The other day, Woman, Uncensored featured dryer balls in a giveaway. These were handmade wool balls, purported to work just like the plastic/rubber balls (but nicer on the environment), cut your drying time in half, absorb static and soften clothes. I’d never heard of plastic or wool dryer balls, but I was intrigued by the idea of cutting dryer time in half. On the other hand, I’m also convinced that you can’t usually buy things to save money, so I didn’t even want to enter the giveaway until I’d researched this idea.
Plastic/Rubber Dryer Balls
First I’ll start with the dryer balls available from TV commercials and in large stores, since information on these is easier to find. The commercials for these products boast increased softness and fluffiness – showing a stack of towels twice as fluffy as the stack using only regular softener – and a decrease in static. Hmm. I’m already skeptical. I’ve never felt the need to use softener or dryer sheets with my laundry. I don’t really understand the practice. I just don’t have a burning issue of non-fluffy towels in my life that needs to be addressed.
The same goes for static, which I think is why some people use dryer sheets. Supposedly these balls reduce static, which I have never felt the need to reduce. What is it that is causing people’s horrible static-y clothes that I’m somehow missing out on? I have clothes of varying materials – cotton, rayon, polyester, wool – and I’ve never had a huge fight with static. Once or twice in my life I remember owning a pair of pants with very thin material that would cling a bit, but I’d just sprinkle them very lightly with water, and it was fine. Much cheaper/easier than buying and keeping track of dryer balls and using them in every load. So, touting increased fluffiness and reduced static as the big selling point of your product makes me wary. It tells me you’re trying to sell me something I don’t need, which makes me doubt your other claims as well.
In any case, on both of these points, fluffiness and static, the reviews I initially found on the plastic dryer balls were horrible. Here are some snippets of different reviews I found:
- “My towels came out of the dryer feeling like sandpaper.”
- “No they don’t replace fabric softener – unless you like static.”
- “They actually made my clothes more static-y!”
On the other hand, I found a handful of people saying they made everything fluffier and cut down on static. Some of the positive reviews were on public review sites, which, when next to so many completely opposite comments, always makes me wonder if they are posted by company representatives. Some of the glowing reviews even include enthusiastic “I bought mine here,” with a link included, which increases my skepticism.
I was ready to write off the dryer balls, but in the interest of making this post complete, I kept digging around. Here’s something that I learned: the balls are typically sold in packs of one or two, but the packaging says that you’ll need 4-6 per load. People who reported buying and using more found that they did then see a great increase in the fluffiness and lack of static from their laundry. So that’s good to know! If you do want to use these, get the recommended number.
Now, since I don’t really care about static and fluffiness, how about reduced drying time? When I already don’t use fabric sheets or softener, the only potential money-saver for me is in the reduced drying time. Almost all the consumer reviews say they achieved less drying time with the dryer balls. I read a few that said there was no difference, although it’s possible that these people were using only one or two balls. Again, to achieve the benefits, the full 4-6 would probably have to be used.
One possible bonus to using these dryer balls came from pet owners. Several people with pets mentioned that with the plastic dryer balls, more of the pet hair came off their clothes in the dryer.
I read a warning or two that you may not want to use these at a laundromat. First, there’s the noise. The balls can be quite loud banging around in there. Second, given the greater speed of the commercial dryer, some people said the force of the balls against the door was enough to pop the door open and spill clothes out on the ground. Something to watch out for.
About the fluffiness: what causes the fluffiness? I read some suggestions that the increased fluffiness is due to the clothes being beaten up – not just the fact that they are separated from one another – gaining fluffiness through the tearing of fibers. That means you may be reducing the overall life of the cloth. I don’t know if that’s an accurate representation of what’s really happening, but it’s something to consider and keep in mind. Perhaps the balls could be used for blankets and towels, where an efficient dry is harder to achieve, but be left out for clothes, where decreased life-span could be an important factor.
Another issue with the commercial product is the materials used. Many are made of PVC. I’m not going to delve into the potential issues there, but it’s something to consider.
Wool Dryer Balls
Next, I looked into wool dryer balls. This produced much fewer reviews, so it’s harder to decide about their effectiveness. The wool dryer balls are made from wool yarn or roving that’s felted, either by hand or through a washing and drying process.
The potential benefits of using wool dryer balls instead of the commercially available ones are many.
- You can buy them from an individual crafter instead of a large company.
- You can make them yourself.
- They can be upcycled (say, from an old wool sweater), rather than created from new material.
- They are more likely not to contain harmful or unknown materials.
- The banging sound is reported to be quieter.
- The potential reduction in clothing lifespan may not be a problem with wool balls, since they are a cloth product themselves, and not knobbly like the plastic/rubber balls.
A couple of potential downsides come to mind, as well.
- There may be an increase in static or transfer of fibers. This may vary depending on the thoroughness of the felting on the balls you choose or make.
- There may be color staining if you dry light clothes with dark balls, depending on whether dyes were used on the wool of your dryer balls.
I found a greater percentage of positive reviews amongst people using wool balls versus those using plastic/rubber balls. Part of the reason for this may be that the wool dryer ball sellers online seem to be louder in getting across the point that you need at least 4 balls and maybe even more depending on your load sizes. More people using more balls may account for the increase in positive reviews.
As always, I remain wary of the idea of spending money to try to save money. I think it’s a losing proposition in general, over the course of all the things you might buy. In this case, I will refrain from buying the plastic/rubber balls.
However, I’m intrigued by the idea, especially of using the wool versions. I have a bit of wool yarn lying about from when I added yarn wraps to my dreadlocks. I think I’ll try making a set of my own wool dryer balls. If I do, I probably won’t have an opinion on the fluffiness/static, since that’s just not something I’m looking for. However, I’ll happily run some tests to see how the drying time works out. When I do, you’ll be sure to see the results here.
Where To Get Your Own
If you’re interested in trying out dryer balls, you’ve got a lot of options. For the plastic/rubber types, Amazon is a good choice, since you can find a variety, usually for cheaper than in a store.
For wool dryer balls, you have lots of online options:
- Wool Dryer Balls on Amazon
- High quality hand made dryer balls
- A search for “dryer balls” on Etsy turns up lots of beautiful results.
Plus, don’t forget that you can try out making your own!
If you’ve tried either kind of dryer balls or have made your own, I’d love to hear about your experiences!