What Do Dryer Sheets Do?

February 5, 2024
Dryer Repair

Have you heard of dryer sheets, but feel a little bit baffled by them? Maybe a family member or roommate regularly uses them, but you’re not sure what they actually do. In this guide, we break down exactly how dryer sheets work—their benefits, alternatives, and mechanism of action. You’ll be a dryer sheet expert in no time!

What is a Dryer Sheet?

Dryer sheets are a laundry product used during the clothes-drying process. They’re usually thin sheets that are made of lightweight, disposable polyester coated in fabric conditioner. The sheets are made to be put into a dryer along with wet clothes, resulting in the clothes feeling softer and smelling good. Dryer sheets come in a variety of scents to suit different preferences and are cheap and widely available.

How Do Dryer Sheets Work?

Dryer sheets release fabric softener onto clothes as they tumble around in the dryer. When the dryer sheet is heated, the conditioning agents are transferred to the wet clothes and evenly distributed by the tumbling action. 

Dryer sheets contain a solution called quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as quats. These compounds are known for being positively charged, which means they’re attracted to the negatively charged fabrics in the dryer. As the fabric conditioner penetrates the fibers of your clothes, it reduces static cling and also lubricates the fabric fibers, making them feel softer and come out of the dryer less wrinkled. 

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Dryer Sheets?

While many people swear by dryer sheets, they do have some drawbacks. Let’s take an in-depth look. 


  • Less static: Because the dryer sheets neutralize the electrical charge, clothes are prevented from sticking together and clinging to your body when you wear them. 
  • Softens and smoothes: The conditioner coats the fibers of your clothes, making them soft to the touch and less wrinkled when they come out of the machine. 
  • Pleasant odor: Dryer sheets leave a pleasant smell on your laundry. 
  • Reduce lint and fluff: Because dryer sheets neutralize the negative electrical charge on your clothes, lint and fibers like pet hair are less likely to cling. 


  • Damaging to the environment: Dryer sheets are single-use synthetic materials, so they end up in landfills. The chemicals may also be damaging to the environment. 
  • Fragrance sensitivities: For people who are sensitive to fragrances, dryer sheets may cause reactions such as itching skin, wheezing, or hives. 
  • Reduce the absorbency of towels: The coating from the dryer sheets does make your towels softer, but they also come out less absorbent. 
  • Can leave a residue: With repeated use, dryer sheets can begin to leave a residue inside your dryer, which will need to be cleaned. 

How Do You Use Dryer Sheets Effectively?

Using dryer sheets is simple—just follow these steps!

  1. Wash your clothes as normal.
  2. Load your clothes into the dryer, making sure it isn’t overloaded. 
  3. Put a single dryer sheet on top of the laundry. It will get mixed in with the load when it starts to turn. 
  4. Choose your preferred dryer setting. 
  5. Turn on the dryer and dry as normal.
  6. Remove your clothes and dispose of the used dryer sheet. 
  7. Remember to regularly clean the lint filter when using dryer sheets, as the residue can lead to buildup in the filter. 

Do You Need to Use Dryer Sheets?

So, do you actually need to use dryer sheets? The short answer is no, but it really is up to your preferences. Your clothes will still get dry if you don’t use them, but they do offer some benefits that people find helpful. If you live in a dry climate and often get bothered by static cling on your clothes, dryer sheets are a great way to eliminate this. They’re also great if you hate the feel of rough, scratchy clothes, due to their ability to smooth fibers. 

What Are Some Alternatives to Using Dryer Sheets?

If you don’t like the idea of using a single-use product with every load of laundry, or if you’re trying to avoid artificial fragrances, you’ll probably prefer not to use dryer sheets. But what can you use instead? Try one of these alternatives:

Dryer balls

Dryer balls are the perfect reusable alternative to dryer sheets. They bounce around in your dryer and separate the clothes, as well as helping to soften the fabric and reduce the problem of static cling. You can get wool, plastic, and rubber varieties, all of which can be reused time and time again. Best of all, they shorten the dryer time, so you’ll save on electricity. 

DIY Dryer Sheets

If you’re somewhat crafty, you can try making your own reusable and non-toxic dryer sheets! Cut an old sheet or other fabric into squares and soak in a mixture of vinegar and a couple of drops of essential oil. You can use these the same as dryer sheets, and your clothes will come out soft and smell great. Don’t worry, the vinegar scent will dissipate in the dryer and only the essential oil scent will remain. If this seems like too much work, you can try just adding some vinegar to the rinse cycle instead. 

Add Baking Soda to Your Washing Cycle

Baking soda is great for naturally softening clothes and is also good at removing detergent buildup and odors. After washing and drying, your clothes will be soft, but you won’t have used any toxic chemicals. 


If you’ve come this far without using dryer sheets, why not carry on? They’re not necessary and your clothes will still be perfectly fine without adding anything to your dryer!


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