How to Stop Unwanted Charity Junk Mail Plus Annoying White Lint in Dark Dryer Loads

According to one online organization working to eliminate junk mail, the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year—44% of it going to the landfill unopened. Sadly, much of it is from charities that are doing good in the world—all of them vying for our charitable donations.

Dear Mary: You recently wrote about paper shredders, which made me think about all the unwanted address labels my mother receives from charities. She has made a few donations other the years, and is now bombarded with unwanted mailing labels, cards, calendars, books, you name it. Some of the stuff you can give or throw away, but what do you do with all the labels? If you try shredding them, they jam up your shredder.

I’ve tried writing “Refused, Return to Sender” on the envelopes, but the post office refuses to send them back, ignoring my refusal. Any ideas on how can you get this type of mail stopped or getting rid of all the address labels? Peg

Dear Peg: According Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, there is no regulation that mandates that charities and non-profit corporations honor your requests to opt-out of their mailing lists. Additionally, the USPS grants the return/refuse and forward options to first class mail, not the lower and cheaper postage rates typically used to send out junk mail. However, these free services may still be of help.

  • Through the Mail Preference Service program, the Direct Marketing Association maintains a list of individuals who do not wish to receive unsolicited mail. Be sure to specify that you do not wish to receive solicitations from both commercial and charitable organizations. If you fail to do so, then the DMA will automatically place your name on the list provided to for-profit entities only.
  • Use your smartphone to take a photo of the junk mail you wish to stop and forward it to PaperKarma. They’ll contact the mailer for you and ask that they remove you from their distribution list. (no longer active -mh)
  • You can report unwanted mail to Catalog Choice and they’ll process your request for you.

As for the sheets of labels that charities often send as a gift, I’ve never experienced them jamming my shredder, but if this is a problem for yours, another option is to tear through the labels and dispose of them in trash—in there with the coffee grounds and smelly stuff.

It is a shame that a heartfelt donation to a worthy cause can so often result in a flood of junk mail. An easy way to avoid that in the future is to give anonymously by taking advantage of Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket, which lets you, the donor, decide how much personal information you want to share with the charity—from your full contact information to none of it. Giving anonymously kills two birds with one stone: the charity itself can’t pester you with endless appeals nor can it sell your contact information to others. Hope that helps!

Dear Mary: I’ve been following your advice for many years and always enjoy your column. This time I’m writing to tell you that your advice in Fabric Softener Products are the Problem Not the Solution and How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should has had a positive result for me—beyond any expectation!

For years I’ve suffered from cracked and broken skin on my fingertips. I tried every prescription cream imaginable over the years, but nothing would eliminate it. When I stopped using the dryer sheets, as you recommend, I wasn’t very optimistic. To my incredible surprise, my hands have cleared and my fingertips have not been this clear and healthy in more than 30 years!

You can tell everyone this really works. Anyone with sensitive skin allergies should throw out the dryer sheets or donate them. Thank you so much. You have really made a positive difference in my life. Kindest regards, Lee.

Dear Lee: I am so happy for you—and all of my readers who have written with similar success stories. It is amazing to me the varied negative reactions so many people, especially children, have to laundry softeners—liquid softener and dryer sheets—from respiratory issues to rashes and all kinds of skin conditions. And as you have discovered, a wonderful alternative to softening products are wool dryer balls.

If you are clever and patient you can actually make wool dryer balls yourself (search online), just be forewarned that 100% heavy wool yarn can get pricey, especially when you need six dryer balls to achieve the best outcome.

If you don’t have a lot of wool yarn going to waste, I recommend that you purchase a good set like Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls 6-Pack, available online for less than $17 with Prime shipping, knowing they will last for at least 1,000 dryer loads, and quite possibly well beyond that. They’re good until they just give up and fall apart!

By the way, in response to readers who have reported their white wool dryer balls (most are white or light colored), I’ve recently purchased and tested a set of black wool dryer balls, Pure Action Premium Wool Dryer Balls (about $19) and they are fabulous. Not a speck of white lint in my dark loads.

Thanks so much for your kind words and for being such a loyal reader all these years.

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9 replies
    • I Don't Like Spam says:

      I am working to demand the same privacy rights as Europeans. Americans get ripped off left and right and quite frankly it’s not too much to ask that we not be bombarded by garbage mail from freeloaders who don’t pay taxes. We should have laws that assume privacy and have free options to be permanently removed from mailing lists. The $2 rip off will only last ten years so it’s not worth it at all.

  1. Karen Loveland says:

    If I can find a wool sweater at Goodwill will it work the same as wool dryer balls? My dark clothes come out of the dryer with white lint & hair from my papillon & me.

  2. Anna Marie Peterson says:

    as a professional organizer I have developed a sheet of 50 ways to use address labels such as putting them on belongings, keeping some in your purse for the 100 things you fill out an address for a day, putting them on children’s shoes (under the arch), putting one on anything that goes to a potluck dinner (both top and bottom of the container) and putting them on plastic containers in the fridge – there’s usually enough room to list the contents. When you do ask to be taken off the mailing list, be sure to include the label from their mailing- it has the computer intel that enables them to remove it smoothly. I’ve taken myself off over 100 lists – I even have a form to do so that I include.

    • donnafreedman says:

      Is the “50 ways to use address labels” list available on your website? Would love to see it.

      A friend with hand issues takes labels with her to home shows and other trade events, and uses them to enter the numerous giveaways. Much easier than filling out the forms, she says.

  3. Ann says:

    I use the extra mailing labels like small pieces of tape. When I send a package to someone, I usually put whatever is inside the box in paper or plastic, and use the mailing labels to hold the bag closed. It could provide an address for the items in the event that the box is damaged or ripped open.

    They are also handy for filling out small forms like mail-in rebates and the like. Much more legible than most people’s handwriting.

  4. Victoria Statz says:

    For years we have been getting the “junk mail” too,but what I started doing was taking all the info that comes with the letter, put it in their return letter and send it back to them including the outside envelope it came in. I believe they have to pay postage for letters they receive back in their envelopes. It has stopped a lot of unwanted mail to our home. I usually put a note in there to please stop sending us their solicitations as we have certain charities we already donate to and cannot expand our giving to them.

    • Christine from NJ says:

      I have had similar results as Victoria Statz. When I took over my Mother’s financial affairs, the amount of solicitation mail was overwhelming. I write on the letter addressed to my Mother, just above the name and address, requesting that solicitations stop. In addition I write “1st Request” or “2nd Request” or even “3rd Request” (only had to do that once) on the outside envelope and the letter and mail back as much of the contents as will fit in the envelope without a return address showing. If the return envelope is not prepaid, I put a single 1st class stamp on it and expect any further postage will be paid by the receiving organization. Close to 100% of the unwanted mail has stopped.


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