Fabric softener is not necessary. There, I said it. A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed it, but one day I discovered I ran out of dryer sheets so I had to go without. Guess what. I survived and so did my laundry! But running out isn’t the only reason to carry on without fabric softener.
Fabric softener serves a couple of purposes: softening fabric (duh), reducing static, and making fabric smell pretty. The softening is accomplished by the oils in the fabric softener. The oils make the fabric feel soft to the touch. And since oil is a poor conductor of electricity, it helps prevent static buildup during the drying (but is not a guarantee, especially with fleece). The scents in fabric softener stick to your clothes, almost permanently.
Now some downsides and alternatives:
OIL IN LAUNDRY: When the oils get rinsed down the drain, they cause the sand and gravel in your septic system to bind together and not drain properly, leading to expensive septic system repairs. The oils also reduce the absorbency of your towels and dishcloths. SUBSTITUTE: The tumbling action of the dryer is enough to keep your clothes and towels pliable and soft, and after you’ve washed your laundry several times to get the fabric softener off, your towels will be more absorbent! Dryer balls are another alternative, but I feel they are not necessary because the tumbling action of the dryer is enough. We have tried white vinegar as a liquid fabric softener substitute, but I neither saw nor felt any difference between that and going without.
STATIC: No matter what you do or what you put in the dryer with your clothes, you will have static at some point — some times more than others, especially with fleece and during the winter when the air is dry. Static does not cause any health issues, mechanical problems with the dryer, or anything more than little zaps on your fingers as you fold laundry. As long as you do a quick check for socks that may be clinging in weird places, you’ll be alright. Static won’t kill you. SUBSTITUTE: If you need a static reducer to ease your mind, try a sock with safety pins on it or some aluminum foil dryer balls. Simply get a few pieces of foil (about a foot long) and wad them into balls and put them in the dryer. We’ve tried these, and although I believe they reduce the static somewhat, they aren’t a miracle solution.
PRETTY SMELLS: The scents in detergents and fabric softeners are strong and overpowering, which you will notice on other people after you’ve gone without fabric softener for a while. Maybe someone in your family is allergic to scents and you need to find an alternative. SUBSTITUTE: If you insist on adding scents to your laundry, it can easily be done with essential oils on a small fabric cloth or pouch and putting it in the dryer with your laundry. Please do not put anything flammable into your dryer!
Do you have laundry tips that save you money, energy, or are environmentally friendly?? If so, tell us about it! The tips in this post (and lots of other cool information) can be found in my new eBook, Beyond the Coupon. Click the link at the left side of the home page to check it out!