White wool dryer balls save time and money every day

How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

A previous post, Fabric Softener Products are the Problem Not the Solution, struck a chord with thousands of readers. I know because you send me messages and letters, which I love—even ones from some who are not 100% satisfied making the switch from problematic laundry softeners to what I find are amazing wool dryer balls.

But first, let’s review the problem:

Wool dryer balls how and why you should use them

The trouble with fabric softeners

The medical website, WebMD.com, reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which appears as dry, itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain fragrance and volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness.

Why wool dryer balls?

These things look like overgrown tennis balls, made of 100% wool yarn, that over time becomes “felted,” making them especially durable and not at all prone to unraveling. One set of wool dryer balls will last what seems like forever, softening thousands of loads of laundry—no batteries, refills, repairs or reconditioning required. It’s one [purchase] and done!

How wool dryer balls work

Imagine now a big load of wet bath towels going into the dryer. You hit “start” and that massive wad of wet fabric will flop around and stick together for quite a while until the layers become dry enough to separate and allow warm air to circulate. That slows the drying time, wasting time and energy.

Now imagine six wool dryer balls bouncing around (I use my entire set of six in every load), working their way between the layers of fabric, separating them so the warm air can circulate efficiently from the very start of the cycle. I’ve tested drying times with and without wool dryer balls, and the results are quite amazing. Wool dryer balls cut at least 25% off the time to dry a load of laundry, saving time and energy. I have also found these balls stuck tightly in the long sleeve of a tee-shirt and the pocket of a pair of jeans! They work their way into tight spaces and that’s what makes them so awesome.

Because dryer balls also agitate against the fibers in clothes and linens, everything feels softer coming out of the dryer. And used properly (coming up), they also take care of static cling.


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How to use wool dryer balls

Because they need room to bounce and play with wet clothes and linens, dryer balls do their best and fastest work when the dryer is not crammed full. You’ll find that two medium-size loads will dry faster and more efficiently than one gigantic load. Dryer balls need room to work.

Adding fragrance to dryer load

Some of you wrote saying you really miss the lovely fragrance you had when using dryer sheets. If this is important to you, here’s a much healthier and better alternative

Solution

Add a few drops of essential oil to each of the dryer balls. Give them time to absorb the oil deep into the fibers—a few hours is advisable. The more the oils are absorbed into the dryer balls before use the more slowly the fragrance will be dispersed in the dryer. You’ll begin to notice a subtle, non-toxic fragrance in your clean, soft laundry.

Static cling

The biggest complaint I have received from readers is that while dryer sheets would eliminate static cling, the wool dryer balls do not. In fact, reported several (thousand) people, static cling makes these folks want to throw the balls out and go back to the old dry sheets. Don’t do that! Really … there is an explanation and a simple solution.

Much of the reason static occurs is due to over-drying clothes. You are definitely going to notice static if the dryer is allowed to run too long, with or without wool dryer balls.

Over-drying wastes gas or electricity and wears out your clothes prematurely as evidenced by all that lint, and as you are learning causes static cling—especially on low-humidity, dry winter days.

Another cause of static is synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, rayon, and acrylic. Try to separate synthetics to keep the rest of your laundry static-free. Then either dry the synthetics by hanging them on a line or in the dryer, making sure you end the drying cycle before they are totally dry.

Solution

Here’s what I do because I do not have the time to stand in the laundry room watching and waiting for things to not become over-dried: I spray my wool dryer balls with water (dunking them in container of water works as well), getting them quite wet. Now the laundry dries faster than the wool dryer balls because they are so dense, elevating the humidity level in the dryer. Works like a charm and does not harm the dryer balls in any way—and does not increase the drying time.

White lint transfer

One thing I noticed early on in my transition from dryer sheets to wool dryer balls was lint. Small bits of white lint showed up on dark colored clothes even though there were no white items in with that dryer load. It didn’t take long to realize that the dryer balls were harboring those bits and transferring them to the dark load.

Solution

I have two sets of dryer balls—one set white, the other dark. It’s easy to see which ones I need to throw into the dryer. Now any white lint stays with the white dryer balls, dark link with the dark set. Problem solved.

As I update this post, my white set of dryer balls is going three years old. I haven’t counted how many loads of laundry they have fluffed and softened, but it’s many. The manufacturer says one set is good for at least 1,000 drying loads, which means they’ve got plenty of life left in ’em. Just might be the best $17 I’ve ever spent.

Last Update 4-13-19

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45 replies
  1. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Handy article! Though, essential oils aren’t supposed to be used in the dryer as they’re an oil and thus a fire risk.
    It takes a while, but you just get used to your clothes not smelling like anything, and honestly, it’s way better after your nose adjusts!

    Reply
  2. Annet Enn
    Annet Enn says:

    I’ve been using dryer balls for 2 years and I’m glad of them. I have used dryer balls from all popular brands, such as Smart Sheep, Woolzie and Twenty Stars. All of them are very useful and I will never use dryer sheets anymore. Nice rating of newest brands for 2019 and 2020: https://goodscomparing.com/wool-dryer-balls – maybe it will be helpful for someone.

    By the way, using 8-10 balls is more efficient than only 4-6…

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Brenda—Are they dirty or covered with lint? I’m not sure why you need to clean them! If they’re simply covered with lint, rub them with a pumice stone. Or a lint-remover roller. If they’re dirty like they fell in the mud or ? (not sure how dryer balls could get dirty), go ahead wash them in the washing machine with laundry. They’re already felted which means the wool yarn used to make them went through aggressive agitation in hot water for a long cycle, so you don’t have to worry about the shrinking. The only possible downside I see is that they might just give up and fall apart—which is going to happen eventually anyway because after a 1000 dryer loads or so that’s what dryer balls do! Good luck and let us know how this works out! xo m

      Reply
  3. Wooly
    Wooly says:

    I’ve been using wool dryer balls for a few years now, and they have recently become quite fuzzy and have started leaving fibers on everything. Anybody else experience this and do you have recommendations? Would shaving them with an electric trimmer help? I find the thought of shearing them like sheep amusing, but I’m willing to try!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Wondering which dryer balls you purchased. You may have some inferior yarn or perhaps even a blend that is not 100% wool. I wouldn’t hesitate to trim them, however. Good luck and let us know!

      Reply
    • Glasshouses
      Glasshouses says:

      I’ve read that wrapping the dryer balls in nylons (cut the feet off, wrap around ball, tie end closed) works well for that.

      Reply
  4. Nicole Taft
    Nicole Taft says:

    Thanks for the tips – both from Mary and the comments! I was wondering if maybe the static-diffusing capability of my wool balls was failing, but I think over-drying is far more likely (I know they haven’t been through a thousand loads yet!). I’ll definitely try the aluminum ball. Likewise, I hadn’t realized I should let the essential oil soak into the wool ball for a while before tossing them in! No one ever explained that bit to me, so I’d been putting the oil on and then almost immediately putting the balls into the dryer. I’ll let them soak for a bit first from now on.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Nicole! The best way to reduce static is to not over dry the load. In fact, slightly underdry will reduce wrinkle and static too!

      Reply
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      Same here – I have been putting drops of lavender essential oil on the wool balls right before I put them in the dryer but haven’t noticed any scent. Now I know to let it soak in! Also – apparently I have a setting on my dryer to “reduce static” which I didn’t know about. I have a little place to fill with water, and I guess it spritzes it in occasionally. Hopefully that will assist with the static issue.

      Reply
  5. Patricia Freeze
    Patricia Freeze says:

    If wool dryer balls work for you, knock yourself out. But ALUMINUM FOIL BALLS are cheaper and do the same thing. Use a sheet of foil about 12 – 18 inches long and wad it up into a ball. I use 3 or 4 per load. Will last for months, won’t hurt clothes, and stops static cling. When they wear out, i just throw them out and make a new set.

    Reply
    • Lily
      Lily says:

      Trader Joe’s sells dryer balls, 4 dryer balls for around $5. They last for years. I can’t see how using tin foil would be cheaper, if you have to replace it every few weeks. Plus, you are throwing out alot of tinfoil and also the packaging it comes in. Using tinfoil alone as much as you say seems more wasteful.

      Reply
  6. Susan Odom
    Susan Odom says:

    I have been using wlol dryer balls for several years, and I love them! I keep them in the dryer all the time. With wool dryer balls plus Mary’s homemade laundry detergent, plus about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse dispenser depending on the load size, I get wonderfully clean and clean-smelling laundry every time. And it saves me a whole lot of money over time.

    Reply
  7. Douglas Anne
    Douglas Anne says:

    Wool dryer balls did nothing for my laundry. I don’t use scented products, most of my items are natural fibers, and I don’t overload the washer or dryer. Drying time was not reduced, clothes were not softer, and the only difference I noticed was the NOISE the balls made as they bounced around the dryer. Not for me.

    Reply
  8. Natalie King
    Natalie King says:

    Thank you so much for this fabulous money-saving tip Mary! I live in South Australia and we pay the HIGHEST Electricity Rates in the World, so your tip is wonderful.. I purchased my Dryer Balls after reading your article and cut down my drying time by 20 minutes – as well as dampening the balls first – NO static cling whatsoever! And my two cats, Syko and Angel both love Washing Day as they play with the balls when I have finished washing for the day! Thanks again for such a great Newsletter 😉

    Reply
  9. OneidaLane
    OneidaLane says:

    I love the dryer balls and will try wetting them! BUT I learned the hard way that WHITE WOOL DRYER balls leave lint all over black jeans or black anything. I will search for some dark ones.

    Reply
  10. crabbyoldlady
    crabbyoldlady says:

    How do you know when it’s time to replace the dryer balls? The description says they can last for 1000 loads. Then what?

    Reply
  11. Patsy McQuade
    Patsy McQuade says:

    Trouble is, there is no essential oil that smells like orginal Bounce!! That is the best fragrance for fresh clothing!

    Reply
  12. Stainless Steel Straws
    Stainless Steel Straws says:

    I love the suggestion of adding some pure essential oils into the dryer for that fresh scent – really helpful!

    Reply
  13. Patricia Goff
    Patricia Goff says:

    I never use fabric softener in the wash or the dryer. I have only had static cling once in 10 years. Not sure why. I hang my clothes on the line outside and only use the dryer when I have to. I do put the towels in the dryer for 5 minutes to soften them up though.

    Reply
  14. Ellen C. Derby
    Ellen C. Derby says:

    you mention load size in the dryer… i just ordered some wool balls… I’ve been using 2 of the plastic ones for several years and like them. I’m not sure what you are saying about load size… I have an extra capacity washer and extra capacity dryer. I put just one load in the dryer at a time. Are you saying to split the load and dry half at a time? It would have to dry the clothes in 15 minutes to make it less time (right now I can dry a load in 40-45 minutes)… plus that’s extra trips up and down the stairs. I can’t really see washing a smaller load.. then I’d be running the machine the same length of time more often with more water ( less clothes per load means more loads). Maybe you mean just not over load your machines? Can you clarify? Thanks!

    Reply
  15. jrwise
    jrwise says:

    Perhaps I’m doing something wrong. Using 3 large wool balls in every load has only resulted in more static and not softer clothing. Is there something I’m missing?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Sounds like your loads are just too large that means soo many clothes and items in there to allow things to tumble and drop freely. And I’m afraid you are overdrying! Cut down the number of items and the amount of time you allow them to tumble and see if that doesn’t makenall the difference…for good!

      Reply
  16. Angela
    Angela says:

    I just bought a set and they work wonderful. My cat thinks they are toys and one has disappeared with the socks. But other than that, they work great and I would highly recommend them.

    Reply
  17. Judy Juhl
    Judy Juhl says:

    I recently purchased and started using the dryer balls and am so glad to be rid of the dryer sheets. I am doing my best at moving to more “natural” ways of life and eating so I was all in when I read about the balls. Thank you for the information!!

    Reply
  18. Kim
    Kim says:

    Mary I love my dryer balls. I did notice static when drying polyester and had read an article that said to add a ball of aluminum foil waded up to the dryer with the wool balls and that solved the problem too. I usually do around 7 loads a week so I stick a new aluminum ball in about every 2 weeks.

    Reply
  19. Pat
    Pat says:

    Love the cat story. It would happen in my house too. My cat loves socks for some reason and they are all over the house. When I lived alone she would have the dirty laundry from the front door all the way to the laundry room for some reason. Now that my house is never empty so she is never alone not so much but still a sock or two goes missing.
    I don’t use the dryer much (still have dryer sheets I bought several years ago (free after coupon) lying around. Not sure if they still work. I usually hang the clothes outside on the line unless it is raining or cold outside. It was between 70 and 60 last weekend so we are still hanging them outside right now. I’ll look into the dryer balls after I finish my dryer sheets.

    Reply
  20. Emy Young
    Emy Young says:

    I would suggest adding one more ball to the dryer, this one made of aluminum foil. Simply wad up a sheet of heavy duty foil into a nice round ball and toss it in the dryer. I haven’t tried the wool dryer balls, but I haven’t had a problem with static.

    Reply
  21. Cally
    Cally says:

    I would have thought the Lanolin in the wool would eliminate static?
    I learned to separate synthetic fabrics, and air dry them, when i switched to home-made detergent and did away with all fabric softeners. I didn’t need it with the home-made detergent, except static in synthetics. I also plan on trying the diluted-hair-conditioner-sprayed-in-the-dryer-suggestion.

    Reply
  22. Connie Pyburn Lancaster
    Connie Pyburn Lancaster says:

    Funny story-I love my dryer balls but took them out when I put some throw rugs in to air fluff. Left them on top of dryer, with 2 cats in the house – they decided the balls were good toys- have found 2, still looking for #3!

    Reply
    • maxhalberg
      maxhalberg says:

      @conniepyburnlancaster:disqus that is too funny! Luckily my Laundry room has a door on it, though the kitties do try to break in all the time!

      Reply
  23. Sally Dennis Davison
    Sally Dennis Davison says:

    Mary, since I am allergic to wool I am hesitant to try the wool dryer balls. Years ago I started using the hard blue dryer balls and they work well. They are noisy however so I am thinking about trying the wool ones. Should I stick with what I have due to my allergy?

    Reply
    • Brenda Can
      Brenda Can says:

      Yes, if you have a wool allergy I would say don’t switch. As the wool dryer balls rub against the clothes they can leave fibers behind.

      Reply
    • Emily
      Emily says:

      Another option you could try is to find out if alpaca fibre bothers you. Alpacas don’t produce lanolin and often it’s the lanolin that people are reacting to when they’re allergic to sheep’s wool. That way you could look for alpaca dryer balls. 🙂

      Reply
  24. Beck
    Beck says:

    I have been using them a couple of months and love them. My clothing has far less wrinkles is the biggest thing I noticed. Sometimes if I dry something known for static I go ahead and add a dryer sheet as well. I use my dryer sheets several times. For the most part it did speed up the drying time for clothing but didn’t seem to help dry towels any faster so I will be also putting in a dry towel to help them dry faster.

    Reply
  25. Helen
    Helen says:

    I’ve had my wool dryer balls for quite a while…..I use lavender oil, but thank you for the advise…..applying the oil a while before using. A good time would be when I toss the clothes in the washer. Have been annoyed with the static, but now you’ve told us how to take care of that problem.

    Reply

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