Eco-friendly Alternatives to Dryer Sheets

wool balls

People, we are paying good money, money that could be better spent on a package of fine goat cheese, for a product that basically just coats your clothes with perfumed animal fat.

Perfumed. Animal. Fat.

This is crazy, right? Am I the only one who finds this crazy?

Happily, this is one situation where we can practice being a Lazy Environmentalist: simply doing nothing and buying nothing is a fantastic solution to this problem. Stop using dryer sheets altogether, and you’ve solved the problem
with less effort and energy than it took to create it in the first place.

Many times you’ll find that you didn’t even need the sheets in the first place and don’t miss them one bit. But here are some troubleshooting tips if you’re finding yourself longing for those stinky little lard napkins.

Problem: Help! Help! My laundry is all staticky and stuck together!

Solution: Lady, calm down. You’re frying your clothes. (Or alternately: Dude, calm down, you’re frying your clothes. I offer this alternate phrasing because I’ve heard that men sometimes do laundry. I’m taking this at face value, because I have never personally witnessed such goings-on in my house.)

The most common reason clothes get staticky is because you’ve run your dryer too long and every last morsel of moisture has been blasted from the fabric. Thus, your poor cardigans have had no choice but to cling desperately to your attractive argyle work socks for fear of spontaneous combustion.

One way to solve this problem is to run your dryer for less time, or on a damp-dry cycle. This will not only solve your static problems and be far gentler on your clothes, it will save you money too, because dryers are one of the most inefficient and energy-sucking household appliances out there.

If you want to take it one step further, many people are opting to ditch the dryer altogether, which I can assure you is much less work than it sounds. On a sunny or windy day, laundry can dry in as little as thirty minutes and looks
awfully picturesque while doing so.

Indoor drying racks are also a great option during the winter, or if, like me, you live in a colder climate where “summer” means two weeks of unholy heat dropped into the middle of three months of rain.

Any way you choose to do it, though, avoiding the dryer will eliminate static, save money and energy, and help your clothing look newer, longer.

Problem: But I like my clothing to smell like a Fresh Spring Breeze™.

Solution: Well, the obvious remedy here is to hang your clothing outside, you know, in an actual fresh spring breeze, but I think we both know that’s not what you mean. You miss that certain something that scented dryer sheets provide, non?

Essential oils are your friend here. Find a scent you like (lavender and citrus are my favourites) and add a few drops to a damp cloth before tossing it in the dryer. It’ll add a subtle scent to your clothes without the toxic chemical stews.

Problem: My clothes aren’t as fluffy as they were before.

Solution: Balls! No, not that kind!

Dryer balls do a fantastic job of fluffing clothing, reducing static and decreasing drying time. They have become more popular in recent years, but unfortunately the popular versions that are sold in many stores are often made
of PVC plastic. Rather than tossing plastic balls in with your clothing, a better option is  eco-friendly and naturally fire-retardant dryer balls made from 100 per cent wool.

These are incredibly easy to make, and would make a fantastic activity for school-aged children (see the sidebar below for simple instructions).

For ultimate smug-hippie bragging rights, you can go through your closet or the racks at your local thrift store to find a sweater made from 100 per cent  wool. By unraveling the sweater and using its yarn to make the balls, you’ve
achieved the ever-coveted hippie triumvirate: reducing, reusing and recycling. You get all the points!

If sitting around making wool balls isn’t your jam, don’t despair. This is a great chance to support an independent artisan by searching around and ordering a few from (an online marketplace for independent
crafters and artisans worldwide). Just type “dryer balls” into the search engine.

Whether you’re buying them or making them, wool dryer balls reduce static while fluffing your clothes—and if you want scent you can add a few drops of essential oils directly onto the ball.

I’ve used these for four years now as well as making them to sell at farmers markets, and I always got positive feedback. Generally I use between two and four balls depending on the size of the load.

How to make wool dryer balls


  • 100 per cent wool (look for something recommended for felting)
  • hot water
  • pantyhose
  • small crochet hook (size 3–5mm)


  • Take your wool and wind it tightly around two fingers until it’s the size of a ping pong ball.
  • Remove the ball from your fingers and continue wrapping the wool tightly around itself until it reaches the size of a small mandarin orange. Cut the wool and draw the end through the middle of the ball using your small crochet hook.
  • Take the ball and tie it inside of the pantyhose, separating multiple balls with a knot. Toss it in with your laundry the next time you do a hot water wash, or soak it for five to ten minutes in a bowl of boiling water.
  • After washing, run it through the dryer until it’s dry to the touch.
  • Take it out of the pantyhose, continue wrapping it until it reaches the size of a tennis ball then draw the end of the wool into the middle of the ball again.
  • Repeat the whole hot water-pantyhose-dryer process again, then just keep your balls in the dryer and live happily ever after, dryersheet free.
Madeleine Somerville is the author of  All You Need is Less. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her daughter, her dog and her husband, whom she once called “Couch Satan.” She writes at

This article was excerpted from Somerville’s book All You Need is Less. Copyright © 2014 by Madeleine Somerville. Published in the United States by Viva Editions, an imprint of Cleis Press, Inc. Buy the book>>

image: Siona Karen via Compfight cc

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