COLUMN: Surprisingly useful ways to use dryer sheets around the house
Apparently, I’m a slow learner. I can’t think of another reason it took years to associate my sons’ and husband’s itchy skin problems with the dryer sheets I used.
While we didn’t experience respiratory problems that are often associated with fabric softeners, there is credible medical evidence that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may also cause respiratory problems in some individuals.
One would expect that such a life-impacting revelation (all the skin problems disappeared once I stopped using any fabric softeners or dryer sheets) would have banned those pesky sheets from our home. But that’s not true.
Dryer sheets have so many other uses around the home – indoors, outdoors, in the garage. I keep a box of fragrance-free dryer sheets on hand for many other uses. (Even without fragrance, dryer sheets pose a problem for my family when used in the dryer with clothing, sheets and towels).
A used dryer sheet is ideal for many of the applications that follow. However, if you, like me, don’t end up with used sheets from the dryer, simply soak a new sheet in water and then wring it out. Most of the time, you want to the sheet to be damp anyway. Caution: If you are sensitive to dryer sheets, be sure to wear rubber or latex gloves when handling a new sheet.
Spiders and flies: Many of our readers have confirmed that dryer sheets will repel both spiders and flies. Keep a few extra sheets in clothes hampers and around the laundry area and you can kiss all those spiders goodbye.
Luggage: Slip a dryer sheet into your suitcases while they are in storage and they won’t smell musty when you take them out to use.
Repel bugs: Any time you’re outdoors – whether playing, gardening, hiking or just picnicking in the park – consider slipping a dryer sheet in your back pocket.
Research has shown that a couple of chemical compounds commonly found in the sheets (linalool* and beta-citronellol) will deter the gnats and mosquitoes from hanging around, making this a reasonable and easier-to-use alternative to spray-on bug repellent.
*Linalool is naturally found in lavender and basil, which cosmetic and perfume companies use in their products for its flower-like odor. Linalool is toxic to some types of insects. Beta-citronellol is found in citronella and repels mosquitoes.
Repel deer: There are reports out there that say new dryer sheets, when cut into one-inch strips and tied to the tips of greenery or in trees, will repel plant-munching deer. I would deerly (!) love any reader reports to either confirm or deny.
Blinds: Wipe down your blinds with a dryer sheet to prevent static electricity and to keep dust from collecting. Grab that dryer sheet with a pair of kitchen tongs and use that to quickly run over each slat. It’s quick, easy and will even pick up the dust.
Soleplate: Remove gunk from the bottom of an iron. With the setting on low, rub the iron over the dryer sheet until the residue disappears, and you’re left with a pristine soleplate.
Screen cleaner: Dryer sheets make great dusting and cleaning cloths for television and computer screens. Not only will they clean the screens, but the antistatic properties will also teach the screens to repel rather than attract dust. Dryer sheets are designed to reduce static cling, so they remove the dust and help keep it from resettling on television and computer screens.
Stinky shoes: Boots, sneakers and tennis shoes can get really smelly. Pop a sheet into each of your less-than-fresh-smelling pair, and then place them in a plastic bag. Tie it closed. In the morning, your shoes will smell so much better. For kids’ shoes or ladies’ pumps, you can cut each sheet in half and still get great results.
Faucets: Used dryer sheets make great cloths for quick shine-ups in the bathroom and kitchen. Just use one on each of your chrome faucets and enjoy the shine.
Fan blades: There’s nothing like static electricity to turn a fan blade into a dust magnet. But that’s no match for a dryer sheet. Just take one of those gems and wipe down the blade to release dust, pet hair and cobwebs, too.
Mary invites questions —and tips — at email@example.com.
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