Dryer balls claim to solve some of your worst laundry problems, such as shortening dry times and keeping your clothes from clumping during the cycle. They contain far fewer chemicals, serve as a natural fabric softener, and are better for the environment than those single-use dryer sheets. But do they really work?
When we first started researching, we discovered dryer balls can be a bit of an internet rabbit hole, with so many different shapes and sizes. So we took to Reviewed's lab to see if they can improve your laundry loads, and find which ones are the best to buy.
After multiple loads of laundry, and several softened band T-shirts later, the Budieggs Wool Dryer Balls (available at Amazon) are our top pick for because of their build and wool quality, as well as their ability to soften. While there are unlimited dryer ball brands out there you can purchase, we found these basic and organic eco-friendly products were the best path to keeping your laundry fresh.
Budieggs Wool Dryer Balls
Our Best Overall, the Budieggs Wool Dryer Balls, had several leads on the competition. We found them to be durable and strong, and we believe these dryer balls could last for 1,000 loads or longer. The Budieggs contain no chemicals and claim to be hypoallergenic, which was great for my sensitive skin.
The Budieggs had better drying power than the rest of the products we tested and left my laundry really soft. In our lab testing, however, the Budieggs left our T-shirts slightly damp to the touch after a single load, but that was across the board with every product we tested. The comforter we dried was also damp in the middle, but our research found that most comforters did not dry completely without the use of tennis balls, longer drying times, and higher dry settings.
Made of 100 percent New Zealand wool, these balls by Smart Sheep felt soft to the touch and were the most luxurious material that we tested. Smart Sheep is also made by women and minorities who are paid a living wage. They were clearly high-quality and could be used over and over again, despite a few drawbacks.
Like the Budieggs, the inside of the comforter we used in testing still felt damp and the T-shirts were not completely dry, but that could be remedied with a longer dry time or higher settings. While the Smart Sheep was on the more expensive side for dryer balls, the price can be justified by the quality of the wool and the way it's produced.
I’m Cailey Lindberg, a Reviewed staff writer, and lifelong New Englander who has a four-month-old basset hound puppy. Because he sheds on everything, I was interested in products that would eliminate pet hair without obsessively running a lint roller over my black clothing. I currently test, edit, and write about products for Reviewed, as well as dive deep into the inner workings of the restaurant industry over at Boston-based software company, Toast.
We brought Sandor home two months ago and quickly learned just how much basset hounds shed, especially with the mild and bizarre winter we’ve had this year in Boston. No matter how many dryer sheets I used, nothing would get the puppy hair off my laundry. In an effort to help other pet parents and reduce drying times for people who simply avoid doing laundry until Sunday evening, we decided to test a bunch of dryer balls to see which ones are most effective on your laundry.
The testing for dryer balls was intensive and our lab team spent weeks laundering towels, T-shirts, and a queen-size comforter over and over again in a Maytag washing machine and LG dryer. Each load was weighed before and after each wash and dried for exactly 40 minutes on a normal cycle. For every set of dryer balls, we dried each of the three loads on a timed dry cycle and measured its post-dry weight. A tennis ball was also included in each load for comparison.
In addition to the more extensive lab testing, I brought the products home and used them in my day-to-day laundry life using my GE dryer. My testing load included multiple Tool band T-shirts, along with a few pairs of black yoga leggings covered in puppy hair. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pet hair was greatly reduced once I removed my load and that the once stiff band tees felt soft to the touch.
What You Should Know About Dryer Balls
We found that dryer balls can produce quite a bit of static electricity when used in your laundry. Through this mishap, we discovered that when using dryer balls, it is wise to reduce your normal drying time by 10 minutes to prevent this. If you’ve already over-dried your load, wetting the wool dryer balls and running your dryer for a few minutes should eliminate any residual static.
Dryer balls are capable of reducing lint and pet hair, which I found to be accurate during testing. My black leggings, always completely covered in basset hound puppy hair, were completely shed free after using wool dryer balls. If you have sensitive skin, dryer balls are a much better alternative to dryer sheets.
Essential oils can be added to some dryer balls to make your laundry smell better. Lower temperatures can also be used with dryer balls as opposed to dryer sheets, which prevents damage to your clothes. Wool dryer balls also have significantly fewer chemicals than traditional dryer sheets and will minimize waste since they are reusable, effectively lowering your energy bill.
Can Tennis Balls Dry Your Laundry?
Tennis balls were traditionally used to speed up drying time and to add some extra fluff to your laundry. During testing, we found that tennis balls are most useful for heavier items, such as comforters and towels, but fell short in terms of making your laundry soft. Extra-large products may also work well for bulkier items, but during our testing, we found tennis balls are a better way to go.
While some manufacturers recommend new tennis balls to prevent your comforter’s down from lumping together, according to Lifehacker, the Soap and Detergent Association is not in support of this practice. Take care when using a new tennis ball with your comforter, as it can stain if the dye melts from the heat.
How to Use Dryer Balls
Using dryer balls is simple, add them to your machine and watch them work. Adding dryer balls to your washing machine will effectively separate your laundry, which allows more heat in. Six or more dryer balls may be needed to properly dry your laundry for a large load. For small loads, 3 or fewer dryer balls should suffice.
Keep in mind that dryer balls are not as effective on large loads because they need space to work properly. One downside to dryer balls is that they will make quite a bit of noise in your dryer. Replace your wool dryer balls every 1,000 loads (or 2-3 years' time) to keep them working and looking their best.
Do Dryer Balls Work? Do They Reduce Drying Time?
When it comes to wool dryer balls versus dryer sheets, wool dryer balls win out overall. They also minimize wrinkles and static when used properly, as well as reducing your drying time by 10 to 25 percent.
What Is The Difference Between Wool and Plastic Dryer Balls?
Wool dryer balls are heavier and separate your clothes better, which leads to shorter drying times. Plastic dryer balls will not be as noisy during drying, but they did not perform as well as the wool dryer balls in our tests. Overall, we found that the plastic dryer balls we tested left clothes damp, even when put on longer dry times.
Other Dryer Balls We Tested
Whitmor Dryer Balls
We didn’t see a huge difference between the plastic and wool models in terms of dampness, but the thermoplastic products, like the Whitmore Dryer Balls, did not soften comforters and T-shirts as effectively. However, these thermoplastic dryer balls are more durable and would likely last longer than 1,000 loads. While they didn’t have any special features, the Whitmor Dryer Balls are a solid choice if you don’t want to use wool on your clothing, and softening your fabrics isn’t as important.
The organic Friendsheep Wool Dryer Balls were certainly the cutest product that we tested, and come in sheep, penguin, and sloth shapes. We chose the sloth-shaped dryer balls and found them to be quite fun to use. Although the Friendsheep were a bit of a novelty, they were also made of premium New Zealand wool and made our T-shirts and comforters soft to the touch. We loved using them, but they lacked drying power.
Unfortunately, the inside of the comforter we dried was still wet and our T-shirts felt slightly damp. Since the Friendsheep are pricier than other dryer balls we tested, this might not be something to consider if you’re interested in trying dryer balls for the first time. Then again, the cute designs may encourage your kids to help with the laundry!
The Kroo Smart Dry Dryer Balls claim to reduce wrinkles and have a quicker drying time than their competitors. Despite these boasts, they didn’t stand out much from the rest of the bunch. Their drying power was average at best and without the luxurious wool, there wasn’t much to write home about.
The Homz 2-in-1 was certainly the most unique of all the models we tested. This thermoplastic dryer ball requires that you insert a dryer sheet into it. So, if you're looking to replace your dryer sheets, this is not the product for you.
The Homz holds the dryer sheet in place perfectly during the cycle. But our lab results didn't stand out during testing and our T-shirt and comforters were still damp when the 40-minute dryer cycle ended.
Made of New Zealand wool, the Snugpad is baby-safe and chemical-free. However, they didn’t score many points for quality, durability, or drying power. In our tests, the laundry still felt damp after drying it for 40 minutes. It is possible that this could be changed with a longer dry time or higher drying temperature. They were, however, the least expensive of the bunch, so if you want to try out dryer balls without a huge financial investment, the Snugpad might be a good budget option.
One thing that the Woolzies do have going for them is the option to use essential oils on the wool fabric to make your laundry smell delectable, just add a few drops and let them work their magic. The Woolzies are also organic and chemical-free but didn’t perform as well as other wool dryer balls on our list. They actually did worse in terms of drying power. The entire comforter was still damp after we dried them.
The Feeling Fluffy Wool Dryer balls are in the mid-price range and are also made of organic New Zealand wool. They scored the lowest for drying power and wool quality in our lab tests. They claim to remove flame retardant from children’s clothes but we were unable to test for that. In our more extensive lab tests, the Feeling Fluffy Dryer Balls left the laundry damp and didn’t seem to be worth their mid-price range.
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