This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on October 10, 2022.
Hello, friend! This week, I wanna dive into one of my very favorite and very first zero waste swaps - wool dryer balls.
Whether you’re trying to reduce waste, cut out fragrances, avoid chemicals, save time, or save money…wool dryer balls are an absolute necessity.
So let’s break down what exactly dryer balls are, why they’re so great, and how to get the absolute most out of them 👇
First and foremost, what are wool dryer balls?
In short, wool dryer balls are a reusable, sustainable alternative to fabric softener and dryer sheets.
Made of 100% wool, dryer balls tumble around in your dryer with your laundry to soften your clothes, reduce static, and even cut down on your drying time.
When they’re bouncing around with your laundry, they’re separating and helping to circulate it more effectively, which gives the fabrics room to breathe and dry more quickly. They’re also rubbing against the fibers in your laundry, which is what helps them come out of the dryer oh-so-soft and comfy.
While I’m a big advocate of hang-drying as much laundry as you can, if you don’t have the space or there are some things you prefer to tumble dry, wool dryer balls are an EcoWarrior’s best friend in the laundry room…right next to a glass jar of refillable laundry detergent, obvi 😉
Why are wool dryer balls better than dryer sheets?
Dryer balls are totally zero waste.
The main reason I fell in love with dryer balls nearly six years ago was simply for the zero waste factor. Since they’re reusable for hundreds of loads of laundry and totally plastic free, wool dryer balls were an easy swap to help me cut out plastic jugs of fabric softener and disposable dryer sheets.
But not only that, dryer balls are just better for us than fabric softener and dryer sheets!
Dryer balls are safer than dryer sheets.
The artificial fragrances, chemicals, and coatings in fabric softener and dryer sheets have been shown to cause skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.
For EcoWarriors with young children, this is an even bigger concern, since their skin is already more sensitive.
This one time I was vending at a local market, and an electrician stopped by my booth. We chatted about zero waste and A Drop in the Ocean, and he asked about the dryer balls. I explained to him what they were and why I love them, and he told me that he always warns people against using dryer sheets, too, because they can clog your dryer vent and cause mechanical and electrical issues.
Ain’t nobody got time for that, my friend.
Dryer balls save you money.
And on top of all of that, even ignoring that the average cost of getting your dryer vents cleaned is gonna set you back at least $100, dryer balls are gonna save you so…much…money.
I got my first set of three dryer balls back in 2017 and they’re still going strong.
Honestly, they look just about as good as the day I got them.
The average family does about eight loads of laundry each week. If dryer sheets cost, on average, 6¢ each, that’s about $25 spent just on dryer sheets in one year.
Add in fabric softener at about 31¢ a load, you’re looking at over $150 a year - all of which can be eliminated and replaced with a single $35 set of three wool dryer balls.
Even crazier? You could splurge on 12 dryer balls, that’ll last you years and years to come, for less than you’d spend on dryer sheets and fabric softener in one year.
Um, what??! 🤯
How the heck did we get duped into spending this much money on unnecessary laundry products??
PLUS, since dryer balls cut your laundry drying time by 10-25%, you’re gonna use less energy per load, which means you’re gonna save money on your electricity bill, too.
I don’t know about you, friend, but I’m not seeing any downsides here.
What are the best dryer balls?
Now, I may be a bit biased here, because there’s so much intention that goes into every single gosh darn product here at A Drop in the Ocean, but I fully believe that our wool dryer balls are some of the best out there.
Lemme tell ya why…
Our dryer balls were one of the very first zero waste swaps we added to our product lineup back when we launched in 2019, and while I’ve seen several more brands pop up over the years, I’ve never once been tempted to switch.
First and foremost, our wool dryer balls are 100% zero waste, meaning they’re shipped to us in nothing more than a large cardboard box, and when we ship them to you, they’re gonna be totally package free, too.
If you live locally around Tacoma, we’ll put them in a curbside recyclable cardboard box, only because we don’t use any packaging for local deliveries, and I don’t wanna just leave three balls of wool out in the elements when I drop them on your doorstep 😊
Some brands of dryer balls come packaged in cloth bags, but I’ve always found those bags totally unnecessary, and likely to end up as waste or collecting dust. There’s no need spending resources on packaging that’s not 100% necessary!
But our dryer balls have a lot more going for them than just the lack of packaging.
Our wool dryer balls are handmade in Maine, USA by a woman-owned, BIPOC-owned company called LooHoo. The owner, Cyndi, launched LooHoo after she first stopped using dryer sheets during her pregnancy, and struggled to find dryer balls that didn’t fall apart after just a handful of uses.
So, she got to work learning how to make them herself, and after plenty of trial and error finally figured out how to craft the perfect natural wool dryer balls - that are solid enough to really do their job and won’t fall apart easily.
LooHoo dryer balls are made only with 100% ethically-sourced, local Maine wool. Cyndi works closely with local sheep farmers to ensure they are raised with care, and all the wool used is sourced within 100 miles of the LooHoo headquarters.
Plus, did you pick up on the name? The founder, Cyndi, named her company LooHoo. #CindyLouWho 😁 Just too freaking adorable.
Okay, now that we’ve established what in the world dryer balls are, let’s dive into some FAQs…
Do dryer balls have a scent?
Nope! Wool dryer balls are just that - wool. No fragrances or anything added.
But don’t worry. If you’re missing that added freshness boost you’re used to getting from fabric softener and dryer sheets, just add a few drops of essential oils to the surface of your dryer balls!
And by a few, I mean like five drops per ball. You don’t want to drench the things, ‘cause that can cause a fire hazard in your dryer. No bueno.
As for which essential oils you pick - that’s totally up to you, my friend! Opt for eucalyptus to pair with your laundry detergent for a spa-like laundry experience, some lavender for a relaxing evening, or just whatever feels best for you. My go-to is a citrusy blend of lemon and grapefruit.
Do dryer balls make a lot of noise?
I get this question all the time at markets. Do our wool dryer balls make a racket in the dryer, like the plastic dryer ball alternatives or tennis balls?
And the answer is nope!
While our dryer balls are more solid than most, they’re still just wool, which means they’re not gonna disrupt your routine while they’re bouncing around in your dryer.
My dryer is now in my basement, but even when it was just off of my kitchen and I had to keep the door open for my kitty’s litter box, I never even noticed them.
How long do dryer balls last?
One set of dryer balls will last you hundreds and hundreds of loads of laundry.
Like I mentioned before, I got my first (and only) set back in 2017 and they still work as great as the day I got them. (So as of today I’ve had them for about five and a half years.)
But I do about six loads of laundry a month, and I hang dry most of my laundry, so my guesstimates may not be the average.
According to the Google, a good average is about 1,000 loads of laundry. So if you’re that average family who’s doing eight loads of laundry a week, one set will last you about two and a half years.
Should you clean your dryer balls?
Imma level with you, friend, I’ve never cleaned my dryer balls. But my partner just made the switch to dryer balls (literally ~today~), and asked me if he’s supposed to clean them 🤷♀️
So I took a peek at the FAQs on the LooHoo website, and sure enough, if your dryer balls get dirty somehow, or just over time, you can just toss them in your washing machine with the rest of your laundry!
I’d recommend putting them in a mesh laundry bag for a little extra protection from the agitator, but that’s just me.
(Oh hey quick question if you’d like me to add mesh laundry bags to the shop, will you please comment below and let me know? I’ve been tossing the idea around for a while but I’d love to hear from you!)
How do you dispose of worn out dryer balls?
Since dryer balls are totally natural, 100% wool, and plastic-free, at the end of their life when they start to fray, they can just be tossed in your backyard compost pile, and they’ll easily break down into compost there.
But, even better than composting them - give your dryer balls another life first!
Rather than tossing them right away, use them as air fresheners! Add a few drops of essential oils and tuck them in drawers, in your closet, on a shelf - wherever! - and let them freshen your home, naturally.
How do you use dryer balls?
Using wool dryer balls is easy peasy lemon squeezy.
All ya gotta do is toss them into your dryer with your laundry and let them work their magic.
If your washer and dryer are in your home, I recommend just leaving your dryer balls in your dryer between loads. That way you’ll never forget them, you won’t lose them, and you won’t have to worry about any pets getting ahold of them.
How many dryer balls should you use?
You’ll want to use at least three dryer balls per load of laundry, but the bigger the load the more balls you’ll want to use.
For medium loads, I’d recommend about 6-9 dryer balls, and for larger loads 9-12 balls.
The more dryer balls you use in a load, the more of a difference you’ll notice - especially when it comes to drying time!
What should you do if you still have static after using wool dryer balls?
I’ve never met anyone who said they didn’t like using dryer balls, but sometimes I’ll hear that even after using dryer balls, clothes are still coming out of the dryer static-y.
If your laundry has static after using dryer balls, essentially it means that it’s too dry.
So if you’re finding yourself with static, here’s a few tips to get rid of it once and for all:
- Reduce your dryer’s heat setting and stop the dryer before the cycle ends. If the laundry is already dry, keeping it in the cycle longer will create more static.
- Wet 1-2 of your dryer balls and toss them back in for a few minutes.
- Add a safety pin to some or all of your dryer balls.
I gotta tell ya, friend. I had no idea that I had six pages worth of info to share with you about wool dryer balls. But, uh, apparently I did 😅
So if you’re still with me, yay! And that also probably means you’re intrigued by dryer balls and might be ready to make the switch to a more sustainable laundry routine.
See you again next week!