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Do Dryer Sheets Expire? (And can you still use them?) 

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Dryer sheets are a nifty way to make your laundry smell good, prevent static, and give the garments a soft feel. But just like every other laundry product you use at home, dryer sheets have a shelf life. 

Although dryer sheets don’t go bad after a certain time, they lose their functionality if stored in damp and poorly ventilated conditions. Pre-moistured dry sheets are prone to mildew in which case you should get rid of them. The sheets might also dry out, especially after the package has been opened. You can use dried-out dryer sheets by spraying them lightly with water before placing them in the dryer. 

Read more to find out how to use dryer sheets, and how to reactivate the ones that have dried out.

Why do you Need Dryer Sheets?

When you wash a load of laundry with wool fabrics in it such as sweaters and socks, you’ll notice that they stick together. That’s static that builds due to friction. Dryer sheets prevent static build-up and keep the laundry items conveniently separated (Amazon paid link).

The dryer sheets also double as fabric softeners. When you place them on top of the laundry in the dryer, they release their ingredients that infiltrate the fabric and make it soft. On top of that, the sheets are scented and their fragrance seeps into the clothes giving them a fresh smell that lasts long after the clothes are dry and folded. 

In short, if you use dryer sheets, you won’t have to buy a fabric softener and add it to the washer. The dryer sheets have the same functionality as the regular fabric softener with the added advantage that their fragrance doesn’t get diluted in the water in the washer as is the case with the fabric softener.

What are Dryer Sheets Made of?

The dryer sheets are sheets of cellulose or polyester coated with different chemicals and fragrances. Here are the main components of the dryer sheet.

  • Fabric: The sheet is either made of polyester or cellulose. Polyester sheets are less likely to develop mildew or mold buildup.
  • Liquid Softeners: These ingredients soften the fabric and prevent the laundry in the dryer from piling.
  • Lubricants: The main functionality of lubricants is to reduce static and keep wool clothes from sticking together.
  • Fragrance: The heat of the dryer releases the scent in the sheets to give the clothes a fresh smell.

Depending on the brand, your dryer sheets might also contain clay and a rheology modifier among other ingredients.

Do Dryer Sheets Expire?

Dryer sheets do not expire. But they can go bad if you store them in a damp and poorly ventilated place. You can tell that the sheets have gone bad when you see mildew build-up and a bad smell coming out of the package. This often happens to sheets made of cellulose fabrics more than those made of polyester.

Another problem with opened dryer sheets packages is when they dry out. You’ll have this problem with pre-moistured sheets stored in very dry conditions. You cannot use dry sheets in the dryer. You’ll have to reactivate them first.

Can you still Use Expired Dryer Sheets?

Since dryer sheets don’t expire, you can use them as long as they have not gone bad. Molded sheets are not usable and you should throw them away. When you buy a new package of dryer sheets, store it in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

Dried-out sheets are still good to use. But first, you need to reactivate them by sprinkling a few drops of water in the package. Give it a few hours to allow the sheets to absorb the humidity then use them. If you’re in a hurry, sprinkle the sheet lightly with water then place it on top of the laundry in the dryer.

When should you Use Dryer Sheets?

One of the advantages of dryer sheets is that they don’t need water to work. The heat of the dryer releases the ingredients without getting diluted in water. You can use dryer sheets with most types of clothes and fabrics. 

However, some fabrics don’t work well with dryer sheets. Activewear in general and microfiber clothes, in particular, can lose their ability to wick moisture and repel stains when you use dryer sheets with them. The same applies to towels which can become less absorbent of moisture due to the chemicals in the dryer sheets.

I wouldn’t recommend using dryer sheets on flame-resistant clothing and water-repellent fabrics either. The various chemicals in the sheets might affect your kids’ clothes to resist flames. As for water-repellent fabrics, they get coated with chemicals that make them lose their functionality and start absorbing moisture.

I wrote an article on the average drying time for dryers that may interest you.

How to Use Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are easy to use since they come in sheets. You won’t have to worry about using the wrong measure or adding too much. The rules are simple. For a small load, one sheet is enough. For a medium load, use two sheets and add three sheets for a large load. 

Once you fill the dryer with the laundry, place the dryer sheets on the top and start the drying cycle. After the end of the cycle, get rid of the sheets and put your laundry out to dry. Don’t reuse a sheet since it’s for one-time use only.

Dryer Sheets Alternatives

If you’re sensitive to dyes or scents in the dryer sheets or your laundry includes towels, microfiber clothing, or fiber-retardent garments, then dryer sheets are out of the question. Instead, you can use dryer balls instead (Amazon paid link). Dryer balls are often made of wool and other natural ingredients that suit people with allergies.

Conclusion

Dryer sheets don’t have a shelf life as long as you store them in cool, dry, and well-ventilated places. If the dry sheets develop mold, you have to throw them away. As for the sheets that simply dried out, you can reactivate them by adding a few drops of water to the package and leaving it for a few hours.

I also wrote a guide on if fabric softener expires that you can read next.

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