Doing laundry is not the most glamorous or romantic of subjects, but it’s a chore that we all have to deal with. Whether you have the luxury of a washer and dryer just down the hall, or have to schlep your clothes to the laundrette down the street, washing, drying, and folding isn’t exactly exciting, but there are ways to at least make the process healthier. That’s right, I’m talking about making your own laundry products. Brigette already created a great recipe for detergent, so today I’m here with two amazingly simple (and fun — I swear!) DIYs for creating your own reusable dryer sheets and dryer balls. We talk a lot about removing toxins from our lives, of detoxing, cleansing, and eating simply and cleanly, it only makes sense that we should be taking that same approach with what we’re putting on our bodies, and I’m not just talking about switching out lotion for oil. When we use chemically-loaded detergents and dryer sheets, our clean clothes are left with a very, very fine layer of those products, a layer that our skin is eventually exposed to.
But, just why is that bad? Despite the fact that there are typically no ingredients listed, trust me when I tell you dryer sheets are remarkably, startlingly toxic and contain a laundry list (pun absolutely intended) of known carcinogens, including camphor, benzyl acetate, and limolene. If that’s not enough to turn you off, most dryer sheets also contain tallow or other forms of animal fat. When heated, dryer sheets leave a fine film on your clothes to make them feel soft and decrease static, and that film contains all of the above. I haven’t been using dryer sheets for a few years now, but I admit to enjoying the clean scent they used to leave on my clothes, so I was thrilled to find out just how easy it is to make your own custom-scented, completely reusable dryer sheets. All you need are a few ingredients and five minutes out of your day:
Reusable Dryer Sheets
Large Mason jar
100% cotton fabric
1 cup white vinegar
30 drops of your favorite essential oil, or try any of these blends:
- Lavender + lemon
- Sandalwood + bergamot
- Patchouli + peppermint
- Lemongrass + geranium
Cut the fabric into squares about the same size as a store-bought dryer sheet. Combine the essential oil and vinegar in the Mason jar and shake to mix. Place the fabric squares in the jar and allow to soak in the vinegar/essential oil mixture. When laundry day rolls around, place a fabric sheet in the dryer with your wet clothes and dry as you normally would. The vinegar scent will dissipate, leaving your clothes feeling soft and smelling amazing.
Besides being completely reusable and all-natural, these dryer sheets allow you to control exactly how your clothes smell. Once your original mixture runs out, wash the dryer sheets and try a different combination! Distilled white vinegar also works wonders as a fabric softener and will even whiten your whites and brighten colors. To use vinegar as a fabric softener, add 1/4 cup to the last rinse cycle. To use as a whitener & brightener, add 1 full cup to the last rinse cycle. Your clothes may smell like vinegar when you remove them from the machine, but the smell will disappear as soon as they’re dry.
Dryer balls are another way to make the chore of doing laundry more environmentally friendly, and — if you opt to use scent — make your clothes smell great in the process. There are a huge amount of dryer balls available on the market, most made from plastic or rubber, which when heated, can release chemicals into your clothes. Wool dryer balls not only cut drying time and reduce the energy needed to dry your clothes by absorbing and dispersing moisture and allowing the hot air to circulate more easily, they’re also completely natural and chemical-free.
Felted Wool Laundry Balls
1-2 skeins 100% wool yarn (I made a white set and a dark set, to correspond with my separated laundry)
1 pair pantyhose
1 cup white vinegar
30 drops essential oil
Begin by unraveling about 6-feet of yarn. Wrap one end of yarn around two of your fingers a few times, remove the loop from your hand, and wrap more yarn around the center, it should look like a little bow.
Keep wrapping the yarn around the bow from every side to create a round ball (think: something your cat would be excited to play with). Once the yarn ball is about the size of a tennis ball, poke the end of yarn through the ball, securing it. Repeat until you have 3-4 yarn balls in each color.
Here’s where the pantyhose come in: As you finish each yarn ball, stuff it through the leg of the tights, knotting the hose between each ball. When all of them are secured in the hose, toss them in with a load of laundry (a load of towels works great), and launder in very hot water. At the end of the cycle, toss in the dryer and dry on high heat. Continue washing and drying until they’re felted (about 2-3 cycles).
Your dryer balls can be used as-is, all you need to do is toss them in the dryer with your damp clothes to shorten drying time, reduce static and soften. Or you can make them scented and use as an alternative to dryer sheets by combining the essential oil and vinegar in a bowl and dipping them in the mixture (you want to lightly dampen, not soak). Allow to air dry completely, then use as directed above. Refresh every few months by resoaking and air-drying.
Incidentally, the unscented version doubles as an excellent cat toy.
More natural DIYs from the BLDG 25 blog