The Best Ways To Naturally Reduce Static Cling On Your Clothing

Want to eliminate static cling with a natural solution? I tried 10 ways to reduce static cling in my laundry and found 3 methods that really work!

Hang dry laundry to reduce static cling

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

It’s static cling season, and my athletic shirts are clinging like crazy in all the wrong places. I’m also getting complaints from my two teenage daughters, who have fuzzy sweaters that crackle and stick to their skin.

The dry, high-altitude air in Colorado combined with forced-air winter heating and drying clothes in the dryer is the perfect recipe for static cling. I’d love to find a solution that doesn’t involve a spray bottle of toxic Static Guard (1).

It turns out there are plenty of natural solutions to eliminate static cling in clothing. Do they work? I tested some of the best tips to see for myself.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND STATIC CLING

If you’ve ever pulled a sweater out of the dryer with a sock stuck to it, static electricity is what causes them to stick together. The action of your clothes rubbing together and tumbling around in the dryer sets up an exchange of electrons between different fabric types.

Some of your clothing ends up with a positive charge (not enough electrons), and some with a negative charge (too many electrons). The negatively charged fabric is attracted to the positively charged fabric, causing clothing like your sweater and sock to stick together (opposites attract). When you peel your sock off the sweater, the crackling staticky sound is a result of the outer electrons pulling away from each other (2).

WHY NOT TO USE DRYER SHEETS TO REDUCE STATIC CLING

Dryer sheets are designed to soften laundry, add a “fresh” fragrance to your clothes and reduce static cling.

How do they reduce static cling? Dryer sheets neutralize static cling by releasing positively-charged ions (3). The positive charges from the dryer sheets balance out the loose electrons on your fabric. This results in less static cling.

But, some of the ingredients in dryer sheets are potentially harmful to your health. Dryer sheets contain fabric softener, and The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding fabric softeners altogether, as some of the ingredients can cause asthma or allergies. Here are some documented reasons to skip dryer sheets:

  • The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t require dryer sheet manufacturers to list fragrance ingredients, and there are over 3,000 potential chemicals they can use. A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals (4). Synthetic Fragrance may contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, respiratory irritants and neurotoxic chemicals (5). Synthetic musks like galaxolide and tonalide are linked to hormone disruption (6).
  • In a 2012 study, researchers detected 55 compounds in common household products identified as asthma related (7). Dryer sheets and air fresheners had some of the highest concentrations of asthma-triggering compounds.
  • A 2000 study found that mice exposed to the fumes of some commercial fabric softeners reduced the airflow velocity in the exposed mice (8).
  • Dryer vents are an overlooked source of pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified seven of the VOCs found in dryer-vent emission as hazardous air pollutants (9). They include acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, methanol, m/p-xylene, o-xylene, and toluene.
  • Fragrance formulations may contain phthalates, which help scents last longer. Researchers suspect that phthalates mimic hormones, interrupting hormone production (10). A 2018 review found that current human exposure to phthalates may have effects on the male reproductive system (11).
  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding these ingredients in dryer sheets (12): distearyldimonium chloride, diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride, variants of hydroxyethyl methyl ammonium methyl sulfate or the vague terms “biodegradable fabric softening agents” and “cationic surfactant.”

HOW I TESTED THE NATURAL STATIC CLING REDUCING TIPS

I included both cotton fabric clothing as well as clothing made with synthetic materials like nylon and polyester in the washer and dryer. I made sure at least one athletic shirt and one fuzzy sweater made it into each load of laundry, since synthetic materials (like nylon, polyester, spandex, fleece and microfiber) are the worst offenders for static cling.

The results may vary depending on where you live, the time of year, type of clothing, how hot your dryer gets and other factors like humidity levels and altitude. I tested in December, which is static cling season here. We also live in Colorado, where the air is very dry, intensifying the static cling effect.

Helpful items to reduce static cling naturally

NATURAL WAYS TO REDUCE STATIC CLING

Wool Dryer Balls: Wool dryer balls can be used as an alternative to dryer sheets. The wool balls absorb moisture from the wet clothing in the dryer. In turn, the wool balls provide a more humid environment in the dryer and reduce static electricity. Bonus—wool balls also reduce drying time and fluff clothes. If clothing is over-dried, wool balls lose their effectiveness in reducing static cling.

  • Did this work? Not for me. I put in a few athletic shirts and a fuzzy sweater along with cotton clothing, and the load of clothes had just as much static cling with the dryer balls as drying without the balls. I’m still going to keep using my organic wool dryer balls. Here’s whywool dryer balls speed up the drying process, which over the long-run saves you money on utilities. Less time in the dryer is better for the environment.

Reduce Drying Time: Reduce the amount of time your clothes are in the dryer by 5-10 minutes. When your clothes are completely dry, no moisture remains. If the dryer is still tumbling with dry clothes, that’s when the most static electricity occurs.

  • Did this work? Not for me. The clothing that produced the most static cling (my daughter’s fuzzy sweater), was the first piece of clothing to dry. You really have to time this perfectly, which is not a realistic option for most of us.

Mist Staticky Clothing With A Water Bottle: Water discharges static electricity.

  • Did this work? Yes. I used a fine mist sprayer to mist a sweater that had just come out of the dryer full of static electricity. After spraying the sweater all over with a mist of water, the static electricity disappeared. Even after the sweater dried, the static was gone. This is not a very practical way to remove static electricity, since you have to wait for the sweater to dry before wearing. It does work though!

Dry Synthetic Fabrics Separately: Synthetic fabrics (like nylon, polyester, spandex, fleece and microfiber) are notorious for clinging to other types of fabric in the dryer. They retain electrostatic charges more easily than a fabric like cotton.

  • Did this work? Not for me. Everything still stuck together and had a staticky charge.

Hang Dry: Hang drying your clothes is the best natural way to eliminate static cling in your clothing. Since fabric is not rubbing together, there’s no static cling.

  • Did this work? Yes. If you have a particularly staticky item or two of clothing (synthetic fabrics), remove those clothes from your washed load and hang dry them. If you don’t have a large laundry room, you can use a drying rack or put the clothing on hangers and hang from the shower rod in the bathroom (that’s what we do). Remember, you don’t have to hang dry the whole load, only the clothes that are repeat offenders for static cling (nylon, polyester, spandex, fleece and microfiber).

Add Vinegar To The Rinse Cycle: Vinegar supposedly works as both a fabric softener and static reducer. I added ½ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the washing machine. The vinegar works like a fabric softener to stop clothes from getting stiff. The theory is that stiffness in clothing builds up friction in the dryer, causing clothes to stick together. My clothing didn’t smell like vinegar AT ALL when done washing and drying. Using white vinegar in the rinse cycle also cleans and removes soap residue from the washing machine.

  • Did this work? Not for me. There was a ton of static cling build up with a fuzzy sweater, a sock and some underwear after drying everything in the dryer.

Vinegar in the Dryer: Spray a clean washcloth with vinegar and toss it into the dryer with the rest of your clothes. As mentioned above, the vinegar works like a fabric softener to stop clothes from getting stiff. The theory is that stiffness in clothing builds up friction in the dryer, causing clothes to stick together.

  • Did this work? Not for me. There was a ton of static cling, and everything came out of the dryer smelling like vinegar.

Add Baking Soda To Washing Machine: I added ½ cup of baking soda, as well as my usual amount of laundry soap, to the washing machine. As with vinegar, baking soda works like a fabric softener to stop clothes from getting stiff. The theory is that stiffness in clothing builds up friction in the dryer, causing clothes to stick together.

  • Did this work? Not for me. There was still a ton of static cling build up with a fuzzy sweater, a sock and some underwear after drying everything in the dryer.

Metal Safety Pins & Metal Hangers: Metal conducts electricity and helps to discharge static electricity.

  • Did this work? Not for me. I put a safety pin on a nylon athletic shirt (which always has static cling out of the dryer) and one on a poly blend shirt. I had to peel the laundry apart after being in the dryer, and there was a lot of crackling electricity coming from the clothing. With the hanger method, I ran a metal hanger all over the inside and outside of a my new synthetic blouse (it was clinging to my body when I put it on). Running the metal hanger over it didn’t help with static cling at all.

Moisturize: Super dry skin carries a highly positive electrical charge. If you put on a nylon blouse that’s just come out of the dryer (with a negative charge), the blouse will be very attracted to your skin, sticking and clinging in the worst way. This is exactly when you don’t want opposites to attract!

  • Did this work? Yes! After trying the metal hanger method on my staticky blouse, I was desperate to get rid of the static cling before a music recital. I already use the moisturizer trick to tame my staticky hair, so thought I’d give it a try on my blouse. Here’s how I do it—First, turn your staticky clothing inside out. Next, apply lotion to your hands, but only rub it in about 95%. There will be a small amount of lotion residue left on your hands. Rub your moisturized hands all over your staticky clothing. This immediately stopped that crackly staticky sound I had on my blouse. You can now turn your clothing so the right side of the fabric is facing out and rub your moisturized hands on the outside of the fabric. Just to be safe, apply lotion to your skin too (such as your arms if the clothing is sticking to your arms). This TOTALLY worked to stop the static cling in my blouse!

Soap Nuts: Soap nuts can be used as a green alternative to commercial laundry detergents. They’re actually a type of berry (related to lychee), and can be put in a muslin bag and tossed directly into the wash. Apparently soap nuts have anti-static properties.

  • Did this work? I did not try soap nuts. My daughter is highly allergic to tree nuts, and I didn’t want to risk any allergy symptoms. Soap nuts are actually berries, and are supposedly nut allergy safe. We had one incident where my daughter drank a fruit punch with lychee juice and got a horrible stomach ache, so I didn’t want to take any risks just in case.

WHAT NATURAL METHODS WORKED TO REDUCE STATIC CLING?

  1. Moisturize (see method above)
  2. Hang dry synthetic fabric
  3. Mist with water

SHOP NATURAL LAUNDRY

REFERENCES

  1. Static Guard Environmental Working Group
    https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/5750-StaticGuardStaticClingSpray
  2. ScienceNetLinks
    http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/dryer-sheets/
  3. How Do Dryer Sheets Prevent Static Cling? Wonderopolis
    https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-do-dryer-sheets-prevent-static-cling
  4. Petera, Carol. INDOOR AIR QUALITY: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Jan; 119(1): A16.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018511/
  5. Nudelman, J. and Engel, C. Right To Know. Exposing toxic fragrance chemicals in beauty, personal care and cleaning products. Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. Sept. 2018.
    https://d124kohvtzl951.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/26092837/BCPP_Right-To-Know-Report_Secret-Toxic-Fragrance-Ingredients_9_26_2018.pdf
  6. Campaign For Safe Cosmetics
    http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/synthetic-musks/
  7. Dodson, Robin E. et al. Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jul; 120(7): 935–943.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404651/
  8. Anderson, RC. and Anderson, JH. Respiratory toxicity of fabric softener emissions. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2000 May 26;60(2):121-36.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10872633
  9. Kessler, Rebecca. Dryer Vents: An Overlooked Source of Pollution? Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Nov; 119(11): a474–a475.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226517/#r9
  10. Patisaull, H.B. and Adewale, H. B. Long-Term Effects of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors on Reproductive Physiology and Behavior. Front Behav Neurosci. 2009; 3: 10.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706654/
  11. Radke, E.G. et al. Phthalate exposure and male reproductive outcomes: A systematic review of the human epidemiological evidence. Environ Int. 2018 Dec;121(Pt 1):764-793.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30336412
  12. Fabric Sheets Environmental Working Group
    https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/skip-fabric-softeners

top image via depositphotos