Make Your Own Nontoxic Dryer Sheets and Dryer BallsSomewhere throughout the annals of machine washing and drying history, mankind was conditioned into thinking that clean clothes lacked a certain je ne sais quoi without first being massaged with a chemical-laden solution called fabric softener. This ritual, we were told, was imperative in order to restore the “touchability” of our linens, wardrobe staples and other respective unmentionables. Furthermore, we owed it to ourselves to indulge in what was being billed by manufacturers as a minor but exceedingly affordable fragrance luxury since we could instantly be swept away to another time and place where talking teddy bears and Technicolor rainbows reigned supreme. For a good long while, we were sufficiently sold until they went back to the drawing board in search of an awesome new must have for our laundry needs. We were then advised to invest in “dryer balls” so that we could ensure that the fibers in our towels and clothing would stand at attention, imparting the ultimate sensation of comfort and softness that is oftentimes is lacking when liquid or fabric-impregnated softening chemicals fail to distribute effectively.

More importantly, we could reduce the likelihood of our duds succumbing to wrinkles and/or static. Oh, that was a clever hook. Of course we’d bite, because who likes ironing or having their pants cling unceremoniously to their legs? Shudder the thought! Now, for anyone who tries to tread lightly on the planet, both purported laundry room staples possess distinctively unsustainable qualities. Fabric softener, whether in liquid or dry form, consists of a sizable laundry list of lubricating albeit disease-causing chemicals, including pentane, chloroform, limonene, ethyl acetate, alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, camphor and benzyl alcohol, all of which we shouldn’t be inhaling or putting on our skin. When this solution is then poured onto disposable dryer sheets, you have an obvious added waste factor. Additionally, typical spiny-tipped dryer balls may seem innocuous enough, but since they’re made of PVC, the petroleum-based material ultimately off-gases when exposed to heat and has also been known to break down in just a few weeks, leaving your momentarily clean clothes unwittingly texturized with bits of plastic. Using fabric softener and dryer balls may be a laundry room ritual that you’re absipositivelutely not willing to part with, and that’s OK, because there is a greener alternative, one that will especially appeal to the crafty set.

In fact, you can bestow your duds with gloriously natural scents, not to mention the touchability of a whole posse of Angora bunny rabbits by using… ahem… stuff you already have around the house (but you’re a smart eco-cookie, so you probably knew that already, right?)

Homemade chemical-free dryer sheets

If you have a couple of old but clean rags or washcloths that have up until now been languishing in the darkest corners of your closet, it’s time to let them see the light. (Cutting up an old flannel or sweatshirt into tidy little squares will also do the trick.) Whatever basic material you use, place your fabric squares into a resealable plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and saturate them with Ecover natural fabric softener (or the chemical-free brand of your choice). Done — instant reusable fabric softener sheets. If, on the other hand, you prefer controlling your specific ingredients, then all you need to do is spray them with a white vinegar, baking soda and essential oil solution, or, believe it or not, diluted hair conditioner. Just be sure to make it a natural brand.

Homemade plastic-free dryer balls and sachets

The texturized candy-colored balls that you can purchase from a home supply store look admittedly nifty, but you can easily kick ‘em up a notch by crafting your own recycled fabric or felted wool alternatives in a veritable smorgasbord of colors. Practically nothing is off limits — think old panty hose, socks, recycled cotton sweaters, yarn, sweatshirt fleece, etc. If you don’t care so much about their purported wrinkle-reducing capabilities as you do about simply inhaling a dreamy scent, then you’ll likely prefer sewing up a few dried herb-filled sachets that can be refreshed occasionally with a few drops of essential oils.