wool dryer balls hand placing into laundry dryer

How Wool Dryer Balls Really Work to Save Money and Protect Family Health

You know, commercial fabric softeners can be sneaky troublemakers, causing more harm than good. But here’s the good news: wool dryer balls work wonders, softening clothes, slashing drying time, and kicking those harmful chemicals to the curb. Trust me, once you switch, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

wool dryer balls hand placing into laundry dryer

A previous post on why laundry softening products are a real problem continues to resonate with thousands of readers. I know because of your many relating your experiences and testimonials about switching from problematic laundry softeners to wool dryer balls.

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 Commercial Fabric Softeners are the Problem (Here is 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 to improve our lives. That column changed our lives and we are forever grateful. Gina

The trouble with commercial fabric softeners

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems. Fabric softeners are 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.

Fabric softeners are also known to reduce and finally eliminate the effectiveness of water-resistant materials and reduce the absorbency of terry cloth and microfiber towels.

If you find your towels aren’t drying as well after a few cycles with fabric softener—liquid softener in the washer and/or dryer sheets in the dryer—it’s time to find a better alternative that will give excellent results, cost less, and all without doing harm.

Why use wool balls in the clothes dryer?

Wool dryer balls reduce wrinkles, speed up drying times, and soften clothes. They are the best alternative to commercial fabric softening products, such as liquid fabric softener added to the last rinse cycle in the washing machine and dryer sheets in the clothes dryer.

These things look like overgrown tennis balls. They’re made of 100% wool yarn, which over time becomes “felted*,” making them incredibly durable and not at all prone to unraveling.

One set of quality wool dryer balls will last what seems like forever, softening hundreds of loads of laundry—no batteries, refills, repairs, or reconditioning required. It’s one (purchase) and done!

*Felting is a process that causes a natural fiber felting yarn, like wool, to fray slightly and fuse to the other fibers around it, creating a more solid fabric-like appearance.

How do wool dryer balls work?

Imagine 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 right from the very start of the cycle.

I’ve tested drying times with and without wool dryer balls, and the results are quite impressive. Wool dryer balls cut at least 25% off the time it takes my clothes dryer to dry a load of laundry, saving time and energy.

I often find these balls stuck tightly in the long sleeves 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. When used correctly (coming up), they also remove static cling.

How to use 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. Two medium-sized loads will dry faster and more efficiently than one gigantic load. Dryer balls need room to work. And the more balls you add to a dryer load, the faster they get the job done.

Adding fragrance to a 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 are much healthier and better alternatives than dryer sheets.

Solutions

Essential oil. 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 them, 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. When attempting the essential oil solution, set the dryer to Warm.

Downy Unstopables. Maybe you’ve seen Downy Unstopables (teeny tiny little scent beads) in the laundry aisle. The label directs you to add something like 1/4 cup (!!) to the washer along with your detergent. Oh, NO! That’s way overkill if you are at all sensitive to fragrance.

I’ve experimented with only two (2) of those tiny little beads in the wash load (not the dryer). That load of wet clothes, when added to the dryer along with wool dryer balls, comes out with just the slightest, lightest fresh scent.

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 dryer sheets. Don’t do that! There is an explanation and a simple solution.

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

Overdrying wastes gas or electricity and prematurely wears out clothes, as evidenced by all that lint. As you are learning, it also 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 not to become over-dried: I spray my wool dryer balls with water (dunking them in a container of water also works), to get them super 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. This method does not seem to increase the drying time, either.

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 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 is white, the other black. It’s easy to see which ones I need to throw into the dryer. Now, any white lint stays with the white dryer balls, and dark lint links with the dark set. Problem solved.

As I update this post, my white set of dryer balls is going on eight years old. I haven’t counted how many loads of laundry they have fluffed and softened, but it’s many.

Manufacturers say one set of quality wool dryer balls is good for at least 1,000 drying loads. That means mine should have plenty of life left in them. It just might be the best money I’ve ever spent!

Resources

Wool dryer balls are readily available in stores like Walmart, Target, and Amazon. Here are links to the two sets of quality wool dryer balls I purchased online and have been using for years (during which time I have NOT spent hundreds of dollars on gallons of liquid softeners and cases of dryer sheets!).

 

 

Are you crafty?

You can make your own wool dryer balls. Find a tutorial here.

You might also enjoy …

 


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73 replies
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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Patsy McQuade says:

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

    Reply
  5. Stainless Steel Straws says:

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

    Reply
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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 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
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