Why Our Editors Love Dryer Balls Over Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
After trying wool dryer balls, we're never going back.
Like most products pushed onto consumers by big companies and their marketers, many people believe that fabric softeners and dryer sheets are essential for laundry. They're not. They are an added expense, and most of them include ingredients that experts conclude are unhealthy for humans and the planet.
Of the 228 fabric softeners and dryer sheets that the environmental advocacy group has analyzed for "hazards to health or the environment," 70% are ranked as high to highest concern—with just 17% ranked as low or lowest concern.
"If you’re concerned about the health and safety of your family members, you might want to stay away from both conventional dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners altogether," notes a column in Scientific American. "While it may be nice to have clothes that feel soft, smell fresh and are free of static cling, both types of products contain chemicals known to be toxic to people after sustained exposure."
By 2025, the world is expected to spend $22.72 billion on fabric softeners. All that money and all that potential hazard. And all those plastic bottles and/or other packaging!
Something's gotta give—and we've got the answer: Wool dryer balls. And Treehugger editors are obsessed.
How Dryer Balls Work
Dryer balls usually come as a set of three or six felted wool balls that one puts in the dryer with their laundry. By bouncing around with the drying items, they work to separate layers and create air pockets to help fluff and soften, and reduce drying time. You can add a few drops of pure essential oil to the balls for a botanical-based fragrance—which is a much healthier option than the synthetic mystery fragrances used by many manufacturers of laundry products.
The Benefits of Dryer Balls
Reduced Drying Time = Energy Savings
Aside from the mechanical action, the balls also absorb moisture, further reducing the time it takes to dry clothes. By some accounts, laundry drying time is reduced by 40% using dryer balls.
Minimize Static Cling
Most static cling comes from overdrying, but as the balls release the absorbed moisture as the drying progresses, the conditions for the build-up of static electricity are minimized.
Dryer balls are made of wool, and sometimes all-natural dyes. That's it. No laundry list, so to speak, of toxic chemicals to harm your health or the planet.
Gone are the plastic jugs of fabric softener and plastic from dryer sheets and all the packaging required to get said products from factory to store to your laundry room!
Better for Your Clothes
Fabric softeners can lead to residue build-up on your clothes and in your dryer. Additionally, fabric softening products' residue can actually increase the flammability of clothes.
Minimizes Wrinkles and Pet Hair
All of the action they provide to the drying process really does help eliminate wrinkles. And we haven't seen a scientific study on it, but anecdotally, the pet owners amongst us swear that dryer balls send more hair to the lint filter.
Unlike liquid fabric softener and single-use dryer sheets, wool dryer balls can be reused up to 1,000 times. Think of the savings.
Mimi Ausland, co-founder of Free the Ocean—the daily trivia site founded to clean up ocean plastic—tells us: “I’ve used my 6-pack of dryer balls for many years now, and they’re still working great! This is truly an example of a plastic-free product that’s a worthy investment for your wallet and for the planet. I love knowing that there are zero chemicals drying my clothes and that when it’s finally time for a new set, I can compost them!”
Free the Ocean sells Friendsheep Eco Dryer Balls at their plastic-free shop. Frendsheep gets a thumbs-up from our editors, who note:
"Friendsheep Eco Organic Dryer Balls have all the best features of the other top-rated options on the market. They’re made from 100% premium New Zealand wool, are hand-felted, cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny certified. Perhaps the best part is that they come in a wide range of cute styles."
Free the Ocean has Freindsheep styles available in a three-pack ($17.95) or six-pack ($32), with each purchase removing 10 pieces of plastic from the ocean. (And they really do have great styles—we may be partial to the sweet sloths and the pretty lavender ombre sets.)
Is it any wonder that we're never going back?!
In support of Free the Ocean's mission to clean up the ocean and reduce plastic use, each month, we feature a product from their plastic-free shop. (Note: We do not make earn any commissions from these recommendations.)