Wool Dryer Balls: Safe for People and Dryers—Plus Privacy Trick

A couple of days ago I got multiple letters with questions about wool dryer balls. Are they safe? What if I’m allergic to wool?!

Honestly, I had opinions but not definitive answers and that sent me into research mode. I learned some very cool stuff I think you’ll enjoy knowing as well:

Dear Mary: The wool dryer balls sound interesting but what if a person is allergic to wool?  I am allergic to wool and avoid it at all costs. Do the wool dryer balls transfer allergens to items while drying? I would love to have my sheets, towels come out without being all balled up.  Thanks for any help you can give on this. Joyce

Dear Joyce: You may be allergic to the natural lanolin found in sheepswool, but that would be very rare. Only about 6% of those who are tested for lanolin allergy turn up positive. It’s more likely you, like many people, are sensitive to the short bristly fibers that irritate your sensitive skin and make you feel itchy.

Either way, lanolin is washed away during the manufacturing process of wool dryer balls. Even if trace amounts remain and you are one who does have a lanolin allergy (you’d know this because you are also allergic to all skin care and makeup products that contain lanolin), it will not transfer to your clothes. As for those short bristly fibers in the sheepswool, the only way the dryer balls could cause an irritation is if you rubbed them on your skin.

Neither lanolin nor bristly short fibers are an issue when using wool dryer balls in your clothes dryer. Use them well and enjoy the results!


Dear Mary: I did purchase the wool dryer balls you recommend, as I really like the general idea—mainly no chemicals, etc. However, recently a friend stopped by. My dryer was running, the balls were bumping noisily.   She then told me that they can ruin the sensors in my dryer. This information came from a repairmen. Now I am uncertain about using them! I know you have lots of good information at your finger tips. I will wait for your reply.

Dear Nell:  I have researched this extensively and can find nothing to support your friend’s information “from a repairman.” Personally, I don’t believe it. However, if you continue to be concerned, ask this friend for credible documentation that offers reasonable evidence for this claim.


Dear Mary: Just a quick note about shredding, in response to a recent column, To Shred or Not to Shred. I have shredded diligently since a former next door neighbor—a house painter who regularly drank on weekends—greeted me one morning with a question about a doctor’s appointment and a few recent purchases. I had simply ripped up the information and receipts and put them in the trash. That was around 1998. I was between paychecks, and had to wait several days to get a shredder.

In the meantime, I poured food waste, used coffee grounds, and gravy over the trash once it was in the bag in the outside trash can. I’ve had no similar problems since. Two states and four moves later, I still do it. The way I see it, I can’t be too careful!  Thanks for the reminder. C.E.

Dear C.E. You just made me laugh! There’s just something satisfying about visualizing your personal privacy protocol. Gloppy, gooey, shredded trash. I agree. These days we just can’t be too careful.


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  • Patricia Freeze

    I shred personal documents on a regular basis. Have also poured wet gloppy substances (whatever is leftover in the refridgerator) in the trash bag. But my favorite substance to ruin the day of anyone going through my trash is clear AMMONIA. It is cheap and only takes about a tablespoon per garbage bag to make your eyes water and your sinuses drain. BE CAREFUL and stand back when you add it to the bag. DON’T PUT IT IN UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO CLOSE THE BAG AND TAKE IT OUTSIDE !!! Nobody, 2 legged or 4 legged, will mess with your trash more than once.