads, or even cause health problems. Let’s start with absorbency:

Dryer sheets can reduce absorbency

Skip the dryer sheets when drying towels or microfiber cloths, because the coating can give towels a slippery, greasy finish. The result is a towel or cloth that loses much of its absorbency. This counteracts a towel’s primary purpose – to absorb moisture on the body. 

Dryer sheets reduce wicking

Similar to the way they counteract a towel’s absorbency, dryer sheets can adversely affect athletic clothing. 

Athletic clothing items are tailor-made to wick away moisture from the body, so exposing them to the greasy coating on a dryer sheet will weaken their sweat-wicking capabilities. The same can also be said for diapers or anything else that is meant to absorb. 

Dryer sheet coating can cause health-related problems

Some of the chemicals embedded in dryer sheet coating can latch onto clothing and be released into the air.

The environmentally-minded believe these ingredients can cause serious health issues. Such chemicals are very irritating to some and may cause upper- respiratory issues.

Those with sensitive skin or other skin issues find the ingredients can also cause skin rashes. 

Personally, I first began using dryer balls (instead of dryer sheets) just because I was tired of buying dryer sheets regularly. However, I now have even more reason to avoid dryer sheets, because my wife has a skin condition that could be irritated by them.

Now, if you decide that you want to try doing your laundry without dryer sheets, then you’ll want to know about the alternatives in the next section.

What Happens if You Don’t Use Dryer sheets?

As we’ve mentioned, dryer sheets are entirely optional, and no harm will come from not using them.  However, they do provide many added benefits to your laundry. 

If you remove them from your routine, the clothing in your washed loads will feel a bit stiffer than if you had used them. Clothing may also contain static and collect more lint if you skip the sheet. 

Admittedly, these consequences may be more severe to some than to others. If you are the type of person to place the utmost importance on a soft, fragranced pile of freshly washed clothes, the use of dryer sheets will be valuable. 

If you prefer not to have a fragrance linger on your clothing or someone in your family is sensitive to the coatings on the sheets, you have good reason to avoid dryer sheets. Fortunately, there are other options you can count on to have soft and fresh clothing.

In short, it depends on your personal situation and preference. If you want to try skipping the dryer sheets, then you’ll want to know the alternatives.

Alternatives to Dryer Sheets

There are several alternatives to dryer sheets that perform similar functions.

As I mentioned, we use dryer balls, and that has worked really well for us. If you want to go ahead and try this method, you can get the exact dryer balls that we’ve used here on Amazon (note: we get commissions from Amazon).

There are also several DIY alternatives to dryer sheets.

Here’s a quick summary of options to consider:

  • Vinegar. Depending on the wash size, add roughly 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of vinegar to a damp washcloth and then place it on top of your clothes before you dry them.  
  • Baking soda. Add ¼ of baking soda to the wash during its main cycle.
  • Dryer balls. Wool dryer balls are small balls of wool yarn that act as an alternative to dryer sheets. Place a few in the dryer as you would dryer sheets. If you’re crafty, you can even make your own!
  • Aluminum foil. Take approximately one sheet of aluminum foil, crumple it up into a ball, and then place it in the dryer before the drying cycle begins.   

Many of these will keep your clothing scent- and fragrance-free – that is, unless you want to add a few drops of essential oil into the mix.

You also have the option of air drying your clothes on a clothesline, which can also be a great solution if you have that option.

Cost: Dryer Sheets vs. DIY Alternatives

The cost of these alternatives do not break the bank and are even free in some cases. 

But to be fair, dryer sheets are pretty inexpensive as well, costing anywhere from $4 to $11 for a box. Plus, a single box of major brand dryer sheets can come with a whopping 240 sheets in the box!

Depending on how much laundry you do, and how often, one box could last you many months.

Using Dryer Sheets NOT for Laundry

Dryer sheets have a multitude of alternative household uses, outside their use in the dryer, such as:

  • Keeping luggage smelling fresh
  • Wiping away animal fur and dander
  • Acting as an all-purpose shower cleaner
  • Freshening tennis shoes
  • Scrubbing away the grime on pots and pans

Why People Started Using Dryer Sheets

It’s no surprise that dryer sheets were born out of a desire for convenience, invented in 1969 by Conrad J. Gaiser to ease his wife’s household labor of running down flights of stairs to add liquid fabric softener to the final wash cycle. 

Using dryer sheets today is incredibly simple:

  • For small to medium loads, drop a new sheet onto the pile of sopping wet clothing, shut the dryer door, and start the drying cycle.
  • For larger loads, two sheets may be necessary to coat all of the clothing with the fabric softener material evenly. 

In Conclusion

Dryer sheets are convenient and can provide a variety of benefits for your laundry. However, dryer sheets are not necessary, and there are several good reasons to choose an alternative.

Personally, I use dryer balls instead, and it works great for us.

Matt & Heather

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