Dryer balls are small, round pieces of nubby plastic designed to reduce drying time, remove wrinkles, soften fibers and fluff fabrics in a clothes dryer. Available in most department stores, these energy-saving gizmos offer up a seemingly affordable, renewable alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners. However, even with their growing popularity, consumers remain skeptical. For many, the question remains if they actually work. The answer is apparently a matter of opinion.
Dryer balls are placed in the dryer along with the wet laundry. As they tumble, they lift and separate the fabrics, increasing the circulation of air and heat. Theoretically, this should decrease drying time and reduce the amount of electricity required to dry a single load of laundry. Additionally, as the balls bounce, they are designed to plump up the fabrics, resulting in softer, fluffier clothing without the need for chemical fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
Though individual results vary, it appears that the dryer balls actually do fluff fabrics and reduce drying time. According to a study done by Technicare Services Limited, dryer balls can decrease drying time by up to 25 percent, but an independent home study done by Green Energy Efficient Homes demonstrated a reduction of less than 10 percent. While these discrepancies could possibly be due to differences in the efficiency and quality of individual appliances, along with different drying times for various fabrics, it is worth noting that even those who were less than satisfied with the results did note a decrease in drying time. That being said, while the use of dryer balls may lead to lower laundry costs, they can also lead to an increase in static electricity. And due to the size and weight of the balls, they tend to be quite loud when in use. However, for some the benefits outweigh the potentially annoying thumping noise and the extra-clingy clothing.
Homemade Dryer Balls
To try dryer balls before investing in an actual set, use a simple substitute, such as a tennis ball, a crumpled up wad of aluminum foil or even a clean tennis shoe. Place the item into the dryer, add wet clothing and operate the dryer as usual. If the theory holds water, the clothing should be soft and dry, much sooner than expected.
To get the most out of your dryer without adding dryer balls, dry clothing one load after another, if possible, as this makes the best use of the heat that has already been generated. Also, try to avoid both extra-small and extremely large loads; very small loads tend to bunch up while larger loads cannot tumble efficiently. When time allows, sort clothing by weight. It is much more efficient to dry heavy clothes in one load and lightweight fabrics in another.
Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.