Feb 19, 2014

Dryer Sheets 101 - use them wisely.

I recently overheard someone talk about how '"annoying it is that we have to recycle everything"  Yikes. That must come from someone who doesn't think about where EVERYTHING they use goes when it leaves their house.  Maybe they don't fly over landfills when they land in NY and NJ and see the huge piles of waste? Maybe they're not concerned about leaving the earth somewhat clean for their children's children?  I care and people know that I do, so I help keep them up to speed on what's recyclable and how to do it. As a  designer, I work with the 'before', 'during' and 'after' of everything in the built environment so it's my responsibility to help educate people on what they put in to, take out of, and use in their homes. I'm really glad that SO many people realize that we have to think about landfills, climate change, energy savings and a host of issues and how they impact our planet.  Lots of cities have good recycling programs, but I believe we can always do something better.  

Since I think about what I use and how not to simply toss it when used, Carol asked me about laundry products and a big ???? came up....what to  do with dryer sheets.  Love em but those synthetic ones pile up in her garbage. I too love soft, fresh smelling laundry, but not at the expense of my girl's health, my Dad's sensitive skin, and knowing that the chemicals from the fragrance and softeners sit on my skin constantly.   Standard dryer sheets aren't recyclable or biodegradable. Furthermore, they are often bleached using chlorine, a product whose manufacture is harmful to the environment. As an alternative, a few companies make eco-friendly dryer sheets that are recyclable, made without chlorine bleach or are biodegradable (sometimes all three). I switched from a big brand name to Seventh Generation dryer sheets. Happily they are recyclable and biodegradable.  But my friend asked, can she do when her husband adores Bounce? 


A bit of history.....manufacturers then developed dryer sheets in the 1970's so that you could soften clothes without having to run down to your washing machine as the rinse cycle started. A dryer sheet is a thin cloth that's permeated with fabric softener. Generally you add one sheet to a load of freshly laundered clothes when they are placed in a dryer. Once the drying cycle is over, you toss the cloth. Carol had a huge basket full of used cloths...but are they used?  Are they recyclable?  If they're paper they are, and the packaging will say so but if they're synthetic they aren't.  But you can get more than one use out of a dryer sheet. Not to soften more than one load of clothes but for this:
1.Dust your television, computer screen and even furniture. The anti-static chemicals will help to repel dust and lint.
2. Since used sheets have enough fragrance in them, stuff them in sneakers, place them in closets, in laundry hampers and in pieces of luggage- anywhere in your house that needs refreshed.
3. Run a sheet over a piece of thread when you're doing sewing tasks. The thread won't tangle up as easy.
4. Have pet hair on your clothing? Simply wipe it off with a used dryer sheet! 
5. Did you purchase some old, musty books at a garage sale or thrift shop? Place the books in a sealed plastic bag with a used dryer sheet. Allow the bag to sit undisturbed for a day or two, then remove the contents. The musty smell will be gone!
6. Got a problem with mice? Find where they are entering your house and stuff the hole shut with a used sheet. Mice won't chew through the smelly material.
7. Place a used dryer sheet in the bag of your vacuum and in your car/truck for a fresh scent.
8. Repel mosquitoes as well as other annoying, flying insects by sticking a used sheet in your belt loop.
9. In the bathroom, remove soap scum from your shower door.  Also great for a quick shine on your chrome faucet.
10. Keep your window blinds clean longer by wiping them periodically with used dryer sheets. The anti-static properties of the product will actually help to repel dust and dirt.
Try making your own too.  Start with a container with an airtight lid (grabbed from your pantry), 4 sponges cut in half ($1.00 for a 4pk at the dollar store), 1 cup of your favorite fabric softener ($0.30 worth of fabric softener) and 2 cups water.  Mix the water and fabric softener into a plastic container.  Add the cut sponges so they can soak in the mixture.
When ready to use, squeeze the excess liquid from 1 sponge and place into the dryer with your wet clothes.  Run the dryer cycle as normal. Once complete place the now dry sponge back into the container of liquid for use next time. Clothes smell good, are soft and have no static just like the expensive non-reusable dryer sheets.