How to use wool dryer balls and why you should
A previous column on fabric softener products struck a chord with thousands of readers. I know because you send me messages and letters, which I love — even some of you who are not 100 percent satisfied making the switch from problematic laundry softeners to what I find are amazing wool dryer balls. But first, let's review the problem.
The medical website WebMD.com reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which appears as dry, itchy skin.
Dryer sheets often contain fragrance and volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness.
These things, made of 100 percent wool yarn, look like overgrown tennis balls that over time become "felted," making them especially durable and not at all prone to unraveling. One set of wool dryer balls will last for what seems like forever, softening thousands of loads of laundry — no batteries, refills, repairs or reconditioning required. It's one (purchase) and done!
Imagine a big load of wet bath towels going into the dryer. You hit start and that massive wad of wet fabric flops around and sticks together for quite a while until the layers become dry enough to separate and allow warm air to circulate. That slows the drying time, wasting time and energy.
Now imagine six wool dryer balls bouncing around (I use my entire set of six in every load), working their way between the layers of fabric, separating them so the warm air can circulate efficiently from the very start of the cycle. I’ve tested drying times with and without wool dryer balls, and the results are quite amazing. Wool dryer balls cut at least 25 percent off the time to dry a load of laundry, saving time and energy. I have also found these balls stuck tightly in the long sleeve of a T-shirt and the pocket of a pair of jeans! They work their way into tight spaces, and that's what makes them so awesome.
Because dryer balls also agitate against the fibers in clothes and linens, everything feels softer coming out of the dryer. And, used properly (instructions coming up), they also take care of static cling.
As wool dryer balls need room to bounce and play with wet clothes and linens, dryer balls do their best and fastest work when the dryer is not crammed full. You’ll find that two medium-size loads will dry faster and more efficiently than one gigantic load. Dryer balls need room to work.
Some of you wrote saying you really miss the lovely fragrance you had when using dryer sheets. If this is important to you, here's a much healthier and better alternative:
Add a few drops of essential oil to each of the dryer balls. Give them time to absorb the oil deep into the fibers. A few hours is advisable. You’ll begin to notice a subtle, nontoxic fragrance in your clean, soft laundry.
The biggest complaint I have received from readers is that while dryer sheets would eliminate static cling, the wool dryer balls do not. Much of the reason static occurs is due to overdrying clothes. You are definitely going to notice static if the dryer is allowed to run too long, with or without wool dryer balls.
Here's what I do, because I do not have the time to stand in the laundry room watching and waiting for things to not become overdried: I spray my wool dryer balls with water, getting them quite wet. The laundry dries faster than the wool dryer balls because they are so dense, elevating the humidity in the dryer. Works like a charm and does not harm the dryer balls in any way or increase the drying time.
This column was originally published in 2019. Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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