On the Line

If you don't want to use dryer sheets but still want to add a fresh fragrance to your laundry, try adding a few drops of lavender or your favorite essential oil during the washer's spin cycle or as you throw the clothes into the dryer. But take caution, because some oils can irritate the skin.

Natural Dryer Sheets and Other Alternatives

You've decided to get rid of your standard dryer sheets and try something else. But again, there's a cornucopia of choices, including reusable sheets, fabric softeners, dryer balls and gentler detergents. Even a kitchen staple -- vinegar -- makes the list.

Before choosing which option is right for you, think first about what you're trying to accomplish. Remember, dryer sheets offer three main advantages: eliminating static, softening clothes and adding a fragrance. If you want the first two but not the last, several companies already make fragrance-free dryer sheets aimed at people with allergies or other skin conditions.

If you want an eco-friendly option, some companies offer products labeled as "natural," but this could mean any variety of things. The government doesn't regulate these claims, so there is no guarantee that these products are any different from others. Even natural products won't satisfy everyone, though, and environmentally-conscious consumers might also object to disposable single-use dryer sheets and instead prefer a reusable option. Here are some popular choices:

The makers of dryer balls claim that these rubbery orbs not only soften clothes and stop static, but also reduce drying time. Balled-up aluminum foil and tennis balls have been suggested as frugal -- albeit less-effective -- alternatives.

Reusable sheets are often a piece of specially knitted polyester that has no or few chemicals or fragrances. Some stores also sell scented sachet bags, and you may find other reusable options.

You can create your own homemade sheets by soaking squares of cloth in fabric softener or even hair conditioner. However, these probably won't work as well as commercial sheets.

Some people prefer to pour a bit of white vinegar onto their clothes during the washing machine's rinse cycle. As with fabric softener, vinegar can soften clothes, and it has a mild anti-static effect. As a bonus, vinegar works well to get rid of mildew.

Whatever alternative you use to dryer sheets in the washer or dryer might work on your clothes, it likely won't have as many interesting off-label uses as standard dryer sheets do. We cover some of the best in the next section.