wool dryer balls in a basket

How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

A previous post, on why laundry softening products are a real problem 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 wool dryer balls. But first, let’s review the problem:

wool dryer balls in a basket

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.

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 great results without doing harm.

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 quality 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 do 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

Solutions

Downy Unstopables. Maybe you’ve seen Downy Unstopables (teeny tiny little scent beads) in the laundry aisle. The label directs to add something like 1/4 cup (!!) to the washer along with your detergent. Uh, no! That’s way overkill if you are at all sensitive to fragrance. However, I’ve experimented with just five (5) of those tiny litle things in the wash load (not the dryer). That load comes out of the dryer with just the slightest, lightest fresh scent.

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 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 a 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 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.

Updated: 4-21-21

Most recent update 4-21-21


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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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