Friday, July 30, 2010

Out to Dry: How I Stopped Using Dryer Sheets

So an interesting thing happened in my laundry room yesterday. I'm sure this comes as no surprise -- the laundry room is rife with exciting and interesting things. Riiiight...

But really, I did notice something interesting yesterday. I'd run out of dryer sheets --  a couple weeks ago.  I hadn't even noticed until that moment when I saw the smiling Snuggle bear on the empty box.  Here's the best part: I hadn't noticed that we were out because our clothes haven't been staticky.

I think this all went down at first because I line-dry the majority of our laundry now.  It is impossible for clothes that are line-dried to be staticky.  However, I still use the dryer for underwear, socks, and towels. Yet, still no static!  How is this possible, you ask?  Good old white vinegar.

I got into the habit of adding vinegar to my wash when I started line-drying my clothes because I'd read that it's a natural fabric softener. Sure enough, the clothes on the line didn't feel like cardboard once they were dry.  So, with every load in the washing machine, I fill the fabric softener dispenser in the middle of the tub with vinegar.  Since it was a habit, I also did it with the dryer-bound laundry.  Not only does vinegar keep my laundry on the line soft, but it also keeps my dryer clothes static-free. My husband's undershirts are notoriously staticky, but vinegar did the trick and took care of even those! Don't worry: once the clothes are dry, you can't smell the vinegar at all. It's a laundry miracle!

Sure, dryer sheets don't cost that much, but they are an extra (and, according to my experience, now unnecessary) expense.  On top of that, dryer sheets are coated in chemicals that make your clothes feel soft and static free.  The smell of dryer sheets are just chemical concoctions that melt onto your clothes, cling to them, and then come in contact with your skin. Hence skin irritation for some, even allergies to fabric softeners for others. Really, it comes as no surprise when you read what's in them. So, why not go the chemical-free and cheap way?  (One note: don't mix vinegar with bleach, as the combination can send off toxic fumes.)

I hope I don't come off preachy about natural products, but I love using them, especially when they're simple household staples like vinegar. I'll be the first to admit that I think some of those dryer sheets/fabric softeners smell nice. Have you ever gone on a walk around the neighborhood and caught a whiff of that dryer sheet smell in the air from someone's vent?  I can't say I hate it. It's kind of nice.  That said, I think I've totally weaned myself off the fake fragrances and serendipitously saved some money in the process. Now that's a trade-off I can live with.


StrivingSimply said...

A lot of times dryer sheets are made with animal fat, too. You end up paying a fair amount more for plant-based dryer sheets. I'll try the vinegar next go round!

Nisha said...

I've read about the vinegar thing quite often, but you've convinced me. I've NEVER purchased fabric softener that goes in the washer, because as a kid, I was highly allergic. However, I have been using dryer sheets.

Have you covered what you use for laundry detergent? I think you have. I'm actually considering making my own. I'll go search to see if you've covered it.

Oh, about how much vinegar do you think you pour in each load? Thanks!

Heather said...

I use about a half of a cup. I kind of just fill the fabric softener dispenser and that seems to work just fine. And it's funny that you mentioned laundry detergent -- I just made some for the first time on Friday and I'm going to test it out today! I'll let you know how it goes!

Donna Walker said...

Hi! I'm just curious, but I know that bleach and ammonia mixed together give off toxic fumes (mustard gas I believe) I have mixed vinegar and bleach, though not a lot of either and it was while the washer water was running. I just poured them one at a time into the running water. And I've only done it once. I didn't notice any weird fumes going off that time though. I just wondered if you might have gotten the vinegar and ammonia mixed up.

Also great post! It's true about vinegar being a fabric softener! My husband is allergic to the chemical smell of fabric softeners so I use the vinegar in the rinse cycle of almost every load. Love it!!

Unknown said...

Hi. Does it have to be a specific vinegar or can it work with any?

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