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Ahh... The Air is Filled With Smells of the Season... and Dryers Sheets (Part 2)
Alternatives to Using Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener
by Mark Jeantheau
Editor's Note from Zorica Denton: Part 1 of this article discussed the toxic components of fabric softeners and drier sheets. Here we can read about alternatives.
TIP #1 — The easiest trick is to not dry clothes quite completely. The small amount of remaining moisture keeps static cling from getting a foothold. You can use drying racks to spread clothes out to do their last 10% of drying. If you're a bit more industrious, you can hang a couple of pieces of pipe from the ceiling in your laundry area. You can then put the drying clothes on hangers and hang the hangers on the pipes. It also helps to check the dryness level of the clothes in the dryer several times—clothes of different fabric composition and thicknesses get dry at different paces.
TIP #2 — Wash and dry cottons and synthetic fabrics separately. It's the synthetics that cause most of the static problems. Consider using the dryer minimally or not at all for nylon, rayon, and other synthetic fabrics. They usually dry quickly using the air-dry techniques in suggested in Tip 1.
TIP #3 — Tips 1 and 2 may not work so well for people without in-home washer/dryers, but there are more solutions to be had:
* Vinegar is a natural fabric softener. Use 1/2 cup in the wash cycle. (But don't use bleach at the same time—mixing vinegar and bleach may create toxic fumes.)
*Try a natural laundry soap that has a built-in soy-based fabric softener. Check with your local natural foods store, or shop online. There are also several natural liquid fabric softeners on the market, some of them without fragrances. (We absolutely love the Ecos/Earth Friendly brand of natural laundry detergents. Most have the soy-based fabric softener—check the label.)
*Rumor has it that putting a piece of aluminum foil in with the clothes will dissipate static. Even so, you would not want to over-dry the clothes; doing so would still encourage static buildup. (And if your dryer starts picking up broadcasts from Jupiter, don't blame us.)
Are dryer balls a miracle solution to the wrinkling/static problem? We at Grinning Planet have no direct experience with dryer balls, so we reviewed some opinions from people who do. We've summarized their comments below, adding a few comments.
We can see how the spiky little dryer balls would help keep clothes fluffed. It's less obvious how dryer balls would combat static buildup, and indeed, one reviewer noted that the balls did not stop static during wintertime dryer use (when ambient humidity tends to be low, which promotes static). A number of people commented that the balls did not work, period.
One reviewer said the balls fluffed the clothes but damaged them, putting holes and tears in them. Alternatively, several people suggested using 3-6 tennis balls to cut down on wrinkles. This would also eliminate any possibility of your clothing getting stabbed by the spiky balls, but the tennis balls will add noise to the dryer cycle, the dye on the tennis balls could come off on light-colored clothes, and how this would reduce static cling is unclear.
One other negative of the spiky dryer balls is that PVC seems to be the material of choice for manufacturing them. So, even though the balls' operation does not apply chemicals to your clothes (as dryer sheets and fabric softeners do), the balls themselves are made of a rather odious chemical that will off-gas, at least for a while after they're new. A reader also told us that one of her dryer balls began deteriorating after only a couple of weeks, mixing crumbly bits of PVC-laced material in with the drying clothes.
Some people do seem to have success with dryer balls, but the number of complaints we've seen casts a pretty big shadow on dryer balls as a good alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners.
Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners–Wrap Up
You may be satisfied that your adult body will be OK even if you continue to use dryer sheets and fabric softeners, but you still might consider making a change if there are kids in your household. Children's developing bodies are especially susceptible to the negative effects of chemical exposure.
We can't help you with your fashion sense, but ditching the chemical fabric softeners may help your brain emerge from its "fragrance fog"!
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About the Author
Mark Jeantheau is a writer, financial analyst, progressive thinker, web developer, and, as necessary chef and janitor. Mark's website, Grinning Planet, is an expression of his enthusiasm for all things humorous, green, and truth, as well as a psychotic desire to work himself to death. Hobbies include music, healthy eating, getting frustrated over politics, and occasionally lecturing the TV set on how uncreative it is. Mark lives in Kentucky in the USA.