A previous post, Fabric Softener Products are the Problem Not the Solution, continues to strike 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:
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 have written 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
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 using 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.
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.
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.
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 six 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 12-31-20