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This is the secret to drying your clothes: A natural solution you’ll never guess

Find out the scoop on wool dryer balls vs. fabric softeners and dryer sheets

Child helping her mother with laundry
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Some of the most important factors in our laundry routine are the ones that make our clothes feel soft and smell amazing. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets have reigned supreme for decades, but there’s a new kid on the block when it comes to softening and freshening those fabrics. This is the secret to drying your clothes: wool dryer balls!

If you haven’t heard of wool dryer balls, these handy little puffs are made entirely of natural wool yarn and sort of look like tennis balls — only a bit bigger. But why would you need balls of wool in your dryer and what do they do? We’re going to talk about how wool dryer balls work and why you need to add them to your laundry routine.

Close-up of a laundry basket and washing machine
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Do wool dryer balls really work?

The main goals of dryer balls are to soften clothes and dry them faster. But how can a wool ball achieve that? It’s actually quite simple. The wool material rubs against the fabrics while they’re in the dryer. This “brushing” action agitates the fibers of the clothing and makes them softer to the touch — without using chemicals.

They’re fast-drying benefit comes into play when the wool ball bounces around in your dryer with your load of laundry. You see, when wet clothes are placed in the dryer, they stick together and they won’t come apart until the garments are quite dry already. This leads to overdrying, since fabrics have to be subjected to intense heat for so long.

Wool balls, however, jump around in the dryer with your laundry and bounce between garments, effectively pulling them apart and preventing overdry clothing. This also reduces the amount of time and energy used to fully dry clothes, since the dryer balls allow warm air to circulate more freely between fabrics.

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How many times can you use wool dryer balls?

You’re probably wondering, “How long do wool dryer balls last?” Here’s your answer: Most dryer ball brands made of wool claim they can last for up to 1,000 cycles in the dryer. That’s several years of continued fabric-softening use! You’ll know your wool balls need to be replaced when they start to fall apart a bit or they begin leaving little wool fibers on your clothes.

Doing laundry delicates with bleach pen
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How many dryer balls do you put in the dryer?

The number of balls you toss into your dryer depends on the size of the load you’re drying. For smaller loads, 3 or 4 wool balls will work just fine. For large laundry loads, you can use between 6 and 10. Keep in mind that wool dryer balls perform best when you don’t overload your dryer — they need some room to bounce around and do their thing.

Close-up of textile in laundry machine
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Benefits of using wool dryer balls over other fabric softeners

It’s no secret that traditional fabric softener products and dryer sheets have their downfalls. For example, liquid softeners gradually leave a film on your fabrics that eventually makes the garment feel rough or your towels less absorbent. Not only that, but both of these products tend to contain chemicals that could be harmful to you and your family.

Here’s a list of the benefits of using wool dryer balls:

  • Natural, simple ingredients
  • Eco-friendly laundry product
  • Reduces drying time significantly
  • Cuts laundry product budget in half
  • Eliminates static electricity
  • Softens fabrics effectively
Laundry room with mirror and plant
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How do you recharge wool dryer balls?

While wool dryer balls should last for 1,000 loads of laundry, sometimes they need a little TLC to keep working at their best. They can start to look scraggly, which means the wool fibers are getting stressed and loose from repeated use. When this happens, the dryer balls probably aren’t drying your clothes as fast as they used to.

Recharge — or refresh — them to extend their life. Toss them into a gentle cycle in your washing machine and then dry them on high heat in the dryer. This removes any lint or fiber buildup and rehydrates the dryer balls so that they can perform better at absorbing water from your clothes in future loads.

Laundry room with shelving and cubbies
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What are the downsides of wool dryer balls?

As with most things, wool dryer balls aren’t for everyone. There are a few drawbacks to using wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener, which could sway your opinion on making the swap.

Some of the cons of using dryer balls include:

  • They can make a loud noise in the dryer when used
  • Not as effective when working with larger laundry loads
  • Over time, they will wear down, and wool fibers can end up on clothing or in the lint drawer
  • Often unscented, meaning you will have to use perfumes or essential oils for more aromatic loads if that is your preference

If you prefer a quiet drying cycle, doing fewer larger loads, or having highly scented fabrics right out of the dryer, then dryer balls may not be for you. However, many homeowners are happy to make the swap despite these drawbacks, since dryer balls are more eco-friendly, durable, and low maintenance than dryer sheets or fabric softeners.

Father and daughter doing laundry
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Wool dryer ball hacks to up your dryer game

When switching from dryer sheets or fabric softeners to wool dryer balls, sometimes people see some downfalls. For example, other products have artificial fragrances that give their clothes that fresh scent. Other people say wool dryer balls don’t address static cling as well as other products.

The good news is that there are some wool dryer ball hacks that address these issues!

Use essential oils for fragrance

Essential oils can provide some amazing scents, and you can use any of them on your dryer balls to enhance the fragrance of your laundry loads. Simply apply a few drops to each dryer ball and let the ball sit for a few hours to soak up the oils before adding them to a load in the dryer.

Moisten them to avoid static cling

Static happens when the air is dry and lacks any humidity. You can reduce static cling in your clothes by avoiding overdrying your laundry loads and keeping synthetic materials separate from the rest of your clothes in the dryer. For a little added prevention of static, spray or dunk your dryer balls in water before tossing them into the dryer. This increases the humidity in your dryer and removes static cling.

If you’ve been using fabric softeners or dryer sheets in your laundry, you probably know that the chemicals in these products aren’t the best things for you and your family — not to mention the buildup on your clothes… Why sacrifice your health and the quality of your clothing when wool dryer balls can help achieve the same goal? Give them a try, and you’ll see the difference in your energy bill and the feel of your clothes.

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Veronica Sparks
Veronica Sparks is a writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who loves writing about gardening, home décor, and DIY life. She’s…
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