How a Simple Solution Changed Everything for One Family

Congratulations to Tom P. and Barbara B. for winning copies of Debt-Proof Your Christmas from our recent giveaway!

There are two main types of illness: acute and chronic. An acute illness doesn’t last very long. It goes away either on its own or in response to treatment, such as taking medicine or having surgery. A chronic illness or condition is ongoing. It affects your health over a long period of time—possibly your entire life. That’s the kind of situation EC Reader Gina’s family was dealing with. Then lo and behold ….

Dear Mary: My husband and both of my children have chronic skin problems. One doctor diagnosed them with eczema, but curiously nothing, including prescription medications, have brought lasting relief. We have spent a small fortune going from one dermatologist to another not to mention all of lotions, potions and other medications prescribed. Not once did any of these professionals suggest they might be allergic to laundry softeners. When I read  “Fabric Softeners are the Problem, Not the Solution,” a lightbulb went on.


I’m a serial softener user. For years, I’ve used liquid softener and dryer sheets just to make sure. How could I have not thought about this? It made a lot of sense that they could be allergic to this stuff. I wasted no time getting the wool dryer balls you recommend. I gave up softener products cold turkey and began using the dryer balls instead. I was like a crazy woman washing and re-washing clothes and bedding. I got three gallons of white vinegar to make sure I had enough to add to every rinse cycle. 

Within two weeks we began to see a change. The rashes, itching and horrible skin issues began to calm down. Within three weeks the change was amazing. As I write, I would say my kids and husband are finally free of this awful situation. As embarrassed as I am that I never considered this might be the problem, I am more grateful and happier than you can imagine. Thank you so much for all you do. That column changed our lives for good. Gina

Dear Gina: What a wonderful story. I am so thankful we connected and that it appears you’ve hit on the solution to the problem! I love my wool dryer balls because they really work to soften without any chemicals, scents, perfumes or other stuff we used to think we couldn’t live without. And just think how much money you will not be spending on softener products! And all those lotions, potions and other medications, too.

Dear Mary: A couple months ago my wife and I were returning from an amazing honeymoon trip to Paris and our flight ended up being delayed for almost 19 hours.

While the airline did put us up in a hotel, our bags were already checked in so all we had were our carry-on bags. I saved all our receipts from those 19 hours (€10 toothbrush kits from hotel vending machine, dinner and Uber rides to dinner, and breakfast at the airport) and once we got home and decompressed I filed a claim on the Norwegian Airline website.

It did take a month but I got an email response last week saying it was approved, and today received a wire transfer for $63.87. Every penny counts! Asher

Dear Asher: It’s so easy to think that a small charge here, a tiny purchase there—none of that really matters. But as you demonstrate, it does add up. You were so smart to keep receipts and to seek reimbursement because that was appropriate. And the principle applies to both spending and saving.

Congratulations on your marriage! I wish you many years filled with joy and contentment!


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  • Jeannie

    That is an amazing story about skin rashes disappearing after discontinuing something so seemingly ‘innocent’ as fabric softener. I ordered the wool dryer balls, as well, after reading the article and love them! I ordered packs of them for my brother and sister, as well, and will be giving them as gifts when they arrive tomorrow for a family visit.

  • frugalfish

    I have eczema and I am allergic to wool! I use tennis balls instead and a ball of aluminum foil to remove static.

    • kddomingue

      I was just going to comment on wool allergies but you beat me to the punch, lol! I live in the deep coastal south. We have a short cold season most years and rarely need heavy wool overcoats or mittens and the like. Took me years to figure out that I was allergic to wool because I so rarely came into contact with it. Started crocheting some years back and an hour of fondling all the pretty wool yarns one afternoon let me know pretty quickly that I was HIGHLY allergic to wool, lol! So, if you use wool dryer balls and find yourself inexplicably itchy all of a sudden or plagued with rashes seemingly out of nowhere, you may be allergic to wool as well. Don’t give up……just switch to tennis balls!

  • Me

    Wow….my MIL was having skin problems for a while and we tried the “sensitive skin” detergents, but I never thought about the fabric softener. I’m sure she uses dryer sheets, she’s very obsessive about clean. 🙂 It has cleared up for now but if it starts again I’m going to suggest she stop using the sheets.

  • MaryM

    Tell the doctor, and especially the nurse!

  • Nan

    Mary, I too bought the wool dryer balls you recommended. At first I was in love! I used them for every load. but after two weeks I had the worse static electricity in three straight loads as though I didn’t use anything. Do the wool dryer balls only last 2 or 3 weeks, 20 to 25 loads????