Should You Use Dryer Sheets With Fleece Jackets and Other Synthetic Clothing?

I hate static cling—and fleece jackets are particularly prone to it during the cold dry months of winter. You can largely eliminate it by adding a dryer sheet to your laundry, but it's not a good idea.

You can learn everything you wanted to know about dryer sheets in this lengthy article, but the key point is this: Most dryer sheets contain fabric softeners, which are designed to increase the plush, soft feel of the fabric against your skin. Problem is, they accomplish it by adding a water-repellent coating to the individual fibers, which does help eliminate static but can also significantly impede the fabric's ability to absorb and wick water away from your skin. And the more often you use dryer sheets, the thicker (and more water-repellent) this coating becomes.

This is especially problematic for polyester long underwear, which is crucial for moving heat-sapping moisture (your sweat) away from your skin. This is arguably less important in mid- and outer layers, but will still reduce the rate of moisture transfer through your clothing system.

Also, most commercial-brand dryer sheets use a variety of not very eco-friendly chemicals, another drawback; and many contain fragrances that have the potential to attract critters in the backcountry (though you can buy unscented varieties).

So what to do? My preferred method is to wash and dry synthetic clothing separately from natural-fiber clothing, run them for only a short period of time in the dryer (about 5 to 10 minutes), and then remove them while they are still slightly damp. (Water is an excellent conductor and dissipates electric charges before they can accumulate enough to cause static cling.)

I then immediately hang or lay out the damp garments to air dry, which happens pretty quickly since synthetic fibers don't hold much water. (It's crucial not to delay this step—damp fleece seems to rapidly develop a bad odor if not immediately dried.) Alternatively, you can skip the dryer entirely and just hang them out to dry, which saves electricity but takes more time.

There are a variety of other methods people use to beat static cling (here's a good round-up of the different options put to the test). One of the most effective seems to be adding a quarter cup of vinegar to the wash cycle (which I haven't personally tried).

And while we're on the topic of washing synthetic garments, also keep in mind that laundry detergents are designed to attract water to enhance the cleansing process, which makes it important to remove as much of the residue as possible. For this reason, I always run my synthetic clothing through a second rinse cycle. (Also note that, as a general rule, liquid detergents tend to leave more residue behind than powders.)

What technique do you use to kill static? Please share!

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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