Vinegar Fabric Softener
Vinegar kills germs and odors. It also softens your clothes and reduces static electricity. Try adding this to your Downy Ball:
1/2 water 1/2 distilled white vinegar
Essential oils if desired
I just pour a 1/2 water 1/2 vinegar mixture into an empty vinegar jug and keep it beside my washing machine. Use it as you would liquid fabric softener.
CAUTION!! This is not good for elastic. I wash my kiddos underthings in a load without vinegar.
I live in Minnesota and it gets so cold here that your teeth hurt when you walk outside. Does this mean that I use my dryer during the frigid winter months?? Nope. I almost never use it!!! I hang dry everything that I can manage to drape somewhere in the house. My townhome is tiny (think two bedroom apartment) but our laundry system works pretty well. I just use collapsible drying racks. I purchased mine at Ikea for $20 each. I've seen them at Costco as well. If you have to pay for laundry, imagine how much money you would save. You also save a ton of wear and tear on your clothes. It usually just takes a day for everything to dry. I do a load or two every few days and it's very manageable.
Wool Dryer Balls
You've probably seen seen those plastic spikey-looking dryer balls sold in stores. They're supposed to eliminate static electricity and reduce drying time. Some people save money by using in a few tennis balls instead. I personally think the idea of heating up plastic and tumbling it around with my family's clothes isn't exactly the healthiest thing to do.
On the other hand... Liquid fabric softener is full of preservatives. Dryer sheets are made out of fiberglass and contain who knows what chemicals. So, what's a parent to do? You felt your own wool dryer balls! All you need is some wool yarn and some old nylons or a sock. You'll want pure wool yarn, the kind that shrinks in the wash. You can buy some at a local knitting store or just unravel an ugly old sweater sold in abundance at any thrift store. You could even try posting on Freecycle for supplies.
To start, just make a ball of yarn. Begin by wrapping the yarn over two fingers. Pull your fingers out and wrap the yarn around itself, making the shape as close to round as possible. Perfection is not necessary. Once you have your desired size, cut the yarn and tightly tuck the end into the ball. I make the core about 2 inches in diameter, but you can make any size you would like. If you're making multiple balls, make all of your cores and felt them all at once.
Once you have all your core balls rolled, tuck them into the nylons. Use small pieces of acrylic yarn, ribbon, or whatever you have on hand to separate each ball and to tie the ends of the nylons closed. Add the nylon/ball creature to the next load of laundry you wash on the hot setting. Put it in the dryer afterward as well. I usually wash and dry the balls twice to ensure they are properly felted.
After the cores have been felted, just wrap another layer of yarn over the core. I make my dryer balls about 3 inches across, but any size that works for you will be just fine. Just like before, tuck in the ends, place the balls in the old pantyhose, wash, and dry twice.
That's it! I use 2-4 dryer balls at a time and they really do reduce drying time. I still have a little bit of static electricity with our fleece blankets, but not enough to make me use a more conventional fabric softener. If your dryer balls every unravel, just re-roll and felt them again.