Ready to clean up your laundry routine? Dryer balls are a great way to ditch fabric softeners and dryer sheets, neither of which are good for the environment or our skin. But how do dry balls work? And will they actually improve the efficiency of your dryer?
What are dryer balls?
Dryer balls are used to improve the efficiency of an electric tumble dryer by shortening the length of a drying cycle. They also provide benefits like reducing static cling and softening garments while eliminating the need for chemical-laden liquid fabric softeners and perfumed dryer sheets.
Reusable dryer balls can be made of plastic, rubber or wool. Wool dryer balls are valued for their hypoallergenic properties, ability to absorb moisture (up to 30% of its weight in water before feeling wet) and disperse essential oils. They're also quieter than their synthetic counterparts.
We don't recommend using synthetic dryer balls (or tennis balls) because they contain PVCs and other plastics that really shouldn't be heated above room temperature.
Purchasing Tip: When shopping for wool dryer balls, look for those made of 100% organic New Zealand wool to be sure they contain no fillers, chemicals or dyes.
How do wool dryer balls work?
If you’ve ever dried bulky towels or bed sheets, you’ve probably gone to empty the dryer at the end of a cycle only to be greeted by a ball of tightly wrapped, half-dry linens. Dryer balls work by preventing wet laundry from bundling in the drum as it tumbles round and round. This promotion of movement separates the items, improving the circulation of warm air between garments for even drying.
Dryer balls work best with…
- Small to medium loads. Overloaded machines will not give garments the room needed for air to circulate between items. It is better to split a large load into two smaller, shorter loads.
- Natural fibres like cotton; they are less effective for drying synthetic textiles like acrylic and polyester blends.
How effective are wool dryer balls?
Depending on the make, model and age of your dryer, and whether you follow best laundering practices, dryer balls can decrease drying time by 7% on the low end (according to an informal, months-long home experiment by Trent Hamm of TheSimpleDollar.com) and by 30 to 50% on the high end, according to this DavidSuzuki.org article. The use of dryer balls to reduce your energy bill is also supported by BC Hydro.
The evidence supporting how effective dryer balls are at reducing static cling and softening textiles is more anecdotal.
To reduce static cling, CleanCult.com suggests introducing some humidity into the dryer by spraying a few wool dryer balls with water in the last 10 minutes of a drying cycle. Alternatively, affixing a safety pin to one of the balls might be an effective method to diffuse static. In any case, do not over dry clothing which can cause static cling.
Dryer balls aren't a perfect substitute for fabric softeners which are liquid chemical solutions that coat textiles (and your dryer) with a lubricating residue to make fibres feel smoother to the touch – yuck. Containing a mysterious list of ingredients and artificial fragrances, we prefer to skip fabric softeners and dryer sheets entirely. That said, dryer balls do agitate textile fibres in a way that will make them feel softer than say, air or line drying, which can leave garments feeling stiff.
How do I use wool dryer balls?
For a small to medium load, simply toss 3 extra-large dryer balls into the drum of the dryer. For larger loads, use 5 or 6. Note: Adding extra balls will simply make the load dry quicker.
If you’d like to diffuse fragrance through the load – in lieu of a dryer sheet (which can be harmful to the unit itself) – sprinkle each wool dryer ball with 5 to 7 drops of your favourite essential oil. Leave the balls to absorb the oil for 20 minutes to an hour. The longer you wait, the better the wool is able to absorb the oil, which in turn, better distributes scent through the drying cycle.
How long will wool dryer balls last?
A premium quality wool dryer ball, such as those from Tru Earth, will last for approximately 1,000 loads. (For active families that represents two-to-three years of laundry.) However, a visual inspection of the ball’s deterioration is a better indicator of when it should be replaced. Remember, pilling means it’s working.
For longevity, store wool dryer balls in a well-ventilated place, rather than a sealed plastic bag or container. If storing for a few months (for example, during summer when you can line dry laundry), keep in a cloth bag.
To dispose of a wool dryer ball, simply toss into the organics bin – they're entirely compostable.