And still get ultra-soft (great-smelling!) laundry.
Recently, it seems like everyone is breaking up with their dryer sheets. And for good reason. Not only are typical fabric softener dryer sheets filled with chemicals, but throwing away each single-use sheet is wasteful. Plus, the fabric-softening residue these sheets impart on bed sheets, towels, and clothing can irritate sensitive skin—and it also builds up in your dryer over time. All of the evidence would suggest it's time to ditch the dryer sheets, but there's one small problem: they help make our laundry smell amazing and feel super soft. So how do you get the same effect, but skip the chemicals? Try one of the fabric-softening alternatives to dryer sheets, below, from our favorite wool dryer balls to all-natural ways to make your bath towels soft. Don't worry, you won't miss the laundry sheets at all.
Wool Dryer Balls
For softening towels and speeding up drying times, Real Simple editors have long been fans of wool dryer balls. After the initial investment, these reusable wool balls can be used for hundreds of loads of laundry, so you'll no longer send dryer sheets to the landfill after every wash. This set of six from Food52 ($38 for 6) comes in pretty jewel tones and has gained a cult following, and recently I've been using Grove Collaborative's wool dryer ball set ($16 for 3), which reduces drying time by 25 percent per load.
If you miss the signature scent of dryer sheets, add 2 to 3 drops of essential oil (try lavender or eucalyptus) to the wool dryer balls. But be sure to let them dry completely (or run them through the dryer on their own first) so the oil doesn't accidentally get onto your towels or clothing. To reduce static cling in the dryer, try this tip from Clean Mama: pin safety pins on the dryer balls. The pins act like mini lightning rods, redirecting the static charge.
Add Baking Soda to the Wash Cycle
Honestly, is there anything baking soda can't do? Add 1/4-cup of the stuff to your washing machine, and it will help soften your bath towels or bed sheets.
A Splash of Vinegar
There's no reason you can't use this classic laundromat trick at home—add 1/2-cup of white vinegar to a liquid fabric softener dispenser ball. It will release the vinegar throughout the wash cycle, making your towels incredibly soft. If you're worried about scent, stick to a carefully measured amount, or else a too-generous splash of vinegar may give your linens an unpleasant scent. As an added bonus, the vinegar can also help freshen up musty towels or gym clothes.