For starters, why would I not simply use dryer sheets?
- They may contain ingredients such as: benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (an upper
respiratory tract irritant), ethanol (linked to central nervous system
disorders), limonene (a known carcinogen) and chloroform (a neurotoxin
and carcinogen), among others (source)
- Similarly to fabric softeners, dryer sheets may contain: neurotoxic toluene and trimethylbenzene, styrene (a
possible carcinogen), the respiratory irritants phenol and xylene, and
thymol, which can cause abdominal distress, according to a study in the
May 2000 issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. (source)
- Some of these chemicals are also known to be "xenoestrogens", which are environmental chemicals that mimic estrogen and can greatly alter hormone balance. (See this previous post for a little more on environmental estrogens)
These balls are a wonderful alternative to conventional dryer sheets! The ones that I have are Nellie’s Dryer Balls
(there may be other brand out there), and they are fantastic! I've been using mine for about 9 months now, drying an average of 5-9 loads of laundry a week, and they still perform as well as ever. They are guaranteed to last up to 2 years, and from what I can see, they definitely will!
What I love about them is that they help to really air and lift up clothes as they move around in the dryer, which encourages more evenly dried clothes. Somehow, this helps to relax the fibers in fabrics, resulting in softer clothes, towels, etc. and also shorter drying times (energy and money saving- whohoo!). I have really noticed the latter benefit, as the dryer in our rental home is not exactly top notch. It would sometimes take 80-90 minutes to dry a load of towels or dark clothes (like jeans and sweatshirts). Using the dryer balls, I very rarely have to run my dryer for more than 60-70 minutes, even with those heavier dryer loads.
They also seem to cut down on static cling, even though that isn't stated in their ads. I have found it to be true, though, which is another wonderful bonus for those of us trying to do our laundry more naturally and chemical-free!
If you're still looking to add some scent, one option is to use a small cloth and put just a couple of drops of an essential oil fragrance that you enjoy (lavender, citrus, etc.) and toss the cloth in with your clothes while they dry. When the cloth begins to lose it's scent, simply add a few more drops. I just noticed that Nellie's has also recently come out with some new dryer balls, which are able to be loaded with a scent stick that uses essential oils for it's fragrance. Similar idea, slightly different method.
Do you use dryer sheets? Have you found any alternatives that you find just as effective? Any other Nellie's users out there?