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Hearing the words "dryer sheet" might immediately bring to mind ultra-fragrant, tried-and-true products like Bounce and Downy, which your parents might have used for your clothes. Today there are other options available as well, including reusable polyester dryer sheets and wool balls, which can help reduce static without needing any additional ingredients.
In recent years, researchers have found that some of the chemicals used in dryer sheets, such as quaternary ammonium compounds, or QACs, may cause skin irritation and trigger asthma symptoms; if you're concerned about these issues, be sure to review the ingredient list carefully on the company's website.
Note that in most cases, dryer sheets should not be used on any items that have been treated with flame retardant, such as kids' pajamas, since it can decrease its effectiveness. They can also make towels (especially microfiber and cotton ones) less absorbent, and cause athletic wicking gear to be less efficient. To help you find the right product, here are the best dryer sheets on the market.
Best Overall: Bounce Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
Bounce products are known for their delightful, unmistakable scents, which you can detect even before you open the box. Loyal fans love the smell of Outdoor Fresh, which lingers on clothes even after they've been taken out of the dryer. This classic brand also gets high marks for its ability to reduce static cling, remove pet hair, and add softness. For large- or regular-size loads, it's best to use two sheets. They're sold in several sizes, the largest being 250 to a box.
Best Budget: Great Value Ultimate Fresh Dryer Sheets, Original Clean Scent
Although prices can vary, you can often find this popular budget pick, which is made by one of Walmart's house brands, for around two or three cents per sheet. That means you won't have to feel guilty about grabbing extra sheets for tasks like removing pet hair or freshening up smelly shoes. These sheets, which are sold 240 to a box, have a fresh, citrus scent and some feel they work as well as more recognizable brands. You'll only need to use one sheet for each load unless you need to dry something twice, or are using a high-capacity dryer.
Best Natural: Love Home & Planet Lavender and Argan Dryer Sheets
If you're looking to avoid many of the chemicals added to household products, these dryer sheets, which are sold 80 to a box, are made with 91 percent plant-based ingredients. They're scented with Moroccan Argan oil and sustainably sourced lavender essential oil and come in packaging that's made from recycled materials. Love Home & Planet also participates in their own voluntary carbon tax fund, contributing $40 per carbon ton towards programs that encourage recycling in communities. You'll need one dryer sheet for each load of laundry.
Best Unscented: Seventh Generation Fabric Softener Sheets, Free and Clear
A whopping 97 percent of the ingredients in these dryer sheets are plant-based, and they're also made of compostable rayon paper, so you can feel good knowing they won't end up taking space in a landfill. They're sold 80 to a box and you'll need one sheet for each load. The ingredient list is short, with just four listed, but the description of what's not included—such as gluten, phosphates, dyes, and fragrance—is much lengthier. The packaging consists of 100 percent recycled material, with 35 percent coming from post-consumer products. If you love the Seventh Generation vibe but prefer a little aroma, a lavender-scented version is also available.
Best Dryer Balls: Woolzies Wool Dryer Ball Set
Celsious is a boutique laundromat and retail business founded by two sisters in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Their non-toxic products such as bleach-free oxygen brightener and biodegradable washing powder are not only offered in the laundromat but also sold online. These wool dryer balls, which are sold in sets of three and come in either white or gray, can help decrease drying time (and therefore, energy use) by approximately 25 percent. They're made from New Zealand wool and chemical-free and should last for 1,000 loads. Because they won't shed on clothing, they're also safe for those who are sensitive to wool fabrics.
Best Reusable: Purecosheet Reusable Dryer Sheets
Compostable or biodegradable products are great, but the most eco-friendly strategy is to simply not create the waste in the first place. These polyester dryer sheets, which are sold two to a pack and must be used together, can be used for as many as 500 loads. (When their laundry life is over, you can add them to your rag back and use them for household cleaning jobs.) Because they contain no chemicals, they can be used to dry fabrics that you wouldn't pair with traditional dryer sheets, such as athletic wicking clothing, kids' pajamas, and delicate items such as cloth diapers.
Best for Babies: Grab Green Fragrance-Free Natural Wet Dryer Sheets
Many parents might prefer chemical-free options such as dryer balls or reusable dryer sheets for their little ones, but if you're seeking a more traditional dryer sheet, this fragrance-free and hypoallergenic option from Grab Green wins points for having a short ingredient list. They're sold 32 to a package, and they come wet so that you can use each one twice. They're also compostable, or you can try repurposing them as cleaning cloths as the company suggests.
Best Classic Scent: Downy April Fresh Dryer Sheets
Although Downy now sells dryer sheets infused with scents like lavender and vanilla, loyal fans will be happy to know they can still get their hands on the April Fresh scent, sold in the familiar blue packaging. (For many, this smell is the ultimate "clean laundry" aroma.) These are sold 240 to a box, and you can use one for each load, or two if it's especially large. Shoppers concerned about sustainability will be happy to know that Downy products are made at a factory that uses 100 percent renewable energy and produces zero landfill waste.
Best Odor Remover: Gain Dryer Sheets
Gain dryer sheets, which are sold 240 to a box, are known for having a fresh, powerful scent (the company calls it "green, citrus, and amber") that lingers on clothing and can help refresh stinky items such as sports and workout gear. For small and medium loads one sheet is sufficient, but for larger batches and high-efficiency machines you'll want two. Besides the ever-popular original option, they also come in intriguing scents such as Apple Mango Tango and Tropical Sunrise.
Lexi Dwyer has previously written about laundry whiteners and green clothing detergents for The Spruce and thinks the best way to avoid static cling in workout clothing and delicates is to line-dry. She's a fan of Seventh Generation Free & Clear products because they are environmentally friendly but also get the job done.