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DIY Dryer Hacks | Can Aluminum Foil Really Reduce Static?

I use aluminum foil in my home all the time. I usually think of it as a kitchen essential, but maybe it’s time to start storing a roll in the laundry room as well. 

This may sound like a silly Facebook hack, but keep reading; there’s some serious science to back it up.

Aluminum foil is a conductive metal that works to balance electric charges in dryers. It can limit static electricity formation by separating clothing items and balancing out positive and negative charges.

Is It Safe to Put Foil in the Dryer?

When I first heard about it, my primary concern about this hack was the safety of it. You only have to stick a foil-covered plate into the microwave once before you learn to treat it with respect.

However, it is safe to put aluminum foil in the dryer. 

Aluminum is one of the most common metals in the world! If it were toxic, we’d all be in trouble. Aluminum is found in household products such as eating utensils, baking powder, and over-the-counter medicines. 

Aluminum foil is also made to handle high temperatures. One of its most common uses is for cooking food in the oven! For this reason, you can be sure that aluminum foil does not release toxic gasses when heated. 

Some people may be concerned about the fire risks associated with putting aluminum foil in your dryer. The balls do get hot, but in my experience, I have never found them to burn clothing, create sparks, or anything of the sort.

Man holding an aluminum foil ball

However, there are certain risks to putting just about anything into the dryer. If small pieces of aluminum foil break off of the main ball, they can get stuck in the dryer vent and other hard-to-reach places.

If not removed, this can cause clogging in your drying machine, which can negatively impact heat management, ventilation, and moving parts.

Tips to Safely Use Aluminum Foil in the Dryer

To ensure your aluminum foil balls won’t cause you any issues down the road, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use small pieces. They can get stuck in places such as your dryer vent and block the flow of exhaust.
  • The foil balls will be hot after use. After tumbling around the hot dryer drum, the foil balls may be very hot to the touch. Be careful how you handle them.
  • Look out for loose pieces. Loose pieces on your foil ball can get stuck on clothing and cause tears. The ball could also unravel, making it way less effective. 

How Aluminum Combats Static

Let’s look at the science behind how aluminum foil actually reduces static in your dryer.

As clothes rub against each other in the dryer, they release negatively charged electrons. Some clothing pieces take extra electrons, resulting in a negative charge. Others lose electrons, resulting in a positive charge.

Opposites attract in this case. Positively charged clothes stick to negatively charged ones, creating what we know as “static cling.”

So, what can a few pieces of aluminum foil do to help?

Aluminum foil can reduce the amount of static electricity in your dryer because it is a conductive metal. This means it easily picks up and transfers electric charges.

As electrons bounce around your dryer, the aluminum foil balls work to balance the charges among all the clothing items.

The foil balls will pick up loose electrons and distribute them back to clothing items that are missing them. Instead of positively and negatively charged clothing, each piece should have an electric charge of zero instead. 

As a bonus, the foil balls also manually separate wet clothing as they tumble around the drying machine. This allows for better airflow and shorter drying times.

How Much Foil to Use

To make your own aluminum foil balls, rip off about three or four feet of foil from your roll. Form it into a sphere measuring about two to three inches in diameter. 


You want the sphere to be compact and relatively smooth. Any sharp or loose edges may catch onto clothing items and unroll the foil ball or tear your clothes. 

This size ball is best for limiting static while still being light enough to tumble around the drying machine. 

If your foil balls are too small, they won’t be able to dispel all of the static created in the dryer. They are also more likely to get stuck in your dryer vent.

Larger foil balls will not tumble through the load of laundry as effectively, so they won’t separate your clothes or reach every pocket of static electricity. They also take up more space.

Instead of making bigger foil balls for larger loads, just use an extra ball. For smaller loads of laundry, use two foil balls. For larger loads, use three. 

Can You Reuse the Foil Balls?

One of the major pluses of using aluminum foil balls is their longevity. As long as the foil balls are not falling apart, they can be reused for dozens and dozens of drying cycles. 

The aluminum foil balls won’t lose their effectiveness over time because they aren’t coated with a substance that reduces static.

Dryer sheets can’t be reused because, after one or two uses, all the softener has been stripped from the polyester sheet.

Woman's hand putting a dryer sheet inside the dryer with clothes

The Great Static Showdown: Aluminum Foil vs Dryer sheets

Since the aluminum itself causes the reaction that decreases static, there is no need to replace your foil balls after every drying cycle.

Before reusing your foil balls, just make sure they do not have any rough edges or pieces sticking out that could get stuck on clothing. 

The foil balls may smooth out over time and become more compact, but this will not affect their performance.

Once the foil balls feel like they’re starting to loosen, or if they look particularly beaten up, it’s time to replace them with new foil balls.

Is Aluminum Foil Better Than Dryer Sheets?

The default product for reducing static in a drying machine is a dryer sheet. But is it better to use aluminum foil instead?

Health Effects

Healthwise, experts may say yes. Aluminum foil won’t soften or fragrance your clothes like dryer sheets will, but this may not be a downside for some people.

A 2016 study published in Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health (journal) reported that 12.5% of people experience health problems such as allergic reactions and asthma attacks from the scent of laundry products through an exhaust vent. 

Dryer sheets also leave a thin film of fabric softener on clothing, which can inhibit the performance of certain specialized fabrics such as workout gear, fire-resistant clothing, and towels.

If you still want your clothes to be softened, try adding ¼ cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine.

Using one-fourth cup of vinegar as a fabric softener

If you miss the fragrance in dryer sheets, try adding a few drops of essential oils onto the aluminum foil balls. Just make sure not to put the oil directly on clothes that could show oil marks.

Static Reduction

There are mixed results on whether or not aluminum foil balls work as well as dryer sheets to reduce static. 

In a Facebook poll that we conducted, not many people had tested the theory. Only 6% of responders had tried it, and 1% of these people said that aluminum balls were useless.

Tere were lots of suggestions for wool balls, though.

Using Aluminum Foil Balls to Reduce Static in the Dryer poll

The effectiveness of aluminum balls may also be dependent on the amount of static your dryer produces.

Dryers in low-humidity climates produce more static. Also, the more your dryer tumbles, the more static electricity it produces.

High-quality dryer sheets may be more effective than aluminum foil balls, but low-quality ones with minimal fabric softener will perform worse.

Foil balls will perform consistently among all foil brands, as long as you use the same size ball. A ball of two to three inches in diameter is ideal to allow it to break up clothing clumps without getting stuck or taking up too much space. 

Environmental and Economic Impacts

Aluminum foil balls are far better for the environment.

Foil balls do not release volatile organic compounds into the air like dryer sheets do. These chemicals can combine with gasses in the air and create harmful compounds such as formaldehyde.

The coating on dryer sheets can also clog up your dryer, leading to additional expenses.

Aluminum foil balls are not single-use, so they save money while also limiting landfill waste. Making your foil balls costs less than a dollar and can be used for many drying cycles.

Does the Aluminum Really Get Polished?

It would be a fun science experiment if you could toss a dull ball of aluminum foil in the dryer and pull a shiny metallic marble out of it like you see on social media.

Unfortunately, no such transformation happens when you use foil balls in your dryer. Over time, the ball will become smoother. However, you are still going to be able to identify it as a ball of foil.


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