How To Make Your Own Dryer Sheets

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It’s so easy to make DIY dryer sheets that are gentle on your clothes as well as your budget.

Older woman holds a pile of neatly folded clothes laundered with homemade dryer sheets

What could be easier than grabbing a dryer sheet, popping it in with your damp clothes, and letting it do its thing? Unfortunately, “doing its thing” in this case means wasting your money. Depending on what type of dryer sheets you use, its “thing” might also irritate your allergies and skin.

Why Make DIY Dryer Sheets?

Even if dry sheets themselves don’t seem expensive, the effect they have on your clothes dryer can add up. That’s because the petroleum coating on dryer sheets can harm your dryer since it leaves a residue that clogs your lint filter and reduces efficiency.

Then there are the health-related issues. People with eczema often find that dryer sheets make their skin itchier. Psoriasis led me to try making my own dryer sheets, and I found the switch helped improve things dramatically.

There’s an environmental reason, too. Dryer sheets aren’t biodegradable, so they add to landfills. They can also be harmful to pets, which seem to be fascinated by their texture.

How to Make Dryer Sheets

The solution to all of these issues? Make your own dryer sheets. It’s easy, it saves money, and, depending on which of the methods below that you use, it may reduce your allergy or skin issues, too.

With Vinegar

Vinegar is a fantastic laundry aid. Although it smells strong in the bottle, the odor disappears as it dries, so there’s no worry your clothes will come out smelling like you’re wearing a salad.

1. Fill a container with white vinegar and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (optional). Since this is straight vinegar, which is highly acidic, be sure to choose a non-metallic container and lid.

2. Cut an old sheet or t-shirt in squares and stuff them in the jar. Shake well to saturate all of the fabric.

3. To use, grab a square — don’t wring it out — and pop it into the dryer with your clothes.

You can reuse the same homemade dryer sheets over and over — just put them back into the container after use. Add more vinegar and essential oils as needed to keep the jar topped off.

With Hair Conditioner

For a more scented homemade dryer sheet, this recipe relies on your favorite hair conditioner.

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1. Combine 3 parts hair conditioner with 1 part white vinegar in a jar and shake well.

2. Cut up an old sheet or t-shirt into 4×4-inch squares and stuff them in the jar, then shake again.

3. Remove the squares from the jar, wring them out, and let them air dry. Store the dried squares in a clean, empty jar or another kind of container.

4. To use, toss a square into the dryer with your clothes. Each square lasts up to three loads. Save the used squares to make your next batch.

If you’re trying to avoid irritants, you’ll want to use an organic conditioner that’s free of parabens, sulfates, dimethicone, synthetic fragrances, and artificial preservatives. I’ve had great luck using Dr. Bronner’s Conditioner and Styling Cream, which smells amazing, too.

With Fabric Softener

If your ultimate purpose in making your own dryer sheets is to save money, you’ll love this method which relies on fabric softener. Look for inexpensive bottles of the stuff at the dollar store or savings club — one bottle will last several months using this DIY dryer sheet recipe.

1. Cut 6×6″ squares from an old towel or use old washcloths for this method.

2. Put 12 squares in a large bowl and add 1 cup of fabric softener. Using your hands or a spoon, work the fabric softener into the cloths until they’re fully saturated.

3. Remove the cloths one at a time, lightly squeezing them to wring out excess softener, and hang them from a laundry line to dry. Store the dried cloths in an open container.

4. To use, just toss a cloth into the dryer with your clothes, and it’ll work just as well as a dryer sheet. You can re-use the same cloth for several loads. To make more, run your used homemade dryer sheets through the laundry using hot water to wash and rinse, then repeat the instructions above.

Where to Next?
Uses for Used Dryer Sheets
How to Control Pet Hair in Your Home
How to Keep Your Home Clean Longer
How to Get Rid of Static Electricity in Your Home

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  1. I read that commercial dryer sheets also leave a waxy buildup on the lint screen, and that this can be potentially hazardous over time. Not sure if that’s true, but either of your tips are great, especially given the price of Bounce sheets. 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I have to wash my lint screen every couple of weeks, even without using dryer sheets. Our washer/dryer set is 10+ years old — and definitely due for replacement — so the screen doesn’t clean as easily as it used to.

  2. This is fantastic! I, like Terry, am always concerned about the residue left on the lint trap. My mom never used dryer sheets for this reason. Handsome Man, on the other hand, can’t imagine NOT using them. I think this is the perfect compromise 🙂

  3. I haven’t used commercial fabric softener of any kind (liquid or dryer sheet) for a long time.
    Many years ago, my washer repair man told me that the liquid fabric softener gunks up your washer, causing the parts to wear out faster. He said it’s one of the worst things you can put in to your washer and that dryer sheets are better.
    Well, sheets are better, but they still are not that great.

    I make my own ‘fabric softener using hair conditioner (preferably organic), vinegar and a spray bottle.
    I mix it together and spray three or four times onto the clothes before they go into the dryer. (You could use an old t-shirt, too) if you don’t want to spray on the clothes.

    Works like a charm, my clothes smell great and no build-up on the machines or in my clothes.

  4. Thanks for sharing these tips! I didn’t realize the issues with dryer sheets until today. And I’ll certainly enjoy spending less money!

  5. amy @ fearless homemaker says:

    what a smart idea! i love making as much of our household stuff as possible myself, so i’ll definitely have to try this!

  6. I stopped using fabric softener over a year ago and made some dryer balls out of wool yarn instead. They work great and if you want a little fragrance the essential oil and vinegar spritz will work just as well on the dryer ball. I just make sure that I leave them in the dryer when I take out a load and voila! Always ready to go.

  7. I’ve read that you should wring out the excess liquid as not to get spots on clothes and others have said do not wring out. Anyone who actually uses this on a regular basis have a suggestion for me?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Robyn,

      With the vinegar-based one there’s no need to wring out and, in fact, it’ll work better if you don’t. When I’ve used the other two, I wring them out for the exact reason you mention — to avoid spots from excess — but also to make a batch last even longer.

    2. I have tried all these methods. You’ll want to DEFINITELY wring them all out.
      The fabric softener one doesn’t work, at least I couldn’t tell a difference and I tried a few different brands.
      The vinegar/essential oil one works well enough, but your clothes will definitely smell like vinegar if you don’t wring out the squares (especially if it’s not a large load). No amount of essential oil is gonna cover up the pungent smell of vinegar, so you’re wasting your money putting that expensive stuff in vinegar. Plus, your clothes won’t smell like the oil or vinegar (provided you wring out the sheet). No, wringing it out isn’t what causes the clothes to not smell like the essential oil. I was using rags in plain vinegar for quite some time and that’s how I know about wringing out the vinegar, and if too much vinegar will cause your clothes to smell like it, essential oil isn’t gonna mask that. You’d be better off putting vinegar in your wash (where the fabric softener goes), and using wool dryer balls. Just make sure you spritz them with a little water, and fasten a safety pin to one of them before starting the load. The safety pin is what keeps static electricity from building up.
      I currently use the hair conditioner/vinegar/essential oil dryer sheets. I actually like this one, except that they don’t last more than one load. Well, the smell doesn’t, the softening might for 2 loads max, but never 3 loads. I use a rather pungent essential oil blend and it’s noticable on my clothes etc which I like.
      The only draw backs are that they aren’t really good for more than one load, two max; and since they have to air-dry before you can even use them, it’s time and space consuming to make them. I use washclothes, and hang them up on pants hangers. I usually hang them up in the evening, and they’re dry by morning. Once dry I fold them and keep them in a container on my dryer. Every 3 times I make dryer sheets with them, I wash the lot just to keep everything clean and tidy.
      Hope that helps.

  8. Catherine Blacknall says:

    Thank you so much for the wel received tips for
    natural fabric softener. I want my clothes to smell
    fresh, but have an allergy to the smell of store
    brought dryer sheets. I love essential oils , so I
    will experiment with a few of my favorites. Thank
    you so much, I will get started.

  9. Hello,
    Can I use polyester cloths? My husband has a bunch of old shirts I’d like to repurpose but I’m not sure if the cloths need to be all cotton. Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Carly,
      Polyester does not work for this purpose. Since it’s a synthetic fabric, it won’t absorb whichever liquid you’re using. Also, as a synthetic, it will actually create more static in your clothing. Stick with all-cotton cloths for this.

  10. The one question I have is which method prevents static the best? I may have missed the answer somewhere.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Everyone’s dryer, clothing, and environmental humidity levels are different, so there’s no one “best” for everyone.

  11. Hey, I was just curious about how many drops of essential oil to use per container for the vinegar recipe; I have ordered a 32 oz wide mouthed jar to begin making my own fabric softener sheets. Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      There’s no set amount. I’d probably use 5 or so.