By Teri Olcott
Wool dryer balls are a great choice for anyone looking to get away from chemical dryer sheets and fabric softeners. Wool dryer balls are 100 percent natural and not only speed up drying time but also add softness to your clothes and reduce static cling. Toss three to five of these fuzzy orbs in with a load of wet towels and your towels will dry much quicker and come out soft and fluffy. Another great thing about wool dryer balls is you only have to buy them once. They might not last forever, but they will stand up to thousands of loads.
How They Work
Wool dryer balls are commonly made from sheep or alpaca fleece. The fleece is “felted” which means shaped into a ball, moistened, pressed, and heated. The result is a fuzzy, strong, and solid ball that will not unravel, absorbs moisture, and can stand up to intense heat. When three to five are added to a load of wet clothes in a dryer, the balls bounce around and slowly remove water while they work their way in between the layers of wet material. This action separates the layers so warm air can circulate around the clothes. Without the balls, wet clothes tend to stay in a clump until the heat from the dryer begins to separate them. The balls speed up the drying time by separating the clothes from the minute the dryer starts spinning. Depending on the thickness of the fabric, drying times can be reduced by 25 to 50 percent. The balls also beat gently against the clothes, which results in soft and fluffy material.
Keeping it Green
No one likes the idea of unnecessary chemicals when there’s a simple alternative. Wool dryer balls are natural and eliminate the need for both fabric softener and dryer sheets. This means no hazardous chemicals in your clothes, against your skin, or down the drain. The additives in laundry products can cause skin irritation, and dryer sheets contain harmful compounds which can cause respiratory problems. Look for chemical residue on the sides of your washer or dryer. You won’t find this if you switch to wool dryer balls.
Most people use dryer sheets to reduce or eliminate static electricity in their clothes. One of the biggest causes of static cling is allowing clothes to over dry. Once clothes are dry, continuing to let them tumble in high heat causes static electricity to build up. This is especially true when the humidity is low. It’s always a good idea to check your clothes as they dry and remove clothes that are thoroughly dry so heavier, still-wet, clothes have more room to tumble around. Wool dryer balls will not reduce static electricity, but paying attention to your drying clothes will. Over-drying clothes wastes energy and can wear out your clothes. Check your lint trap. All that colorful fuzz is the result of fibers breaking down which can lead to holes and thin spots in your clothes and linens.
Another way to reduce static is to sort your clothes into piles of like material. Clothes made of nylon, polyester, and acrylic fibers tend to cause more static buildup. Dry these materials together and remove them from the dryer as soon as they are dry.
The Sweet Smell of Laundry
Dryer sheets do provide a clean smell which some people like. Wool dryer balls don’t add any fragrance to your clothes, but if you would like to add a favorite scent to your sheets and towels, there’s a very easy and natural way to do that. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the dryer balls. Let them sit for a few hours to absorb the oil. When you toss the balls in with the clothes, you will be able to detect the non-toxic smell when you remove the laundry from the dryer.
If you don’t have the time or desire to check your laundry as it dries to prevent overdrying, spray the wool dryer balls with water to get them fairly wet. The clothes will dry faster than the wool balls which tend to hang on to moisture. This moisture will add humidity to the inside of the dryer which helps prevent static buildup and overdried clothes. Even though the balls are wet, they still do their job and will not slow down the drying time.
Clothes will dry quicker when they have room to tumble about, with or without dryer balls. Avoid cramming the dryer full of wet clothes. Two medium loads will dry quicker than one large load. When the wool balls are used, they need room to do their job and can’t weave their way in between the clothes when there’s no room for movement.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Teri Olcott and www.shutterstock.com