Written by Grove Collaborative

Beginner’s guide to wool dryer balls.

Last Updated: December 21, 2020

Made from wool, dryer balls are an environmentally friendly alternative to dryer sheets — but are they right for your family, and will they really dry your clothes?

Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

If you've ever rushed out the door only to have someone politely tap you on the shoulder to let you know there's a pair of unmentionables firmly stuck to the back of your sweater, you already appreciate the benefits of dryer sheets. Sure, they get rid of static cling and leave clothes feeling oh-so-soft, but are they doing more harm than good? If you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact — not to mention your family’s exposure to questionable chemicals found in conventional dryer sheets — wool dryer balls may be the sustainable alternative you’ve been seeking. Learn more about the benefits of wool dryer balls, plus the best way to add them to your laundry routine.

Dryer sheets vs. wool dryer balls

What do dryer sheets do, exactly?

In a nutshell, dryer sheets help reduce static cling, soften your fabrics, and make clothes smell delightfully fresh. Conventional dryer sheets contain a thin layer of fabric softener that targets electrostatic charges and can even help guard against lint. But dryer sheets are a nicety, not a necessity.

Are dryer sheets safe?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients used in dryer sheets, so you never really know what you're getting. Many contain chemicals and added fragrances that adhere to fabrics, vent into the air, and ultimately rub off on your skin, potentially triggering asthma and skin reactions.

Are dryer sheets bad for the environment?

From an environmental standpoint, they are a single-use product that could potentially be emitting harmful toxins into the air and onto your clothes — if you need proof, just look at some of the ingredients in dryer sheets noted on the EPA's hazardous waste list. And while these lovely little sheets may not be as toxic as some claim, more research is needed to determine whether fragrances used in dryer sheets are harmful to your health.

Are wool dryer balls better than dryer sheets?

Deemed a safer choice by many experts, wool dryer balls are an environmentally responsible alternative to a typical dryer sheet. Natural and chemical-free, wool dryer balls are hypoallergenic, too, making them a smart choice that's gentle enough for even those itty-bitty baby clothes.

Wool dryer ball basics

Do wool dryer balls work?

Yes! Working their softening magic by bouncing off clothes, wool dryer balls work best with small and medium loads, so they have room to roam around. Not only do they retain heat, but they also help clothes stay separated in the dryer so air can flow more freely, reducing drying time by 25% per load. They're eco-friendly, too, lasting up to an impressive 1,000 loads (replace when the wool starts to unravel).

How to use wool dryer balls

How many dryer balls per load?

The number of dryer balls you use can be determined by the size of the load you are drying. For small to medium-sized loads, 3 balls should get the job done. For larger loads, you can use 5-7 balls. For extra-large loads, you may want to go as high as 8-12 balls. These are just general guidelines; the more balls you use, the shorter time it will take to dry your laundry.

How to add scent to dryer balls

Yes, you can use your favorite essential oils; just dab 2-3 drops on each ball and let dry for about an hour before use. Although a scented oil may slightly discolor the surface of the dryer ball, the ball should still work perfectly. Re-scent the ball(s) every 4-5 loads or as needed.

How to store dryer balls

You can store dyer balls in a well-ventilated area to avoid picking up odors or retaining moisture. We recommend you do not store them in a plastic bag for that reason.

Wool dryer ball tips & tricks

Q: Do wool dryer balls work for static?

A: They can! If static cling is still an issue, spray the balls with water before placing in the dryer to increase humidity, or attach a safety pin, which diffuses static electricity because it's made of metal.

Q: But what if I like the smell of dryer sheets?

A: One of the notable things about dryer sheets is that they leave your laundry infused with a lovely scent. But you can still get that freshly fragranced result from wool dryer balls. For naturally fragrant laundry, simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the wool dryer balls and re-scent every four to five loads.

Q: Are wool dryer balls bad for your dryer?

A: Wool dryer balls are designed to be gentle for both your laundry and your dryer drum.

Q: Are wool dryer balls loud?

A: If you’re used to the sound of a ricocheting tennis ball or other type of rubber ball as it bangs and tumbles inside your dryer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quiet wool dryer balls are. To further dampen their sound, layer the balls in between your laundry rather than just adding them before or after you load the dryer. The layering technique should further muffle the sound.

Q: How long do wool dryer balls last?

A: Up to 1,000 loads. Replace them when you notice the wool felt is unraveling.

How to recharge wool dryer balls

Wool dryer balls seen better days? Don’t toss them in the trash just yet! There are a number of ways you can rejuvenate your dryer balls before it’s officially time to retire them.

How to clean wool dryer balls

To clean your dryer balls, you can wash them by hand in a mixture of mild soap and warm (not hot) water. Avoid machine-washing in hot water; exposure to hot water will eventually relax and speed up the unraveling process, damaging the wool felt.

How to remove lint from wool dryer balls

Lint build up shouldn’t affect the effectiveness of your wool dryer balls. If you find it unaesthetic, you can wash them or (gently!) shave the surface with a light razor or sweater depiller. (Dryer balls may also pill after use, which is normal and increases surface friction, which can make them even more effective.)

What to do with used wool dryer balls

The uses are (almost) endless. Once you’ve decided to retire your used wool dryer balls, you can toss them in your compost. Or, you can keep them around. Here are some ideas:

  • Freshen your air: Add oil and place in a corner.
  • Sweeten your linens: add oil and tuck into a closet.
  • Play indoor catch.
  • Practice juggling.
  • Cover with fabric and use as a doll head.
  • Offer them to your pet — they make great toys! Just make sure any essential oils you've previously used are animal-safe.

Shop wool dryer balls

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on laundry, shop Grove Collaborative's laundry essentials for the tools to tackle the job.

Shop Grove

Keep reading

Join thousands of happy customers creating a healthier home. Get started to select your free welcome set!
Claim My Offer