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I have a confession to make: Though my job is writing about wellness and green living, some of my choices are… less than well, and a questionable shade of green. When, for example, it comes to my hair, I will use whatever chemical creation makes it look best and smell best. Lightbulbs? I’m addicted to the soft glow of eco-unfriendly incandescents; never shall a long-lasting LED cross my threshold. And laundry? My dryer sheet of choice is a popular supermarket brand, chemical-laden and “disposable”—as in, contributing to the landfill and pricey. The cost of those sheets really does add up. So when I heard about natural wool dryer balls, I had to give them a whirl.
These doodads—which you toss in the dryer with wet clothes—promise to make clothes soft and shorten drying time. As someone who is obsessed with NOT washing and drying my clothes too much (it wears them out so fast and I don't particularly enjoy doing laundry), I found this very appealing. Shorter drying time is not only easier on fabrics but it saves energy, which means lower energy bills. And less time doing laundry!
There are plenty of less expensive options that have great reviews, but the brand I'd been hearing about, Smart Sheep ($14 on Amazon) are handmade in Nepal of pure New Zealand wool. That’s a lotta traveling already for something meant to save the earth, but still, I was excited to test them out. I saved up all my laundry (as in, I used this as an excuse to ignore the mounting piles of clothing, sheets, and towels). Here, dear, read is how it went.
Meeting my new dryer balls
Smart Sheep Dryer Balls ($14 on Amazon) come 6 to a package, with a small instruction card. They look organic—like something you’d see in a decorative basket at a high-end home furnishings store. And my cat really, really wanted them.
I shoo'd my cat out of the basement and followed the simple instructions: "Place wool dryer balls in the dryer with your laundry. Turn on dryer." Simple enough.
The promise was that by bouncing among my clothes, the balls would “lift and separate fabrics,” increasing air flow, thus drying clothes faster — and making them softer.
I bought two packs of three, so tossed in five dryer balls with a large load of workout clothes and jeans, reserving one in case I decided to gift it to my cat. I noted the time.
Instead of waiting for the dryer's rageful beep, I returned to the basement 15 minutes shy of the usual 30-minute dry time. Not only were my clothes completely dry and static-free, but they were SO soft — as if they’d spent an hour in there with fabric softener and my favorite (chemical-laden) dryer sheet.
Reveling in tactile enjoyment (no moisture, plus silky softness) as I felt through the basket, I retrieved the balls then repeated the experiment with a load of towels and pillowcases. Perfection.
Slipping on my favorite t-shirt, I thought I might miss the fragrance my dryer sheets provided — but I didn’t. My clothes just smelled … clean. If you like a little fragrance, Smart Sheep recommends adding a drop of essential oils like lavender or lemon to a dryer ball.
These dryer balls have eradicated chemicals from my life painlessly. That’s the kind of eco-move I love. No sacrifice, no discomfort, and a huge financial savings — because at $10, these balls cost just a dollar more than a large box of my (now former) favorite dryer sheets. But where that box gets me through 244 loads, my wool dryer balls promise more than 1,000—that's almost five years' worth of laundry! And because they cut drying time by two-thirds, I'm saving a bundle on my energy bill.
And they don’t add garbage to the planet—because if and when they lose their magic powers, my cat will make great use of them forever and ever.
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