Do these popular dryer balls actually work?
There are a lot of promises to fulfill
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Many consumers are fed up with potential toxins and are looking for chemical-free alternatives to the products they use in their day-to-day lives, including in the laundry room. Wool dryer balls have become a popular option to replace dryer sheets, promising shorter dryer times, wrinkle reduction, and softer clothes all without using any harsh substances.
While dryer sheets are safe to use, there is some concern about the fragrances containing VOCs. We decided to put the Woolzies dryer balls, a favorite on Amazon with a 4.4-star rating out of nearly 1,900 reviews, to the test in our labs to find out if they live up to the hype.
What are Woolzies?
Woolzies are baseball-sized spheres made from organic New Zealand wool. These balls are supposed to help dry clothing faster, reduce wrinkles, and can be used to infuse essential oils to your laundry. While the dryer balls don’t come with essentials oils, Woolzies sells a wide variety separately.
There are many wool dryer balls on the market, but Woolzies do set themselves apart. The female-owned company sources wool that is sheared from livestock raised under the Animal Welfare Regulations of New Zealand. Regulations prohibit the sheep from getting an electric shock or getting mulesinged—the practice of removing patches of skin to prevent flies.
Woolzies also differentiates itself in the market by offering a variety of colored dryer balls that are designed to work with essential oils.
How do dryer balls work?
The biggest enemy preventing laundry from coming out dry is clumping. We call it laundry sausage in the lab, where the edges get dry but clothes trapped in the middle come out wet. In theory, if you add dryer balls to a load of laundry, they will knock clothes around and keep them from wrapping around each other. In theory, clothing that dries evenly will have fewer wrinkles and the time it takes to dry will be reduced.
How we tested the Woolzies
At Reviewed, we have extensive experience testing dryers, so we have a pretty good grasp on how dryers behave. We tested the Woolzies to see if they could lower drying times, reduce wrinkles, soften towels, and see if they affected absorbency the way a dryer sheet does.
For the dryer, we chose the LG DLEX3700W, a model we found to have consistent performance. Here’s how the Woolzies performed.
To test drying times, we used our standard load of 13 towels, four pillowcases, and two bedsheets, all soaked in water until they weighed 1.7 times their bone-dry weight. We did five cycles with dryer balls and five without and measured any cycle time differences.
We ran three T-shirts through two Normal cycles, one with the Woolzies and one without. They were visually inspected to see if there was a reduction in wrinkles.
We took fresh towels straight from the store and divided them into four groups. One was a control that underwent no conditioning. Another towel was subjected to three Normal cycles with dryer balls. The third towel went through the Normal cycles with nothing. Finally, we had a towel treated with non-scented dryer sheets. We presented these towels to a panel to touch and feel to determine which one was the softest.
We took the towels from the softness test and sprayed them with water. After, we did a visual and touch test to look for water that was beading on the surface rather than being absorbed.
After tallying up the test results, we can say confidently that Woolzies are mostly useless. We found no evidence that they reduced drying times. Cycle times varied by five minutes both ways when using the dryer balls.
We also found no evidence the Woolzies created softer towels. Our panel did not feel a difference between the towels treated with dryer balls and the dryer-only towel.
While the Woolzies did not live up to their main claims of shorter dryer cycles or softer laundry, they did pass two of our tests. Comparing the T-shirts, we observed some wrinkle reduction. We also saw that the dryer-ball towels absorbed water better than those that were dried with a dryer sheet.
Are Woolzies worth it?
The short answer is no. The first claim on the back of the box is that they reduce drying time by 25%. We found no evidence of anything of the sort. They did not make our towels softer compared to the control and we were able to achieve the same level of wrinkle reduction by changing some of the settings on our dryer.
The only upside we saw was that they are a better alternative than dryer sheets to giving your laundry a fresh scent. People who are concerned about VOCs in their dryers can control what goes into their laundry better with dryer balls. If you view the Woolzies through this lens, the product makes a lot of sense.
The top-sellers on the company’s website are primarily essential oils. We would have been more than happy to applaud Woolzies for its eco-friendly practices if this product just claimed to be a good way to impart essential oils to your laundry.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.