How to Use Dryer Balls for Perfectly Dry Clothing

In this beginner’s guide to dryer balls, learn what they are, how to use them, and why they might be what your laundry routine is missing.

Dryer balls are considered an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners, but they actually serve different purposes. Often made from wool, rubber, or plastic, dryer balls reduce wrinkling, static cling, and drying time. About the size of a tennis ball, dryer balls are a popular addition to any laundry routine. They bring all the benefits of dryer sheets and fabric softeners without any residue left behind on your clothing or skin.

What Are Dryer Balls?

Dryer balls look a lot like tennis balls, except they are usually made from wool, rubber, or plastic, or some combination of the three. They go inside the dryer drum with wet clothing, and they can be an alternative or companion to dryer sheets and fabric softeners. 

Dryer balls soften clothes, reduce static cling, and speed up the drying process. Because they are chemical-free and last many years, dryer balls are considered a green and economical alternative. Ultimately, if you use them correctly, dryer balls are a simple and effective way to improve your dryer’s performance.  

blue plastic dryer balls on white towel

Getty Images / Liudmila Chernetska

Types of Dryer Balls

There are two main types of dryer balls: those made from natural materials like wool and those made from synthetic materials like plastic. Rubber dryer balls could be natural or synthetic, so you’ll need to read the fine print as you shop around.

Wool dryer balls are considered the most environmentally-friendly option. They last a very long time and absorb moisture to reduce drying time and static. You can also add essential oils to the wool fibers in order to add a light fragrance to your laundry. Wool dryer balls are also quieter inside the dryer drum, making them ideal for laundry rooms close to living spaces

Plastic and rubber dryer balls are the most durable options, and they won’t shed fibers as they wear. Also, some plastic or rubber dryer balls have spikes or bumps to separate clothing further and to improve the overall performance of your dryer. 

wool dryer balls used in load of white laundry

Getty Images / Helin Loik-Tomson

Advantages of Dryer Balls

By adding three or four dryer balls to your laundry load, you can see many benefits. Dryer balls prevent laundry from clumping together as it tumbles. The increased airflow will also make a noticeable difference when drying bulky items, especially those with feathers or filling.

Reduced Drying Time

Dryer balls create a separating action when tumbled in the laundry that effectively increases air flow and improves circulation in the dryer. Wool dryer balls also absorb excess moisture. Together, the result is a shorter drying time

Reduced Static Cling

Dryer balls create separation between clothing items in the dryer, as well as the individual fibers that make up each item. They ensure less overall friction, which means less overall static cling. While dryer balls don’t eliminate static completely, as some dryer sheets do, dryer balls create a noticeable improvement from drying alone. For added effect, you can spray wool dryer balls with a bit of water to make them slightly damp before placing them in the dryer cycle. This will add a steaming effect. 

Softer Clothing

Dryer balls soften clothing without the need for chemicals. As they tumble in the dryer, they fluff and agitate the clothing’s fibers. This movement loosens the fibers and increases the airflow between drying items. When drying clothing with natural fibers, like jute, organic cotton, or wool, expect to feel a marked difference.

Natural Fragrance (Optional)

Wool dryer balls are versatile. You have the option to add fragrance to the laundry load by dropping about 10 droplets of your favorite essential oil into each dryer ball. Ensure the oil has dried completely before starting the load, or else the wet oils may stain fabrics. From lavender to citrus, you’ll be able to personalize the scent on your clothing, making the fragrance stronger or subtler to your liking.  

How to Use Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are safe for both gas and electric dryers. Add any extra fragrance or moisture to wool dryer balls well before starting the cycle.

Place three to four dryer balls inside the dryer drum with wet laundry. Using multiple dryer balls maximizes effectiveness. Also, avoid overloading the dryer. Store the balls in a dry place after the cycle is complete.

How Long Do Dryer Balls Last?

Dryer balls can last months, if not years. Dryer balls typically last a thousand loads before needing to be replaced. 

Rubber or plastic dryer balls have a shorter lifespan than wool ones, but they can still last many years. Generally, dryer balls should be replaced every three to four years. While wool ones can last over double this lifespan, they may loosen or lose their shape when nearing the end of their usefulness. They may also start to shed more lint or wool piles onto your laundry load.

To refresh wool dryer balls, individually place each one in a sock and tie the top. Wash them in hot water and place them in the dryer until they are completely dry. Doing this annually can tighten the fibers and prolong their life. 

Do You Still Need Dryer Sheets?

Well, no. You do not need to use dryer sheets with dryer balls. After all, they serve a relatively similar function. But their differences could make it ideal to use both together, rather than one or the other. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. 

Some people prefer to use both because dryer sheets offer a consistent smell and no static cling. If you’re not looking to change your current routine completely, add dryer balls when tackling bulkier items like winter wear and bedding.

Over time, transition to using dryer balls more frequently with delicate and natural fabrics. You may eventually find that you don’t need dryer sheets after all.

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