You: Is that your dryer?
Me: Oh yes, that is my dryer.
You: And what the heck is inside it? Are those tennis balls?
Me: Why yes, yes those are tennis balls!
You: But why?
And that conversation brings us to the first Frugal Tip Friday post!
Why do we use fabric softener or softener sheets? To make our clothes soft, cozy and smell good, right? But did you know that fabric softener is actually not good on our clothes, not to mention our skin? The softener acts like your hair conditioner. It coats everything, leaving a very thin film, that makes it feel soft. And as for your skin; any chemical that touches your skin is then absorbed by your skin. So any lotion, perfume, cleaning supply, or soap. Eww. Not pretty!
Ok, but we all love soft towels and sweaters that smell like a spring meadow, right? So what is the solution? Beat the towels into submission? :o) Ok, so maybe not that bad. By adding a couple tennis balls into the dryer, it helps to separate the fibers in the fabric, instead of allowing them to clump together causing stiffness and "hard" clothes. It also helps to fluff the items in the dryer and makes the clothes dry faster. Cool, right?
And as for scent? If you absolutely can't live without it, now that you don't need the dryer sheets for softness, you can use less. Take one dryer sheet and cut it into four even pieces and use one piece per load. I keep a hand full precut sitting on the top of the dryer. You get all the smell you need and even a little extra (but not so much) softening power. Note: in the picture, to the left of the tennis balls is my little piece of dryer sheet.
And for those of you that use liquid fabric softener, there is help for you too! :o) Get out a medium plastic container with a tight fitting lid. (glad ware, Tupperware, sherbet container, what ever you have on hands) Mix 1 part fabric softener to 3 parts water. So if you use 1 cup of fabric softener, mix in 3 cups of water. Next, get out a regular old sponge. Cut it into four equal parts and put them into the container with the diluted fabric softener. Next time you do a load of laundry, when you put the clothes in the dryer, pull out one sponge piece, wring out the excess softener and throw it in the dryer with the clothes. This works just like a softener sheet.
There are of course commercial products that act like the tennis balls. Below is a picture of one option. You can get a set for around $5 (I will not swear by this price) at Wal-mart in the section with the laundry hampers and ironing boards. I have never used these myself but have heard only good things about them. We just had tennis balls on hands (yes, we own rackets too and do use them on occasion). The tennis balls were about $2 for a three pack of the cheap brand at Wal-mart. When the tennis balls wear out, and I have no idea how long that will be, I will probably buy a set of the dryer balls. I believe they are supposed to last 3 years.
I found these on Babies-R-Us' website. The ones at Wal-mart are, I believe, blue.
Also, don't use fabric softener on your towels and wash rags. The softener that coats all the fibers and makes them softer also makes them less absorbent. Cloth diapering folks, you too! Just say No. Sorry! But we have found that the tennis balls do just fine at making our towels nice and soft with out the added benefit of commercial fabric softeners.
So how is this frugal? Well, in the end you need about 1/4 the fabric softener that you needed before. Less sheets used = less money spent! And it cuts down on drying time so it saves on your energy costs as well!
Oh, and it sounds cool. :o) Thump thump thump!