Laundry Essentials: DIY Natural Alternative to Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
Advertisers would have you believe that each dryer sheet or bottle of fabric softener you purchase will lead to such pleasant experiences as frolicking through a field of flowers with a cuddly teddy bear, or falling blissfully backwards onto a soft (and surprisingly springy) pile of blankets. If only the dreamworld of advertising did not conflict with the sober realities of ordinary life. Sigh.
Consumers have been so conditioned to think only about the soft, cozy, smell-good side of softer laundry, that many don’t realize that those soft, good smelling commercial fabric softeners also contain toxic chemicals that can have a serious impact on their health.
Fabric softeners come in all different shapes and sizes, and have scents that range anywhere from “Tropical Breeze” to “Lavender.” But you should be aware that lavender-scented fabric softener actually contains no lavender—only chemicals that have been blended to give you an impression that you are smelling the real deal.
In one study, scientists found that some commercial fabric softeners emit mixtures of chemicals that can cause sensory irritation (SI), pulmonary irritation (PI), and reduce midexpiratory airflow velocity in normal mice. These scientists believe that these results provide a toxicological basis to explain some of the issues and reactions humans have to fabric softener emissions.Read more about the study here.
Substituting these chemically driven fabric softeners for an all-natural, toxic-free alternative is much easier and affordable than you might think. Follow this step-by-step tutorial to make your own 100% natural wool dryer balls that can last for many years, and best of all, can easily be scented with essential oils to leave your fabrics soft and smelling fabulous.
What You Need:
100% Wool Yarn Or Other 100% Animal Yarn
Pantyhose (Upcycling Idea: Reuse pantyhose with runs in them)
1. Take the end of the yarn and wrap it around your middle and index finger 10 times. Remove it from the fingers and then wrap 2-3 times around the middle (it should look like a bow). This will be the start of your ball.
2. Keep tightly wrapping the yarn around the start, working toward making a round shape. Once your ball is roughly the size of a tennis ball, cut the yarn and tuck the ends into the sides of the ball. Repeat this process until you have created four or more balls of yarn.
3. Cut one leg off of the pantyhose. Place one ball into the bottom of the leg and tie a knot right above the ball with the pantyhose to secure it in place. Repeat until all the balls have been added and secured.
4. Once the balls are tightly secured in the pantyhose, put them in the washer (can be with a load of your dirty laundry) and wash on the hottest setting. This will allow the yarn to felt. Felting will make the yarn fuse together, resulting in a solid ball. Once it has been washed, dry it thoroughly in the dryer at the highest heat setting.
5. After the balls are completely dry, remove them from the pantyhose and they’re ready for use! Before drying your next load of laundry, add your favorite essential oil to 4-6 dryer balls, toss them in the dryer, and enjoy the soft, fluffy, wonderful-smelling fruits of your labor. Editor’s tip: 2-3 drops of essential oil per ball should last a few loads. Add more drops if you would like a stronger scent.
Other Laundry Tips:
Crumple up aluminum foil into a ball and and toss it in the dryer with the wet laundry to get rid of static cling.
For an even extra burst of essential oils in your clothing, place a wash cloth with a few drops of essential oil into your dryer. It was come out smelling beautiful! No fake lavender smell here!
Add a few drops of Lemon essential oil to your wash cycle to help remove grease and oil from fabrics.
For extra soft clothing, add 1/2 cup vinegar (a natural fabric softener) to your washer with each load. Don’t worry, your clothes will not smell like vinegar once dry. Give it a try!