Why Wool Dryer Balls Work & How To Use Them (Plus, A Safety Tip)
While you certainly don't need dryer balls to do the laundry, they can help keep your clothes soft and static-free. These tennis-ball-size dryer accessories can be made up of rubber or plastic, but more often you'll find them in natural materials like wool. A reusable swap for single-use dryer sheets, they do the same job of drying and softening clothes—just in a more environmentally friendly way. Using wool dryer balls is pretty straightforward, but here are some insider tips and best practices for getting the most out of yours. Plus, a note about why you actually might not want to put essential oils in them.
How well do dryer balls actually work?
For something so simple, dryer balls work surprisingly well. "Wool dryer balls reduce static and drying time by separating clothes and allowing hot air to circulate evenly and efficiently. The wool from the balls also helps reduce drying time by absorbing some of the moisture from the clothes," Julia Watkins, the author of Simply Living Well: A Guide to Creating a Natural, Low-Waste Home, explains.
Many wool dryer ball sellers claim that their product reduces drying time by about 25%, and in my experience, this sounds about right! The tool can be especially helpful for drying larger items like towels, sheets, and pillowcases more quickly since they prevent them from clumping into one big impossible-to-dry blob.
How do I use them?
Just pop two or three of them (depending on your laundry load size) in your dryer before you run the machine. And don't be alarmed if you hear some extra thudding in there; dryer balls can be a little noisy as they bounce off the walls of your machine. Allow them to air dry between uses to keep them fresh.
If you notice that your dryer balls are starting to be less effective over time, throw them in the washing machine on high heat (this is one of the few times you need to wash with hot water) and then dry them in the dryer for a quick refresh.
How long do they last?
"One set of dryer balls usually lasts for up to 1,000 loads of laundry, which equates to about two to three years for most households," says Watkins. When you compare this to the hundreds of single-use dryer sheets you'd use in the same time frame, it makes sense that dryer balls are popular among the low-waste crowd.
Watkins points out that since they reduce drying time, they can also help you cut down on your laundry's energy use. Plus, when their two- to three-year life span is up you should be able to compost your wool dryer balls. Just check in with the manufacturer to make sure they're 100% natural first. You can also flex those DIY muscles and repurpose them into craft projects or seasonal decorations.
Can I make them smell good?
Dryer balls are naturally unscented, so some people will use essential oils to give them a fragrant pop before popping them in the dryer. This should be done with caution: Certain essential oils such as rosemary, eucalyptus, and lemon can be flammable at high temperatures and pose a potential fire hazard in the dryer. Plus, not all essential oils are skin-safe, so if you're new to the EO realm, it's best to keep them in the diffuser instead of on your clothes.
Where do I find them?
You can either make your own wool dryer balls out of wool yarn encased in a pair of pantyhose, or buy them premade. A pack of three usually falls in the $10 to $20 range. Watkins can vouch for the Woolzies brand dryer balls. Grove Collaborative, Branch Basics, and cleancult are a few more green cleaning companies that sell their own versions.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.