Can You Recycle Dryer Sheets? (Find Out Now!)

Jessica Vaillancourt
by Jessica Vaillancourt

Dryer sheets are those wispy little pieces of fabric you throw in your dryer to make your clothing smell good. They’re useful little tools to have on hand when static cling or musty smells become a problem. But it may feel a bit wasteful to use one and just throw it in the garbage immediately after. So the question is, instead of throwing them away, can you recycle dryer sheets?

Sadly, you CANNOT recycle dryer sheets. Their polyester material and chemical coating is not recyclable, and would contaminate the recycling process. But certain eco-friendly dryer sheet brands produce unbleached paper sheets that are compostable. Single-use dryer sheets can either be thrown in the garbage or reused in creative ways around the house.

What Are Dryer Sheets Made Of?

Dryer sheets are thin, nonwoven polyester sheets coated in fabric softener chemicals. This softening agent coating has a long hydrophobic chain of fatty oils. Dryer sheets are wispy, lightweight, and come in a variety of fabric softener scents. Unfortunately the fabric softener coating and the polyester itself make these a non-recyclable item.

While regular store-brand dryer sheets are made of polyester, there are other eco-friendly options to choose from. Companies like Seventh Generation produce a dryer sheet made of unbleached paper and essential oils. These are still not recyclable due to the essential oils, but they can be composted.

How Dryer Sheets Work

To use a dryer sheet, place a single sheet into the dryer along with your wet clothes. Then simply leave it in the dryer during the dry cycle. Dryer sheets are a good option for people wanting their clothes to come out softer and less statically charged after a dry cycle. They are an alternative to adding fabric softener directly into the washing machine during the wash cycle.

When clothes heat up and rub together during the drying cycle, they create a static charge. This can leave your clothes dry, clingy, and rough. When a dryer sheet is placed inside, the heat warms up its fabric softener coating.

This softener contains a fatty oil substance, and when it spreads onto the clothing it lubricates the clothing fabric fibers. This eliminates static charge, and makes the clothes feel softer. Dryer sheets come in a variety of scents and fabric softener types. Some of the most popular are floral-based scents, like lavender.

What to Do With Used Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets get a bad rep. That’s because they are single-use items usually used once and then thrown in the trash. There are not many ways to upcycle, reuse, or recycle dryer sheets. Many of them also contain irritating chemicals that can rub off on your clothes and skin. But if they are your favorite method of softening clothing, you should know what you can do with used dryer sheets.

Throw Them in the Trash

Unfortunately, because of the nonwoven polyester material and chemical coating, dryer sheets are not recyclable. Single-use dryer sheets should go directly in the trash can. You can throw them away along with your normal trash items for regular curbside pickup.

However, you CAN recycle the box that most dryer sheets come in. These are made of regular cardboard material, similar to tissue boxes, that can be broken down. Recycle them along with other papers and cardboard.

Repurpose Them in Your Home

It’s always best to extend the life of your dryer sheets when possible. This means that instead of throwing the sheets out after one use, find ways to repurpose them. Here are a few creative options to avoid throwing them right into the trash after just one use:

  • Use them in the dryer more than once.
  • Compost unbleached paper-based dryer sheets.
  • Place in your trash can under the bag as a deodorizer.
  • Repel insects by placing them in corners, windows, and rafters. Focus on areas spiders like to make their webs.
  • Fold them up small and put them in the toes of your shoes. This helps keep your shoes smelling fresh.
  • Dampen them and run them over your furniture to collect pet fur and hair.

Keep in mind, most of these ideas work best with scented polyester fabric sheets.

Alternatives to Dryer Sheets

Now that you know you can’t recycle dryer sheets, you might want to switch over to a more eco-friendly option. Here are sustainable alternatives to dryer sheets:

  • Wool dryer balls. Wool dryer balls are tightly packed balls of wool that can be reused in the dryer over and over again. They are effective at reducing the amount of static cling created during the dry cycle. Wool balls can last up to one year of use. 
  • Teaspoon of baking soda. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to your wash cycle to soften your clothes and deodorize any scents.
  • Vinegar-soaked washcloth. Vinegar is also effective at deodorizing and softening clothes. Soak a washcloth in either distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, and place it in the dryer during the dry cycle. 
  • Reusable dryer sheets. There are reusable dryer sheets on the market. These are good options if you really like using dryer sheets but want something more sustainable. Look at brands like AllerTech, Purecosheet, and Seventh Generation. You can also make your own reusable dryer sheets at home. 
  • Tight ball of aluminum foil. Adding a ball of aluminum foil to the dry cycle is effective at reducing static cling. Make sure to ball it up tightly, so the sharp edges don’t snag on your clothing. 

Related Questions

Are dryer sheets bad for you?

Many generic dryer sheet brands contain irritating chemicals. When heated up, these chemicals can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are irritating to inhale. Some people may also experience skin irritation from the fabric softener chemicals that transfer onto their clothes. Reported symptoms from dryer sheets include asthma attacks, migraines, allergic skin reactions, and various respiratory issues.

Why do dryer sheets repel mice?

It is reported that mice and other rodents do not like the scent of dryer sheets, particularly Bounce brand dryer sheets. Rubbing these sheets in places where rodents are entering your home may keep them at bay. But this is a temporary fix, not a long-term solution.

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Jessica Vaillancourt
Jessica Vaillancourt

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