Please tell me I’m not the only one who turned 30 before discovering how to use wool dryer balls! I’d always just tossed a dryer sheet in and called it good. It gave our clothes the lovely scent I was used to and softened them up. But on my search for safer cleaning products, I decided to swap out our laundry detergent and dryer sheets for gentler products without hidden fragrance.
If you haven’t started using wool dryer balls and are wondering why anyone could give up their lovely scented dryer sheets…read on! I’ll explain what they are, how to use them, and why so many people are using them now!
Benefits of wool dryer balls
I discovered dryer balls when searching for a chemical free dryer sheet alternative, but didn’t know all the other benefits of using them! Like:
- Decreases dry time by separating clothes and allowing air to circulate more efficiently
- Saves money on electricity
- Never need to buy dryer sheets again
- Keeps chemicals off your skin
- Reduces problems for those prone to eczema or asthma
- Decreases wrinkles (yay if you’re like me and don’t iron…ever)
- Softens clothes naturally by bouncing them around
- Eco friendly! No extra garbage, biodegradable, lasts for years, and replaces dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners.
More non toxic cleaning posts to enjoy:
If you are looking to make a few safer swaps in your home, be sure to check out my Dropps laundry and dishwasher review as well as my Branch Basics review. I wrote both after we had used them for about a year so I could really get a feel for the products.
You might also like how to deodorize stinky wooden cutting boards.
What are wool dryer balls used for and how are they different than dryer sheets?
Wool dryer balls are balls of real wool that you put in your dryer to speed up dry time, fluff fabric, soften clothes naturally, and replace dryer sheets.
Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are mainly used to soften clothes by coating the end of each fiber with a soft waxy substance that repels water. They also give a nice “clean” scent to your clothes and decrease static cling.
One downside to fabric softeners and dryer sheets is that your towels will never absorb water as well. In order to get that soft feel, the fabric softener and dryer sheets have to coat the fibers. This gets worse over time until you strip your towels. So you’ll have to choose super soft towels or super absorbent towels.
Wool dryer balls will probably never give your towels the exact same baby soft feel that dryer sheets and fabric softener can…but they will still be fluffy and fairly soft!
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How to use wool dryer balls
Wool dryer balls are the easiest thing in the world to use!
- Toss them into the dryer with a wet load of clothes.
- Decrease your dry time by 10 minutes the first time and each time after until you find that sweet spot that dries your clothes completely. It will take less time than your used to, often around 25% less dry time!
- That’s it!
Yes, you’ll hear bouncing sounds in the dryer. Kind of a downside but it’s not crazy loud if your dryer is in another room.
How many wool dryer balls should you use?
Remember, the dryer balls are bouncing between wet clothes creating pockets of air so 1 ball probably won’t do as good of a job as 3+ balls.
I will say that I used just 1 ball for a long time not knowing to use more, and it was STILL beneficial! On a regular to large load it reduced my timed load from 60 minutes to about 45. Then I learned more dryer balls work better at separating the wet clothes, and now usually use 2-3 and set my dryer for 40 minutes. (I don’t have a newer dryer that auto stops when it senses clothes are dry enough).
How long do dryer balls last?
This depends on the size of dryer ball (XL is what I use) and how often you do laundry. Smaller balls weigh less and will get used up faster.
One of the top rated XL wool dryer ball sets by Smart Sheep says they last for 1000+ loads. These are recommended by Good Housekeeping and made of premium New Zealand wool.
For me, even at 1 load a day that would last over 3 years! Apparently people like them because they have over 40K near 5 star reviews on Amazon.
I personally use the XL wool dryer balls from Dropps , also made of premium New Zealand wool. They are about the same size as the ones above, but they come in a 3 pack (1 white, 1 charcoal, 1 black) and say good for 10K loads! I’ve used mine for a year and barely notice any size difference.
- Use cream for white loads
- Black for darks
- Charcoal for mixed
I LOVE the multi color pack because I don’t get black wool on white clothes or white wool on my husband’s black scrubs.
If you don’t buy Dropps wool dryer balls, I’d still look for a set of white ones and a set of black ones. I find that having 2 sets of my Dropps dryer balls is plenty.
If Wool Dryer Balls reduce static cling, why are my clothes still sticking together?
One of the things wool dryer balls CAN help do is to reduce the static cling. But I’ll admit, a LOT of my loads still have static cling. And it’s the number one complaint I see for wool dryer balls. So why might your clothes be stuck together in a big pile at the end?
Static electricity forms in your dryer when the clothes rub up against each other over and over again creating friction.
The balls help to reduce static electricity just by bouncing around in there, but it’s not always cling free. I learned there are a few things to try if your clothes are still very clingy when dry.
- Decrease the dry time! This is probably the main issue most people have, and it’s easy to go too long. Drying your clothes too long increases static electricity and wastes energy. It’s almost always less time with wool dryer balls than your timed dry loads suggests, so just play with it. I think it’s my main problem when my clothes cling.
- Hang dry synthetic fabrics. Apparently synthetics like polyester and nylon create more static electricity, so just hang drying those few items in there should help the whole load.
- Add a crumpled tinfoil ball to the load. I’ve never done this, but it discharges static build up, pretty cool!
Here’s a few more tips on reducing static cling in your dryer.
Is it safe to add essential oils to your dryer balls?
A lot of people add essential oils to their dryer balls to give their laundry some scent. From what I’ve seen, people use 2-10 drops or so every 4-5 loads or as scent goes away.
However, I’ve chosen not to do this because I worry about the added fire hazard since essential oils are potentially flammable with high heat.
According to consumer reports, US firefighters respond to over 13K house fire calls yearly caused by dryers. Here’s an article on what you should do to prevent dryer fires.
I do use Dropps Orange Blossom fabric softener pods (scented with essential oils) in my wash loads, but supposedly the tiny amount gets washed out with the water. There’s still a light scent left behind even after clothes are dried (which is LOVELY)! It seems less direct to me than adding oils into the dryer.
Are wool dryer balls better for the environment than dryer sheets?
Definitely! The EWG warns against using dryer sheets for environmental reasons, and for the loads of chemicals and fragrances that could bother the skin and worsen asthma.
Using wool dryer balls instead means:
- less chemicals used and produced
- wool dryer balls are not a one time use product, so less waste
- reduces dry time, saving electricity
Is it more expensive to invest in wool dryer balls than dryer sheets?
A 240 count pack of Bounce dryer sheets will cost you around $9. This top selling 6 pack of wool dryer balls will cost you $17 and last around 1,000 + loads (3+ years). Or, the Dropps 3 pack of dryer balls I use last for 10K loads and go for $25.
So based on cost of product alone, you will break even if not save money.
The real savings comes from your energy bill when you decrease your dry time around 25%. While cost isn’t the reason most people change over, it’s nice to know you’re not losing money.
If you have 100% real wool yarn at home, then you can also make your own dryer balls!
Wool dryer ball challenge
Try switching for half a year and see if you are happy with your laundry! If not, you can easily go back to dryer sheets.
Test out how much dry time you are saving, see if you really miss that dryer sheet smell, and easily decrease the chemicals on your skin and in your home!