Dryer sheets are easier to use than liquids; you just add a sheet to the clothes dryer before adding wet laundry. However, repeated reviews indicate liquid fabric softeners outperform dryer sheets when it comes to softening clothes and zapping static. Still, dryer sheets costs less per load than liquids. And interestingly, dryer sheets can have a life after laundry: According to Mary Marlowe Leverette, About.com's guide to laundry, dryer sheets can be easily reused to clean cookware as well as freshen trash cans, cars and shoes.
In the best comparison review of fabric softeners we found, Bounce Original Dryer Sheets (*Est. $8 for 120 sheets) outperform other dryer sheets, and even do better than some liquids. Experts and consumers from sites like Viewpoints.com and Amazon.com also say Bounce Original Dryer Sheets are best for controlling static and do soften clothing, but do not work as well as some liquid softeners, such as Gain Ultra Liquid Fabric Softener (*Est. $9 for 44 oz.). Reviewers particularly like Bounce Free Dryer Sheets, which have no added perfumes or dyes to aggravate allergies or irritate skin; however, Bounce Free Dryer Sheets contain the same ingredients as the scented varieties. Scent-wise, we read compliments for Bounce's Fresh Linen Scent. Some also like Bounce Dryer Sheets with Febreze in the Citrus Scent, which reportedly lingers for a week or more after washing. Most reviewers say the odor is fresh and pleasant, but we did find one review claiming it's too strong.
Gain Dryer Sheets (*Est. $6 for 120 sheets) come in four scents, including Apple Mango Tango and Original Fresh. Feedback is positive for all four scent variations among consumers. All in all, there are over 80 reviews for the four scents combined on ExpoTV.com, where reviews are intermixed, so it's difficult to determine which scent is the highest rated overall. In general, though, overall reviews are positive. While most consumers reviewing Gain Dryer Sheets on ExpoTV.com say they're reasonably priced, control static well and have a pleasant scent, there are a few complaints from those who find the scent too strong. Gain Dryer Sheets aren't rated as highly as Bounce Original Dryer Sheets when it comes to preserving towel absorbency in head-to-head testing, although both brands are rated excellent for static control and good for softness.
Snuggle also makes dryer sheets, but like their liquid counterparts, they don't fare as well in professional testing or consumer reviews. While Snuggle Exhilaration dryer sheets (*Est. $5 for 120 sheets) don't have the negative effects on towel absorbency that Snuggle liquids do in one test, they score near the bottom of the pack in a roundup of 22 fabric softeners conducted by a consumer testing organization when it comes to softness. They do, however, receive an excellent rating for static control in this same professional roundup.
About.com's guide to laundry, Mary Marlowe Leverette, reviews Arm & Hammer Total 2-in-1 Dryer Cloths (*Est. $5 for 40 sheets), available in three scents: Classic Fresh, Lavender & Vanilla and Wildflowers. Leverette tested the Arm & Hammer Dryer Cloths on a load of dry and wrinkled clothing and on a load of regular laundry, finding that they reduced static and left clothes with a fresh scent. Leverette says Arm & Hammer Total 2-in-1 Dryer Cloths actually left her clothing less wrinkled, a benefit we didn't see mentioned among any other fabric softener reviews. Consumers on Viewpoints.com also echo these comments, and many are pleased that the scent lingers all day.
Designed to perform like a dryer sheet, Bounce's Dryer Bar (*Est. $18 for a two-pack) looks like a bar of soap. This product adheres to the inside of a dryer's drum, releasing small amounts of fabric softener over time. Manufacturers claim they can last from two to four months, depending on individual usage and dryer settings. The primary appeal of the Dryer Bar is that it saves time; users can do load after load of laundry without adding a new dryer sheet each time. As the bar dissolves, the word "replace" will become visible on the base, indicating when it's time for a replacement.
We found mixed feedback for the Bounce Dryer Bar. More than 1,700 consumers at Viewpoints.com give the Dryer Bar an overall average rating of 3.88 stars out of 5 (the Bar gets so many reviews here because the manufacturer sent site members free bars to review). Over 100 reviews on Amazon.com and Drugstore.com are also average. While most say the Bounce Dryer Bar is convenient, saves time and works as well as a regular dryer sheet, we read are many complaints about these bars falling off of dryer drums, breaking into pieces, and leaving residue on clothing. Additionally, while many consumers report that they smell nice, they say their scent significantly fades after only a few uses. Many also report that the bar doesn't do a good job of controlling static.
Standard dryer sheets, though you can often repurpose them as cleaning cloths later, aren't recyclable or biodegradable. Furthermore, they are often bleached using chlorine, a product whose manufacture is harmful to the environment. As an alternative, a few companies make eco-friendly dryer sheets that are recyclable, made without chlorine bleach or are biodegradable (sometimes all three).
Method Squeaky Green Dryer Cloths (*Est. $6 for 40 cloths) earn the top position among all laundry products according to the eco-website GoodGuide.com. These all-natural dryer cloths, which are made from wood fibers, are infused with static-reducing palm oil, corn sugar and softening plant oils. Consumers moisten one cloth, toss it into a drying load and remove when done. The cloths can be used for two loads each. Once you're finished using them in the laundry, you can repurpose them as dust cloths. The sheets are biodegradable, so you can recycle them in your compost pile.
Method Squeaky Green Dryer Cloths are available in four variations, including a Free & Clear version if you prefer avoiding fragrance. We found about two dozen reviews for Method Squeaky Green Dryer Cloths on Drugstore.com, where feedback is highly positive.
Seventh Generation Fabric Softener Sheets (*Est. $5 for 65 sheets) are reviewed more frequently by consumers than Method dryer sheets, but feedback is much more mixed. According to GoodGuide.com, the Seventh Generation Fabric Softener Sheets contain no ingredients known to cause any skin or respiratory irritation or long-term adverse health effects. Made of chlorine-free, unbleached paper with essential oils like lavender, they also come in Free & Clear and Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender options.
Both versions of Seventh Generation Dryer Sheets have nearly 70 owner-written reviews each on Amazon.com, but the Free & Clear sheets earn better feedback overall, with an average rating of four stars out of five, while Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender has a slightly lower average rating of 3.5 stars out of five. Opinions are mixed on the effectiveness; some say they work as well as a Bounce Original Dryer Sheet, while others say they don't control static cling well. Even those who are pleased with the performance of these fabric softener sheets note that they are more expensive than Bounce sheets. The additional negative feedback for the Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender version relates to the scent; in contrast to feedback on its liquid counterpart, reviewers say the smell isn't pleasant and compare it to the scent of pine. The sheets are recyclable and biodegradable.