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I’ve been using dryer sheets to soften my clothes and reduce static for years. Dryer balls, which are balls made from plastic or wool, are marketed as a more effective and chemical-free alternative to dryer sheets.
The question is, do dryer balls actually work?
Makers of dryer balls claim that placing them in your dryer during cycles will reduce drying time, eliminate static cling (when clothes stick to each other or your body due to static electricity), and soften clothes.
Instead of blindly trusting these claims, I purchased this pair of dryer balls and put them to the test. My goal was simple, determine if these claims are valid by drying clothes with and without dryer balls, then measuring the difference in drying time, static cling, and softness.
Based on the results of my tests, it’s clear that dryer balls effectively reduce drying time (by 13%) and wrinkles, but they don’t have any measurable impact, positive or negative, on static cling or softness.
To see the detailed test results, learn how dryer balls work, and understand the difference between plastic and wool dryer balls, keep reading.
Use the links below to navigate this article.
- How I Structured the Tests
- Results: Drying Time
- Results: Static Cling
- Results: Softness
- Results: Wrinkles
- How Do Dryer Balls Work?
- Plastic vs. Wool Dryer Balls
- Frequently Asked Questions About Dryer Balls
- Bottom Line: Do Dryer Balls Work?
Over eight weeks, I ran ten loads of laundry, five without dryer balls (the control group), and five with two dryer balls (the experimental group).
For this experiment, I used Whitmor plastic dryer balls, which are very affordable and get excellent reviews on Amazon. Still, there are dozens of other options available, and some people swear by wool dryer balls like these — more on the difference between plastic and wool dryer balls later (skip right to it).
Drying time, static cling, and softness vary based on washer settings, the make/model of the dryer, the dryer settings, the size of the load, and the types of clothes in the load.
To control for all these variables, I ran each load through the same wash settings, I used the same dryer with the same settings, I cleaned out the lint filter before each load, and I ran each load with the same clothes (5 cotton t-shirts, 2 hooded sweatshirts, 2 pairs of sweatpants, 5 pairs of socks, and 4 pairs of mesh gym shorts). I did not put dryer sheets in any of the loads. I alternated loads with dryer balls and loads without dryer balls.
To measure the impact that dryer balls have on drying time, I set my dryer to the auto-dry mode which triggers a buzzer as soon as each load finished drying completely. I used my stopwatch and sat in the next room to measure drying time down to the second.
Much to my delight, all five loads that ran with dryer balls dried in less time than the loads without dryer balls.
Based on the results of my experiment, the claim that dryer balls reduce drying time is valid.
Loads without dryer balls took an average of 47 minutes and 37 seconds to dry compared to the loads with dryer balls, which took an average of 41 minutes and 20 seconds to dry, a 13% reduction in drying time. Here are the full results:
Drying Time: Loads Without Dryer Balls (Control Group)
- Load 1: 47 minutes and 38 seconds
- Load 2: 48 minutes and 12 seconds
- Load 3: 46 minutes and 52 seconds
- Load 4: 47 minutes and 20 seconds
- Load 5: 48 minutes and 6 seconds
Drying Time: Loads With Two Dryer Balls (Experiment Group)
- Load 1: 40 minutes and 23 seconds
- Load 2: 43 minutes and 7 seconds
- Load 3: 42 minutes and 41 seconds
- Load 4: 39 minutes and 2 seconds
- Load 5: 41 minutes and 29 seconds
Saving a few minutes may not seem significant, but in the long run, even a few minutes can save you hundreds of dollars in energy and gas.
Based on everything I learned during my research of dryer balls, the more you use, the faster your load will dry. Some people recommend using up to six dryer balls in each load.
What about the claim that dryer balls eliminate static?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is that static cling is a difficult characteristic to measure; however, the loads with dryer balls showed directionally that dryer balls might help reduce static cling.
To measure static cling during this test, I quickly opened the dryer door after each load finished and carefully examined every item and noted the number of times static cling was present.
Regarding the claim that dryer balls eliminate static cling, the results were inconclusive.
The loads without dryer balls averaged four instances of static cling per load. The loads with dryer balls averaged three instances of static cling.
Directionally, dryer balls showed improvement, but I need a larger sample of data to declare this claim true or false definitively. Below are the full results of each load.
Static Cling Instances: Loads Without Dryer Balls (Control Group)
- Load 1: 4
- Load 2: 3
- Load 3: 5
- Load 4: 4
- Load 5: 4
Static Cling: Loads With Two Dryer Balls (Experiment Group)
- Load 1: 5
- Load 2: 2
- Load 3: 2
- Load 4: 3
- Load 5: 3
The loads with dryer balls showed a reduction in static cling; however, the sample of data was so small that a couple more/fewer instances would drastically change the results. Due to this, I can not say with confidence that dryer balls impact on static cling.
Measuring the impact of dryer balls on the softness of clothing, similar to static cling, is extremely subjective. There is no scientific way to measure softness. The only way to get any measurement is to touch the material and assign a Softness Score based on my personal opinion. So that is precisely what I did.
To measure whether dryer balls improved the softness of clothes, I carefully examined each load within 10 minutes of drying. I rated the overall softness of each load from 1 (not soft at all) to 10 (the softest load of laundry ever).
The results, similar to static cling, were inconclusive.
The average Softness Score for both the loads with and without dryer balls came in at the same average of 7.4. As I mentioned, measuring softness a highly subjective process. Based on my judgments, I couldn’t feel any meaningful differences between loads with and without dryer balls. Here are the full results:
Softness Score: Loads Without Dryer Balls (Control Group)
- Load 1: 7
- Load 2: 7
- Load 3: 8
- Load 4: 7
- Load 5: 8
Softness Score: Loads With Two Dryer Balls (Experiment Group)
- Load 1: 7
- Load 2: 6
- Load 3: 8
- Load 4: 8
- Load 5: 8
During my experiment, I noticed fewer wrinkles in the clothing that I dried with dryer balls.
I wasn’t expecting to see this because reducing wrinkles isn’t a widely recognized benefit of dryer balls. I noticed the most significant difference between my cotton T-shirts.
Check out the side-by-side comparison of the same shirts dried without dryer balls (left) versus with dryer balls (right).
The science behind dryer balls is simple.
During dry cycles, dryer balls create separation between layers of clothing, and that separation allows hot air to circulate more easily and dry the load faster.
Without dryer balls, wet clothing sticks together for the first several minutes of the dry cycle until it becomes dry enough to separate on its own.
As they bounce around, dryer balls gently agitate the fibers of the clothing, which contributes to the softening of the fabric (allegedly) and, based on my experiment, helps reduce wrinkles.
Although I didn’t see a significant difference from my tests, dryer balls are known to minimize static cling. They do this by maintaining separation between items of clothing, reducing overall friction, and preventing the imbalance of electrons that causes static cling.
Also, as I mentioned in a recent post comparing dryer balls and dryer sheets, wool dryer balls absorb and hold onto moisture during the cycle. That moisture helps elevate humidity, which limits the chances of static. To enhance this effect, spray wool dryer balls with water before starting the cycle. Since wool is denser than most materials, it will hold onto that moisture and keep humidity levels higher while everything else dries completely.
There are two types of dryer balls on the market, plastic with spikes or wool. I used the plastic ones for my experiment, but some people swear by the wool ones. Here are the pros and cons of each.
Plastic dryer balls are hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and safe for all types of clothing materials. Their small spikes get into the folds of clothing, allowing them to create separation, improve air circulation, and speeds up drying time.
There are several very affordable plastic dryer balls to choose from on Amazon with hundreds of reviews to browse. I highly recommend this four-pack from Whitmor, which has over a thousand, mostly 5-star reviews.
Wool dryer balls are all-natural and contain no chemicals. Although they don’t have spikes like plastic dryer balls, they are just as effective.
Wool dryer balls are heavy, yet soft and don’t make as much noise as the plastic kind. They absorb moisture, which aids in drying, but they also release moisture, which reduces wrinkles and static.
One of the best advantages of wool dryer balls is that you can add a few drops of essential oil, like this lavender one, on the dryer balls to infuse a pleasant scent to your clothes.
Like plastic dryer balls, wool balls are also very affordable, and there are several options available on Amazon. The highest-rated by far is this six-pack from Smart Sheep, which has over 15 thousand mostly 5-star reviews on Amazon.
I get A TON of emails from readers with questions about dryer balls.
If you’re thinking about trying them for the first time, there’s a good chance you have the same questions that most people do.
To save you some time, here are the most frequently asked questions about dryer balls and their answers.
In general, dryer balls will last several years, but their actual lifespan depends on the type of dryer balls and how often you use them.
Woolzies, another popular brand of wool dryer balls, also claims they last up to 1000 dryer cycles.
Over time, wool dryer balls will start to fray, pill, and shrink. You’ll know it’s time to replace them when they begin to lose their effectiveness. But, as I mentioned, 1000 cycles or 2-5 years what you can expect. Not bad for such an inexpensive product.
Plastic dryer balls, like the Whitmor ones I used for this test, will last as long as wool dryer balls (2 to 5 years).
My dryer balls have been going strong for a few years with no issues, but, according to several other customers, the tips wear down or break eventually.
There are some rumors out there that the extra stress that dryer balls put on your dryer’s drum could cause damage and reduce its lifespan.
Fortunately, these rumors are entirely false.
Dryer balls are soft, light, and designed specifically to bounce around safely in your dryer.
If you’re worried about putting stress on your dryer, consider hanging wet, heavy towels and jackets to dry. Those items are much more substantial and put much more stress on your dryer.
Dryer balls, which weigh only a few ounces, will have no adverse effects on your dryer.
Pilling occurs when fabrics rub together, causing the fibers to break, adhere together, and form tiny pills on the surface of your clothes. It’s more likely to happen with wool or knitted fabrics.
Since dryer balls work by agitating your clothes during a dryer cycle, there’s a chance they could contribute to pilling. However, there’s not much evidence supporting this concern.
Out of over a thousand reviewers of the Whitmor plastic dryer balls, only one complained about pilling — same story with wool dryer balls. Over 17 thousand people reviewed the Smart Sheep wool dryer balls, and only less than 20 complained about pilling.
You may have heard from a friend or read a “life hack” article that says you can skip dryer balls and use tennis balls instead.
After all, tennis balls are light, soft, and will create space between your clothes just like dryer balls.
However, using tennis balls as dryer balls is a terrible idea.
- Tennis balls are much louder than dryer balls when they bang against the walls of the dryer’s drum.
- The green or yellow dye from new dryer balls can transfer to your clothes.
- Old tennis balls are usually filthy and not an item you’d want rubbing against your clean clothes.
- Tennis balls are made of chemicals that are not designed to be heated in the dryer.
The easiest way is to pour a few drops of essential oils right on the surface of the dryer balls and let them dry for about an hour before using them. The only downside to this method is that some oils may leave behind stains (on the dryer balls, not your clothes).
The other method is to fill a syringe or meat injector with essential oils and inject it into the center of the dryer balls.
Reapply the oil every 5 to 10 loads, depending on your desired level of fragrance.
The number of dryer balls you use per load is entirely up to you, but, in general, the more you use, the more effective they’ll be.
Most manufacturers recommend using 2 to 6 depending on the size of the load. Smart Sheep recommends three dryer balls for small and medium-sized loads and 5 or 6 for large loads.
For my test, I only used two dryer balls because the loads were relatively small (18 items).
I covered the differences between dryer balls and dryer sheets in great detail in a recent article (Missed it? Check it out here), but here’s the short answer.
If your goal is to reduce static cling and soften your clothes, dryer sheets are the way to go.
They release positively charged particles onto clothes neutralizing the imbalance of electrons that occurs when clothing items rub together.
Dryer sheets also contain a fatty molecule that coats your clothes, which adds a smooth and soft feeling to the touch.
If your goal is to reduce drying time and avoid the potentially harmful chemicals found in the fragrances added to dryer sheets, dryer balls are the way to go.
Based on my test and several others, dryer balls effectively reduce drying time by creating space between clothes and allowing hot air to circulate more quickly.
So, the answer to the question is no; dryer balls don’t replace dryer sheets. They both serve different purposes and, depending on your needs, you might use one or the other, or both.
If you have pets, you’ll be happy to hear that wool dryer balls are very effective at separating pet hair from your clothes.
Don’t take my word for it, check out the dozens of customers on Amazon that claim their wool dryer balls solved their pet hair problems.
Plastic dryer balls, on the other hand, will not remove pet hair from your clothes. Unlike wool, which will trap it in its fibers, pet hair won’t adhere to the smooth surface of plastic dryer balls.
Do I need to wash dryer balls before the first use? Do they require frequent cleaning?
No, you don’t need to wash wool or plastic dryer balls before the first use.
However, if you decide to wash them before the first use, or any time in the future, handwash with warm water and soap, and dry immediately.
Avoid using the washing machine because prolonged periods of soaking can damage the wool fibers, and the aggressive spinning can cause the spikes to break off of plastic dryer balls.
Since dryer balls mostly come into contact with clean clothes, you don’t have to worry about them harboring germs or fungus. Plus, the high temperatures of the dryer will help kill off any lingering bacteria.
If you remove your dryer balls from the dryer between cycles, they could become exposed to germs. In that case, it’s a good idea to wash them every once in a while. Again, warm soap and water will do the trick.
Based on the results of my experiment, it is pretty clear that dryer balls do, in fact, reduce drying time. However, dryer balls did not make a significant difference in static cling or softness.
The impact of dryer balls will vary based on what type of clothes you are drying, what kind of dryer you have, how many dryer balls you use, and the type of dryer balls (plastic vs. wool).
Fortunately, they are inexpensive, require no effort to use, and there is a vast selection to choose from on Amazon, so why not give them a try?
Have Dryer Balls Worked for You?
What has been your experience with dryer balls? Are you a fan of them or not? Which type do you prefer? Are you wondering about the differences between dryer balls and dryer sheets? We always love to hear your feedback. Let us know in the comments section!
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