The Secret Bug Repellent That’s Hiding in Your Laundry Bin

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Small round wood table with rug underneath. Someone vacuuming
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Summer — it’s synonymous with sun, warm weather, water, and (unfortunately) bugs. In addition to being irritating, bugs can distract you from what you’re doing, leave you with itchy bug bites, or prevent you from going outside altogether. 

There are all kinds of tips and tricks out there that are rumored to keep bugs away, but none have been more surprising to me than this one: wearing dryer sheets.

I know you can place dryer sheets under the legs of your table to keep ants away, but can dryer sheets really keep other kinds of bugs from hanging around? The research says yes. A study by researchers at Kansas State University and the University of Illinois found that Bounce dryer sheets kept fungus gnats (which harm plants) away.

Still, people disagree about whether the dryer sheet hack actually works. So I decided to test it out. I put two Bounce dryer sheets in my pockets and headed to the buggiest place in my neighborhood: the park. 

I walked a two-mile loop to and through the biggest park in my neighborhood, which is full of Douglas fir trees and flowers. It’s just off the river that runs through my city, so the air there tends to be pretty rife with bugs.

I didn’t feel any bugs land on me while I was there, and when I returned home, I didn’t have a single bug bite. Call me lucky, but based on my limited experience, I’d say these dryer sheets do the trick.

A few weeks later, when the weather was even warmer, I slipped a dryer sheet in my pocket and took my dog for a neighborhood walk. This time, I headed in the opposite direction, where the streets are fully residential, and it worked for me again.

If you’re still unsure, try putting a dryer sheet in your pocket or tucking it into your clothes. At best, it’s a great alternative to using traditional bug spray (which can be sticky and carry a strong odor); at worst, you’re out a dollar or less.

Have you tried this hack? Let us know in the comments.