I Put a Ball of Aluminum Foil in My Dryer — Here’s What Happened Next
I have a giant stack of microfiber towels I use for every kind of cleanup job imaginable, including polishing fingerprints off the fridge and wiping up spills.
These towels can get pretty gross, not to mention saturated in cleaning solutions, so I wash them in their own separate load. The trouble is, they usually come out of the dryer in a staticky ball with strands of hair and bits of lint clinging to them like barnacles.
Let me tell you, few things raise my blood pressure more than using a towel to dry off a freshly-cleaned area and finding I’ve left behind a trail of lint and fuzz that only grows with each attempt to wipe it off.
I needed a way to get rid of the static in my dryer, but I didn’t want to use dryer sheets, which are loaded with fabric softener that can coat a towel’s fabric with waxes. Doing so could prevent the towels from absorbing spills.
Here’s how it works: Static cling on your clothes and towels is caused by fabrics rubbing together in the dryer and exchanging negatively and positively charged electrons. When the clothes are dry, there’s not enough moisture in the fabrics or in the air in the dryer to help dissipate these electrons.
Instead, electrons lay on the surface of the fabrics, and then the surfaces cling to each other. Synthetic fabrics, like my microfiber towels, are particularly susceptible to static cling because they’re not as good at retaining moisture like cotton.
So, where does the foil come in? Aluminum foil is said to discharge the static buildup. Plus, the balls keep clothes separated so there’s less rubbing action.
To test the foil trick, I dried half a load of microfiber towels on their own, and the other half with three balls of foil about the size of a baseball. The foil-ball batch definitely seemed not too staticky. I thought, “Maybe this works!” But then the towels that dried on their own looked exactly like the outcome of the foil-ball batch.
I tried the trick again a few more times with other synthetic fibers, like fleece blankets, fuzzy pajamas, and slipper socks. Each time the results were inconclusive. The foil balls didn’t seem to make a difference.
To make absolutely sure the foil was a flop, I placed some already dried microfiber towels and slipper socks in the dryer for a few minutes to get them good and staticky. They were crackling with it, and the fibers on the socks looked electrified.
I took pictures of the socks against a dark background so I could really see the fibers. Then I added the three balls of foil and ran the dryer again for a few minutes. If the foil actually contributed anything, the stuff would at least come out less staticky, I figured.
The buzzer rang, and I removed the items from the dryer, and … yes, it was still super staticky. But wait, when I compared the socks to the before picture, the fibers were definitely a little less fuzzed out. So, it seems the foil does do something! But it’s just not super effective or obvious.
You know what does keep towels from sticking together? Taking them out before they’re dry. See, the drier items are, the more they rub up against each other, and thus more static is produced. As for the lint and hair on the towels, the only thing that truly works is a lint roller.
How do you avoid static on your kitchen towels? Tell us your proven laundry tips in the comments below.
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: I Put a Ball of Aluminum Foil in My Dryer — And What Happened Next Was Surprising