This week we’ll be deep-diving into dryer sheets. You probably haven’t given much thought to the product you’ve been tossing into your dryer for as long as you can remember to help dry your clothes. But have you ever wondered what dryer sheets actually do or, why they were invented?
To answer those questions and more, we relied on our skills as professionals to compile research and extra details. So now, here are your questions and curiosities about dryer sheets answered.
What is a Dryer Sheet?
Dryer sheets are actually less concentrated fabric softeners, but the true function of dryer sheets is really to remove static cling. So technically it’s an anti-static shield first and a fabric softener second. When you toss a dryer sheet in your dryer, and it starts tumbling around, the product on the sheet transfers onto the fabric of your wet clothes.
As far as their purpose goes, they’re pretty effective for static control and only decent for softening. Dryer sheets don’t really have the same softening effect as a liquid fabric softener, so if you prefer your towels or clothes to feel softer, you’ll have to add in a small amount of liquid fabric softener when you wash them.
Why Were Dryer Sheets Invented?
If you throw your clothes made of synthetic fabrics in the dryer, you’ll notice everything is probably stuck together when you pull it out and hear the trapped static crackle. Dryer sheets were invented to help reduce static buildup and unexpected shocks. They are especially useful during winter and in colder climates for when you walk on carpets and create a static shock buildup and then touch doors, or even pets, and get shocked.
What’s the History Behind Dryer Sheets?
The history behind dryer sheets is actually pretty interesting. One of the bigger problems, in the beginning, was that the sheets got stuck in the dryer vents and would start fires, so manufacturers tried to fix this by cutting holes in the sheet to help with the airflow.
Another issue they had was that the product on the dryer sheet actually softened the paint on the inside of the dryer. So different major brands of dryers had to be brought in and tested with different formulas to make sure that the sheets were compatible with different brands.
In the end, all these tests and changes led to the improvement of not only dryer sheets but dryer manufacturers as well.
What are Dryer Sheets Made of?
The sheet itself is almost always made from a polyester fiber. Some people consider polyester to actually be a type of plastic because it’s synthetic, but the polyester used to make dryer sheets is nearly the same polyester used to make clothing. However, in the last several years a paper alternative has been introduced.
Around 10-15 years ago, a few popular companies started using paper as a base material. Transitioning from a polyester base to paper is actually a much more sustainable and eco-friendly option.
There’s actually another base that looks like polyester, but it’s actually more like paper and is 100% bio-based. This newer bio-based dryer sheet is what many green product companies are producing now.
How Do Dryer Sheets Actually Work?
The product on dryer sheets is usually something called a conditioning quats or QAC (quaternary ammonium compound). This QAC is the same type of product used in liquid fabric softeners, but the quat used for dryer sheets is formulated so that instead of dispersing in water, it melts off the sheet. So the high temperature of the dryer will cause the product to dissolve and the tumbling of the dryer will help it to disperse onto the fabric.
According to a recent 2020 study, QACs have actually been detected in wastewater, surface waters, and sediments. The effects of these detections in our water and soil are technically unknown, but many scientists believe it could actually lead to antibiotic resistance and cause even more problems down the line.
That being said, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prevent these problems from arising.
Are There Any Alternatives to Dryer Sheets?
Wool dryer balls are pretty much the only effective alternative to dryer sheets on the market right now. What dryer balls do is help with tumbling, a little bit of static control, and even scent boosting if essential oils are added.
However, dryer balls do not utilize the same products formulated for dryer sheets. If you’re looking for eco-friendly but efficient products, the EPA has implemented the Safer Choice Standard for many laundry products that include a variety of brands. So while these dryer balls do have some efficacy, you can still shop for less harmful but efficient products and brands.
Learn about tumble drying cycles and how to read clothing care symbols so you can be sure to select the right cleaning method for your load.
10 Ways to Use Dryer Sheets Around Your House
Clears Away Soap Scum
The next time you’re cleaning up the sink, faucet, tile, and shower door around your bathroom, skip the harsh chemicals like bleach and grab a dryer sheet to wipe up the grime. All you have to do is lightly wet the sheet and scrub away that unsightly soap scum.
Keep Shoes Fresh
If taking off your shoes at the end of each day makes you wrinkle your nose, try placing a dryer sheet in each of your sneakers or boots to freshen things up and relieve your senses.
If your hair feels a little charged with static, you can take a dryer sheet and give it a quick swipe over your head to tame those pesky flyaways. We suggest choosing unscented sheets that won’t linger and mix with your deodorant or perfume.
Remove Deodorant Marks
Stubborn white streaks on your shirt ruining your look? Just grab an unscented dryer sheet and lightly rub or dab at those annoying deo marks until they’re gone.
You can actually keep insects from bugging you by tucking a few dryer sheets in your pockets or even by lightly rubbing them around your skin to keep those pesky skeeters away.
You can keep your delicate electronics shiny and dust-free with just a swipe of a dryer sheet across your screen to both clean and cut through the static.
Instead of throwing away your dulled-out scissors, you can carefully rub a dryer sheet on the blade or cut through the sheet a few times. Soon enough, the blades will sharpen up long enough for you to use them before you can get them professionally sharpened.
Clean Windshields & Grills
Before turning on your hose to give your car a bath, try dampening a dryer sheet or two and rubbing them over your windshield and grille to remove sticky stubborn bugs, dirt, and pollen residue.
Catches Pet Hair
Thanks to their anti-static properties, dryer sheets actually work great to remove stubborn static-stuck pet fur from your clothes and even upholstered furniture.
Remove Food Residues
Stubborn stains on your pots and pans are no joke, especially on those well-loved baking sheets. You can actually remove dark stains, spots, and food residue by filling your pot or pan with hot water and placing a dryer sheet in the water to soak overnight along with a squeeze of dish soap. The next day, simply dump the water and scrub the stains with the wet dryer sheet.
If you’re looking for more tips, tricks, and useful information for around the house from Boston’s top cleaners, be sure to check out our blog! You can also contact us today to find out how we can help you keep your home happy and healthy all year long. Happy cleaning!