Static cling in the laundry occurs when negative and positive charged electrons in fabrics become attracted through friction in the dryer. When you pull the clothes apart, you can hear the snap of electronic charges. There are several ways to prevent static cling in the laundry, including with dryer sheets, liquid fabric softeners, natural anti-static sheets, and dryer balls.
The traditional way to combat static has been to use dryer sheets, disposable fabric sheets that have been coated with chemicals. When they become hot in the dryer, the chemicals transfer from the sheets to the surface of the clothing, preventing static cling.
As convenient as dryer sheets are, they have their drawbacks. Many of the chemicals used in dryer sheets are toxic, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These chemicals were approved for use in dryer sheets because it wasn’t clear at the time that they could pass through the skin to be absorbed by the body.
Another problem is that chemical dryer sheets purportedly eliminate fire retardant treatment on clothing, and therefore should not be used on children’s pajamas. Due to the harsh chemicals, dryer sheets are also not recommended for baby clothes. They can cause problems with certain dryers and may void warranties.
Some liquid fabric softeners also eliminate static cling. These products usually have to be added to the final rinse cycle, and if your washer does not have an automatic dispenser, this may be inconvenient. Additionally, liquid fabric softeners also use toxic chemicals.
All-natural anti-static sheets eliminate static without chemicals. These sheets are reusable, lasting up to 500 loads before losing their ability to remove static. Just toss one or two in the dryer and leave them for one, two, or three years, depending on the brand and how frequently they are used.
Re-useable dryer sheets have many advantages. They do not expose the skin to toxic chemicals, they’re safe for all types of fabric including delicates, and they last a very long time. They also don’t remove flame retardant treatments from clothes and are safe even for baby clothes. All-natural anti-static sheets also won’t void dryer warranties.
Another option to reduce static cling is “dryer balls,” lightweight rubber balls, roughly the size of baseballs, that are sold in pairs. Surface nodules keep clothes fluffed while tumbling in the dryer. They reportedly soften clothes while causing them to dry faster. The balls are reusable, and according to manufacturers, they can last years. Dryer balls do not contain chemicals, but they are not recommended for silks or other delicate fabrics.