How do dryer sheets work?

Person placing a dryer sheet into the drum of a tumble dryer.
(Image credit: Getty)

There are many laundry products on the market, and it's easy to get confused with what's out there and what each item does. So, like me, you may have been wondering, 'How do dryer sheets work?'

Dryer sheets work by reducing static and depositing scents on your laundry, so they're a top choice if you want your clean laundry to come out smelling super fresh and fragrant. They also help to make laundry feel softer, so if you want your bedding and towels to feel as indulgent as a luxury spa, then dryer sheets could be the quick fix you're after. 

Whether you're on the hunt for one of the best dryers or you've already made the investment, then it's a great opportunity to upgrade your laundry routine at the same time. Trust us, you won't regret it. 

What are dryer sheets for?

The primary use of dryer sheets is to add a pleasant scent to your laundry. If you find that your clean clothes and linen come out smelling like mildew, it might be a good idea to include one in your drying, on top of any detergent you use when washing. This also might be a sign that you need to clean the dryer vent on your machine, so it's worth checking this first. 

Most dryer sheets are made out of a non-woven synthetic fabric that's coated with a silicone oil-based fabric softener. Some sheets are made of natural or cellulose fibers that can be recycled too, which is great as they don't break down in the dryer. The heat of the dryer melts the fabric softener that is in the sheet, and it then transfers to the laundry. This coating is what's to thank for your clothes feeling noticeably softer and smelling great. 

When should you use dryer sheets?

Dryer sheets are very simple to use, and luckily, you can also use them on most clothes and bed linen. If you have clothes made out of sensitive materials such as silk, satin, or suede, then it's always best to avoid placing these in a dryer altogether, let alone using fabric softeners or dryer sheets on them. 

It's also best to avoid using dryer sheets on sportswear. This is because the fabric softener may affect the moisture and stain-absorbing tendencies which will alter how well it performs when you're active. This is also true of water-repellent materials and microfiber towels, as it may ruin the very qualities that made you purchase the item. 

How to use dryer sheets

Although dryer sheets often seem like a mystery laundry product, they're actually incredibly easy to use. In essence, you simply throw it into the dryer drum along with your laundry before you select the cycle. 

You may want to be careful about exactly where you place it, though. Positioning it on top of the washing is best, and you should avoid overloading the machine. If the machine is overcrowded, then the dryer sheet can get stuck in one place, melting softened concentrator onto your clothes and potentially staining them. 

When you take your laundry out of the machine, you should also make sure to remove the dryer sheet and pop it in the trash. 

Alternative uses for dryer sheets

Once you have used the dryer sheet in a load of laundry and removed it, it can feel pretty redundant. Some aren't recyclable either, so it's great to find alternative uses for them either before they've been used or to extend their lifespan. 

One of the best uses in terms of longevity is to place a sheet in your drawers amongst your underwear or folded clothes to prevent any musty smells. They also work well in gym bags to deodorize the smell of sweat. 

What the expert says...

Laura Mountford, Cleaning Influencer, says, "I love to use tumble dryer sheets all around my home to keep it
smelling fresh; pop them in your drawers to keep your clothes fresh, in your suitcase when you travel, inside cushions, in your shoes and slippers to give them a freshen up, and even under the seat in my car to keep that smelling lovely."

You can also use them for dusting along the edges of blinds or shelves for a quick refresh that doesn't require a surface spray. This is a great idea for when you initially pull washing out, as you can give your utility area a quick spruce. 

If you struggle with static clothes that inevitably ruin a great hair day, dryer sheets can also be used to eliminate the fuzz by simply running it over the item of clothing. 

Holly Cockburn
TTR Features Editor, Cleaning

Holly, the former Features Editor of Top Ten Reviews, brings a wealth of experience in creating practical home content. With a background in freelance writing and product copy, she is dedicated to producing thorough features that help readers make the most of their homes and gardens.

With contributions from