Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Tumble Dryer Sheets

alternatives to tumble dryer sheets

alternatives to tumble dryer sheets

Hello!  Let’s talk about eco-friendly alternatives to tumble dryer sheets today.

First things first, I try hard not to use my tumble dryer when I don’t need to.  I much prefer line drying my laundry.  However, sometimes when the weather doesn’t play ball then needs must.

Through sheer frugality and through never being convinced that you need yet another product for your laundry, I have never used tumble dryer sheets.  From what I can understand people use them to a) scent their clothes, b) soften their clothes, and c) to reduce static cling, so I kind of get why people use them.

What’s Wrong With Tumble Drier Sheets?

The thing is tumble dryer sheets aren’t quite as innocuous as they look.  Those little sheets can contain volatile organic compounds like butane and acetaldehyde, which can cause respiratory irritation.  They also contain quaternary ammonium compounds, some of which are linked to conditions such as asthma.  Meanwhile, the term “fragrance” can hide a huge variety of chemicals that manufacturers don’t have to disclose on account of being classed as trade secrets.  Yet the chemicals used can be toxic or known allergens.

As well as the potential health problems that tumble dryer sheets can cause, there’s also the environmental impact of having to bin the sheet after each use.  Single-use is not the way to go.

eco friendly alternatives to tumble dryer sheets

Eco-friendly alternatives to tumble dryer sheets

Is there an eco-friendly alternative?  I like to think so.  If you’re looking to green your laundry, then here are some eco-friendly alternatives to tumble dryer sheets that address all of the above.

Wool Dryer Balls

I appreciate that wool dryer balls sound like the most hippy-ish thing in the world.  So, in the interests of research, I bought some wool dryer balls* to give them a go.  It turns out I quite like them.  Scent-free, they soften your clothes as the dryer spins and help prevent static cling naturally.  And if you do want to scent your clothes, simply add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to the balls before placing them in the dryer.

Quick, easy, and reusable.  What’s not to love?

Apparently, the wool dryer balls also help your washing dry quicker.  I have to say that I haven’t noticed a considerable decline in drying time.  You can’t win them all!

Dryer Eggs

I also have some knobbly dryer eggs* from Eco Egg, that apparently have been scientifically proven to reduce tumble drying time by up to 28%.  I haven’t tested this claim (life’s too short!).  However, some people have claimed they do significantly reduce drying time.  The eggs also reduce static cling and eliminate the need for a fabric conditioner.

The eggs come with essential oil scent sticks that you insert into the middle of the egg.  You can then replace this when the scent wears off.  The good news is you can use them without the scent sticks if you are scent averse or don’t want the added expense of buying scent refills.

Make Your Own Fabric Softener

If you want to soften your clothes the easiest and cheapest way to do this is during the wash cycle.  Here’s a quick guide on how you can make your own fabric conditioner, which softens clothes as well as helping to eliminate static cling.

Scented Fabric Scraps

If you just want to add scent to your laundry, then place a few drops of your favourite essential oil on a scrap of fabric.  Then simply add them to your dryer at the start of the drying cycle.  Natural fabrics work best, so try an old cotton flannel, a bit of muslin, a cotton handkerchief, or something similar.

Other tumble dryer tips

If you want to avoid static cling the best thing to do is to avoid tumble drying polyester and other synthetic fabrics, such as lycra and synthetic fleece.  Natural fabrics, such as cotton, don’t tend to cling as much as polyester.  Meanwhile, polyester tends to dry quite quickly when hung up to dry.

Another top tip is to avoid over-drying your clothes.  Completely dry clothing spinning around in your tumble dryer encourages the formation of static.  Therefore, try taking your clothes out the dryer 5 minutes before you normally would to see if that helps.

If you do have a problem with static cling that none of the above helps with, then some people swear by tin foil.  Yes!  Apparently, crumpling up a ball of tin foil and placing that in your tumble dryer along with your clothes may help.  I have not tried this as I don’t buy tin foil, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind!

Another unusual tip for eco-friendly alternatives to tumble dryer sheets that I have seen bandied around is to add a teaspoon of hair conditioner to a scrap of fabric.  You then place that in the dryer alongside your wet clothes.  I haven’t tried this either, but it’s another trick to keep up your sleeves if none of the above work for you!  I would use an eco-friendlier brand of hair conditioner if giving this a go.

Missed anything?  Let me know in the comments below!

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner In Seconds

I’ve got a really simple recipe for you today on how to make your own fabric conditioner.

You might be wondering why you need to make your own fabric conditioner, when it’s widely available in the shops.  And you might think you’re doing a good thing for your clothes when you reach for the fabric conditioner.  I don’t blame you.  Decades upon decades of marketing have convinced millions of us that fabric conditioner is a vital element of the laundry process, and there’s a whopping $12 billion global market for the product.

But, I’ve got a little secret for you: you really don’t need to use conventional fabric conditioner.  The eco friendly alternative to fabric conditioner I’m going to share at the end of this post costs just pennies per load and is much more effective load per load at softening your clothes.

make your own fabric conditioner

Why You Should Ditch The Shop Bought Stuff

First, here are four reasons to ditch fabric conditioner in favor of an effective eco-friendly alternative.

1. Fabric conditioner is terrible for some of your clothes and towels.

Fabric conditioner essentially applies a thin, waxy coating to your laundry, which has to be water-resistant in order to survive the washing process.  This waterproof coating makes your clothes feel softer but lessens their ability to properly absorb water and laundry detergent.  This means your clothes won’t respond as well to washing and will be more likely to lock in bad odors.

The chemical coating can also make your towels less absorbent over time and reduce the performance of sweat-resistant sportswear.  Fabric conditioner is also harsh on cotton or bamboo clothing, which normally absorbs light perspiration on its own.  As soon as fabric conditioner is introduced, that absorption is lost.

When used on clothing containing elastane and nylon (such as leggings, skinny jeans, and bras), fabric conditioner can leave a residue that dulls the item’s finish and attracts odor-causing bacteria.

2. Some conventional brands aren’t vegetarian or vegan.

Rather alarmingly, some fabric conditioners aren’t vegetarian- or vegan-friendly.  One ingredient found in certain brands is dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride.  In simpler terms: animal fat.  This fat is extracted from suet — the fatty tissues around the kidneys of cattle and sheep.  Suddenly that bottle sitting in your laundry room doesn’t look quite as innocuous as it did at first.

3. It’s not great for us or the environment.

Fabric softeners often contain a cocktail of non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals, which are not easily biodegradable.

A study by the University of Washington found that certain chemicals found in fabric conditioner are likely human carcinogens, developmental toxins, and allergens that can contribute to eczema.  These chemicals included likely human carcinogens acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, developmental toxicants methyl ethyl ketone and chloromethane, and allergens like linalool.

Once these chemicals are washed down the drain they can become highly toxic to aquatic life too.

4. It’s bad for your washing machine and plumbing.

As many brands of fabric conditioner are petroleum-based and full of animal fat, they can clog up your washing machine (especially if it’s a front-loading one) and pipes.

Fabric conditioner can also encourage the growth of mold in your machine.  Due to its fat content, when fabric conditioner is exposed to air and moisture, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.  And because of the design of most machines, it means that the water-resistant softener is never quite washed out properly, leaving a residue that only encourages the growth of bacteria and black mould throughout your whole washing machine.  Which does not make for pleasant reading.

If you have been using conventional fabric conditioner, then it’s really easy to clean the bacteria and mould from your washing machine.  Check out my guide on how to clean a washing machine to banish bacteria and mould for good.

How to Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner

I’m a big fan of natural cleaning products to DIY.  Therefore, this homemade eco-friendly alternative to fabric conditioner is much better for you, your clothes, your washing machine and your environment. It’s perfect for people with sensitive skin, and it contains just two simple and inexpensive ingredients:

You will need:

500ml Glass bottle/jar
500ml White vinegar – here’s where to buy white vinegar in bulk for cleaning
30 drops Essential Oil of your choice


Fill your bottle/jar with vinegar, and add around 30 drops of essential oil to your vinegar

To Use:

Shake well before use.

At the stage when you are adding your laundry detergent to your machine, fill the fabric conditioner compartment of the drawer up to the line with the scented vinegar.  For a half load of washing, decrease the amount by half.

Using this mixture in place of fabric conditioner will give your laundry a delicate and clean aroma without a hint of vinegar — I promise!  If there is still a trace of vinegar on your wet clothes, be assured this will dissipate as the clothes dry.

My favorite oils to use for fabric conditioner are lemon and sweet orange for a zingy citrus aroma.  However, feel free to substitute depending on your preferences.  Alternatively, you can skip the oil for a scent-free conditioner.

Vinegar makes for a great natural fabric conditioner because it cuts through soapy residue and it won’t interfere with the absorbency of your laundry, making your clothes and towels last longer and smell better. Nor will it leave deposits in your washing machine or plumbing.  In fact, vinegar also cuts through grease so you’ll actually clean your machine every time you do a load of laundry.  Double win!

I also have a ton of other laundry tips that you might find useful.  Firstly, how to dry clean at home.  Secondly, this is a good one to legitimise laziness – how often should you wash your clothes.  I also have a guide on how to wash wool, and how to wash striped clothing.  And lastly, my guide to natural stain removal.

This article originally appeared on mindbodygreen