What Is a Dryer Ball and How Do They Work?


Dryer balls have become a popular laundry aid in recent years as an eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets. But what exactly are dryer balls, and how do they work their magic in the dryer?

In short, dryer balls are small spherical items that are added to laundry loads to help separate clothes, soften fabric, reduce drying time, and cut down on static cling. Rather than using chemicals and fragrances like dryer sheets, dryer balls utilize physical properties and motion to achieve these effects.

Dryer balls are available in a variety of materials such as wool, plastic, and rubber. They range in size from 2 inches to 4 inches in diameter. Simply toss a few dryer balls in with your wet laundry at the start of the drying cycle. As the dryer drum rotates, the balls will bounce around, creating space between the clothes and preventing them from balling up.

Below we will explore what materials dryer balls are made of, how they soften clothes, reduce static, and cut drying time. We’ll also offer tips on how to use dryer balls effectively with different types of laundry.

What Are Dryer Balls Made Of?

The most common materials used to manufacture dryer balls include:

Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls are made from 100% wool roving formed into a tight sphere. Wool contains microscopic scales that lift and separate laundry fibers. As the balls tumble, these scales help prevent static cling by neutralizing positively charged clothing and linens. Wool balls gently soften fabrics over time but are not an instant softener like dryer sheets. Look for wool dryer balls made from New Zealand wool which has longer fibers for enhanced longevity.

Plastic Dryer Balls

Plastic dryer balls are hollow balls made from lightweight rigid plastic, often with small holes or grooves on the surface. As they circulate during the dry cycle, these grooves gently separate laundry fibers to reduce wrinkles and static buildup. Plastic balls make a louder noise than other materials when bouncing around the dryer drum.

Rubber or silicone Dryer Balls

Rubber or silicone dryer balls have a solid, flexible rubber core. Small nubs or grooves are molded into the surface to lift and separate laundry as the balls tumble. Rubber dryer balls are durable, remain flexible even in hot drying temperatures, and prevent static.

How Do Dryer Balls Work?

Now that we know what materials dryer balls are constructed from, let’s look at how they work their laundry magic:

Separating and Fluffing

Dryer balls are first and foremost designed to keep laundry separated and fluffed up. Wet laundry tends to clump together during the dry cycle. This can lead to uneven drying and wrinkled fabrics.

Dryer balls bounce around the drum, physically breaking up clumps and tangling to allow air to circulate evenly through the laundry. This prevents wet spots from forming and facilitates faster drying.

The movement of the balls also fluffs up fabrics as they dry so clothes emerge nice and soft without stiffness. Dryer balls are especially useful for fluffing up towels, sheets, and blankets.

Softening Fabrics

In addition to fluffing, dryer balls also work to soften fabrics over time. The softening mechanism depends on the material:

  • Wool – The scales on wool balls lift and separate fibers. This helps retain fluffiness while preventing stiffness.
  • Plastic – Grooves on plastic ball surfaces lift fibers. The friction also creates a slight static charge which binds loose fibers.
  • Rubber – Nubs masssage laundry and raise the nap. This gentle abrasion helps maintain softness after repeated wash and dry cycles.

While dryer balls will soften fabrics over the course of several loads, they do not add instant softness like dryer sheets. To boost the softening power, add a few drops of essential oil onto wool or rubber dryer balls.

Reducing Static

In addition to softening fabrics, dryer balls also eliminate static cling. This is again thanks to the material properties:

  • Wool – The lanolin contained in wool possesses natural antistatic properties.
  • Plastic – Plastic balls discharge built up static as they tumble.
  • Rubber – Rubber neutralizes static charge on clothes through contact.

Using multiple balls provides more surface area contact for discharging static. If you live in a dry climate or notice static is still an issue, try adding a few more balls.

Shortening Drying Time

As an added bonus, dryer balls can cut drying time by up to 25% according to manufacturers. There are a couple factors at play in decreasing drying time:

  • Air is able to circulate freely and evenly through the loosened laundry, facilitating faster evaporation.
  • The movement of the balls actively pumps air through clothes more efficiently than the dryer mechanism alone.
  • Synthetics dry faster when heat is allowed to distribute rather than being trapped in a wet ball of fabric.

Faster drying leads to energy savings as you can run the dryer for a shorter cycle. It also reduces wear and tear on laundry from over-drying.

How Many Dryer Balls Should You Use?

The number of dryer balls needed depends on the size of the load:

  • 2-3 balls for small loads
  • 3-5 balls for medium loads
  • 5-6 balls for large or double loads

As a general rule of thumb, allow 2-3 balls per towel or sheet to effectively separate the fabric. For bulkier items like comforters, use 5-6 balls to lift and fluff the material.

Too few balls for a larger load won’t reach all areas of the drum. Start with 3-4 balls and add more as needed if clothes are still clumping.

While extra balls won’t damage laundry, too many may push clothes to the sides, preventing effective tumbling. Judge the correct quantity by the degree of fluffing and separation achieved.

Dryer Ball Benefits and Effectiveness

Using dryer balls in place of dryer sheets provides the following advantages:

Environmentally Friendly

Dryer balls are reusable for hundreds of cycles, reducing waste from single use dryer sheets. Wool balls are fully biodegradable. Plastic balls can be recycled. Neither contain chemicals or coatings that get deposited on laundry and into water systems.

Cost Effective

Since dryer balls are a one-time purchase that can be used for years, they offer savings over buying monthly supplies of disposable dryer sheets. Wool balls may have a higher upfront cost but pay for themselves over time.


Wool and rubber balls contain no dyes, synthetic perfumes, or chemicals. This makes them less likely to irritate those with skin sensitivities or allergies compared to dryer sheets.

Safe for All Fabrics

Dryer balls can be used on all fabric types without risk of damage, including delicate silks and woolens. The gentle tumbling mimics hand washing. Dryer sheets can leave chemical residue on fabric that may degrade integrity over time.

Effective Softening and Reduced Static

While dryer balls soften gradually rather than instantly, many users find clothes softened by long-term use are ultimately softer, floppier, and have less static cling compared to dryer sheets. Adding essential oils boosts the softening power.

Tips for Using Dryer Balls Effectively

Here are some top tips for maximizing the effectiveness of dryer balls:

Allow a Break-In Period

Wool and rubber balls work better once they’ve been used for a few loads to break them in. Brand new balls may need a week or two before you notice solid results.

Use Fabric Softener for Added Softness

If you miss the instant burst of softness from dryer sheets, use dryer balls for fluffing then spritz a small amount of liquid fabric softener on laundry. Tumble briefly to distribute.

Check Balls Periodically for Fluffiness

Over time, dryer ball fibers can become matted down from repeated hot drying cycles. Check balls occasionally and use a comb to fluff up flattened wool fibers so they remain effective.

Avoid Overloading the Dryer

Dryer balls need room to circulate and bounce in order to properly lift and separate the laundry. Don’t pack the dryer too full or balls can’t reach all areas.

Add Essential Oils for Fragrance

To naturally scent laundry while softening, add a few drops of essential oils onto wool or rubber balls before drying. Change up oil types for variety.

Use Extra Balls for Large Items

For drying large items like blankets or comforters, use extra balls (6-8) to make sure the interior filling gets adequately fluffed.

Remove Balls Promptly After Drying

Always remove dryer balls once the cycle finishes so they don’t melt in subsequent drying loads. Stash balls in a mesh bag on or near your dryer so they stay together.

Dryer Ball FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about dryer balls:

What laundry items do dryer balls work best with?

Dryer balls are great for drying towels, sheets, t-shirts, sweaters, jeans, blankets, and other fabrics that tend to clump up when wet. Use extra balls for bulkier items. They are less useful for delicate lingerie and lightweight fabrics that don’t ball up as much.

Can you use dryer balls with fabric softener or dryer sheets?

Absolutely. Simply add the balls in first at the start of the cycle for fluffing and separation, then toss in sheets or dispense liquid softener during the last 5-10 minutes for added softness and fragrance.

How long do dryer balls last?

With proper care, wool dryer balls will last for 1-2 years and rubber balls for 2+ years. Plastic balls tend to crack over time. Replace balls once they look overly matted, are flattened, or no longer bounce well.

Should you use dryer balls with the delicates or no heat setting?

Yes, dryer balls are safe to use on all heat settings and with delicate fabrics. They provide gentle tumbling to lift and circulate fabrics. Remove promptly when the cycle finishes so they don’t sit in heat.

Can dryer balls damage clothes?

When used properly, dryer balls should not cause damage. However, avoid overloading the washer as the balls need room to tumble properly. Check for loose buttons before drying to prevent snags, and remove promptly after the cycle finishes.

Should you add water or conditioner to dryer balls?

Wool balls may be lightly misted with water before the first few uses to prevent initial squeaking. Do not soak or add liquid conditioners which may compromise the wool fibers. Rubber or plastic balls can be used dry right out of the package.

How do you clean dryer balls?

Spot clean wool balls as needed with cold water and mild detergent, then air dry. Plastic balls can be washed with laundry. Rubber balls can be wiped down with soap and water or washed in the dishwasher. Avoid harsh chemicals.

Can you put tennis balls in the dryer instead?

Tennis balls are not an effective substitute. They lack the fabric softening properties and may have a fuzzy coating that can rub off. Stick with balls specifically designed as dryer balls for best results.

The Bottom Line

Dryer balls provide an eco-friendly way to soften, freshen, and reduce static on laundry loads. Simply toss in 2-6 balls (depending on load size) and let the tumbling action work its magic. Dryer balls are reusable for hundreds of loads, providing cost savings over disposable dryer sheets in the long run. With the proper care, dryer balls will last for years, effectively reducing drying time and keeping clothes lint-free and tangle-free. Give them a try — your clothes and wallet will thank you!

What Is a Dryer Ball and How Do They Work?

What are dryer balls?

Dryer balls are small, soft balls that are added to laundry loads in clothes dryers to help separate clothing and linens during drying. They are a chemical-free alternative to fabric softener sheets and liquid softeners.

Dryer balls are usually made from wool, rubber, or plastic. They range in diameter from 2 to 4 inches. Rather than using chemicals to soften fabrics like dryer sheets, dryer balls rely on their physical properties to lift, separate and soften laundry through the power of motion.

As the dryer drum rotates, the balls bounce around and create space between the fabrics. This allows air to circulate evenly and prevents clothing from clumping together. Dryer balls gently soften fabrics, reduce static cling, and can even shorten drying time.

How do dryer balls work?

Here are the ways dryer balls utilize motion to work their laundry magic:

  • Fabric separation – Dryer balls continuously lift and separate the fabrics as they tumble. This prevents clothes from balling up and allows air to flow through. Even drying prevents wrinkles and wadded up spots.
  • Fluffing – The bouncing action fluffs up fabrics and garment filling. This helps towels, sheets and other items retain loft and softness. Clothes emerge from the dryer smoother with less stiffness.
  • Softening – Dryer balls naturally soften fabrics over time through friction, absorption and static discharge depending on the material. Many users find clothes softened through long-term dryer ball use are ultimately softer than with dryer sheets.
  • Anti-static – Dryer balls help eliminate static cling by neutralizing static charges that build up on clothing during the heat of drying. Certain materials like wool are naturally anti-static.
  • Faster drying – Allowing air to circulate freely through the loosened clothes speeds up the drying process, cutting drying time significantly.

What materials are dryer balls made of?

Dryer balls are constructed from different materials that each offer unique benefits:

  • Wool – Wool balls are crafted from 100% wool roving. Long wool fibers lift and separate laundry. Wool contains lanolin with natural anti-static abilities.
  • Plastic – Lightweight plastic balls contain grooves and holes to help circulate air. The grooves lift and separate fibers while preventing static buildup.
  • Rubber/silicone – Rubber dryer balls have a solid core with nubs molded into the exterior. The nubs help soften fabrics while the rubber material naturally neutralizes static.

How many dryer balls should you use?

The number of balls needed depends on the size of the laundry load:

  • Small loads = 2-3 balls
  • Medium loads = 3-5 balls
  • Large/double loads = 5-6 balls

Aim to use 2-3 balls per average load of towels or sheets. Bulkier items like blankets may require 5-6 balls. Too few balls won’t reach all areas of a bigger load. Start with 3-4 and add more as needed.

Benefits of using dryer balls

There are many benefits to using dryer balls rather than chemical-laden dryer sheets:

  • Cost effective – Dryer balls are reusable for hundreds of loads, saving money in the long run over disposable dryer sheets.
  • Eco-friendly – Dryer balls produce no waste and contain no chemicals that get deposited on clothes or into wastewater.
  • Hypoallergenic – The materials do not contain dyes, perfumes or chemicals, making them less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
  • Safe for all fabrics – Dryer balls are gentle enough to use on delicates like silk, wool and lingerie without risk of damage.
  • Soften fabrics – Many users find fabrics are actually softer when dried long term with balls versus dryer sheets.
  • Reduce static – Dryer balls help eliminate static cling by neutralizing the static charge on clothes.
  • Cut drying time – Dryer balls can reduce drying time by 25% or more.

Tips for using dryer balls effectively

Follow these tips to maximize dryer ball effectiveness:

  • Allow wool or rubber balls a few cycles to break-in before judging results.
  • Periodically fluff flattened wool balls with a comb or fork.
  • Use extra balls for large loads and bulky items.
  • Add a few drops of essential oils onto balls to lightly scent laundry.
  • Use dryer balls for fluffing then add liquid softener toward the end for softness.
  • Make sure to remove balls promptly when drying finishes so they don’t deform in the heat.

The bottom line

Dryer balls provide an economical, eco-friendly way to soften fabrics, reduce static cling, separate laundry, and shorten drying time. Simply throw in 2-6 balls per load and let the motion do the work! With some trial and error, dryer balls can replace dryer sheets and liquid softeners for most laundry needs.

What Is a Dryer Ball and How Do They Work?

What are dryer balls?

Dryer balls are small, round accessories that are added to clothes dryers to help laundry dry faster and come out softer and less wrinkled. They provide an alternative to chemical-laden dryer sheets.

Dryer balls are typically spherical, 2-4 inches in diameter, and made from materials like wool, rubber, plastic or silicone. Instead of using chemicals and perfumes to soften clothes like dryer sheets do, dryer balls rely on their physical properties and motion to lift, separate and soften fabrics.

How do dryer balls work?

When dryer balls are tossed into the dryer drum, the rotating motion makes the balls bounce around continuously. This motion provides several benefits:

  • Separation – Dryer balls break up clumps of laundry and prevent items from balling up together. This allows air to circulate fully through the fabrics for faster, more even drying.
  • Fluffing – As dryer balls tumble, they lift and fluff up the laundry fibers. This helps items like towels retain their softness instead of