We Washed Everything From Bedding to Sweaters to Find the Best Dryer Balls
Bonus points for cute (and sustainable!) packaging.
Published Feb 12, 2022 1:00 AM
Laundry day is one of two things: a chore that brings you into a meditative state of calm or something that you push off until the absolute last minute with dread. No matter your personal feelings about the task, there’s a better way to ensure your laundry comes out of the dryer feeling fresh—dryer balls.
Our search for the fluffiest laundry—including workout sets, fuzzy sweaters, percale sheets, and bath towels—led us to testing set upon set of dryer balls. A few (okay, many) loads later, we realized these woolen wonders do everything dryer sheets promise—reduce wrinkles, soften clothes, even leave behind a refreshing, clean scent—and more, but with none of the toxic ingredients. Cost-effective and even compostable, the best dryer balls will leave you wondering why you never made the switch years ago.
- Best overall: Dropps XL Dryer Balls
- Best value: Cleancult Organic Wool Dryer Balls
- Best kit: Steamery Laundry Kit
- Best for bedding: Coyuchi Felted Wool Dryer Balls
- Best scented: Zum Sea Salt Wool Dryer Balls
- Best for colors: Serena & Lily Dryer Balls
Best Overall: Dropps XL Dryer Balls
Material: New Zealand wool | Amount: Four count | Diameter: 3.5 inches | Lifetime: 10,000 loads
What we like:
- Largest on the list
- Set of four
- Compostable packaging
- A hefty price tag (but worth the investment)
Why we chose it: These dryer balls tick all the boxes—extra-large size, pack of four, and a range of colors to compensate for fabric bleeding.
For the first round, three of these dryer balls joined a mishmash of weightier, thicker fabrics (sweatshirts, fuzzy socks, and the like). This was a big ask—in most cases, it would take at least 48 minutes to fully dry (and even then, there’s always a rogue wet sock that stays twisted throughout the duration of the cycle). But just 32 minutes later, there wasn’t a single damp fabric to be found. Still, the real magic didn’t happen until after the next load: plush terry-cotton Turkish bath towels and handwoven waffle-knit cotton towels. All came out incredibly fluffy to the touch and were given the same extra-special treatment you’d expect from a luxury gym. All that’s missing is the eucalyptus scent (which you can always add yourself, if you’d like).
Best Value: Cleancult Organic Wool Dryer Balls
Material: New Zealand wool | Amount: Three count | Diameter: 2.9 inches | Lifetime: 1,000 Loads
What we like:
- Simple design
- Ships in a reusable cotton bag
- Still a little staticky, but nothing to complain about
Why we chose it: Simple and efficient for less than $10.
Just a sliver shy of the size we’d ideally prefer, three balls added to a load were surprisingly efficient. After a couple tumbling tries, densely packed clothes dried a few minutes faster than usual and came out soft to the touch. While there were a few zaps when pulling pieces out from the machine to the laundry basket, there wasn’t too much cling, especially in comparison to running a load with sheets or nothing at all. So if static isn’t your main concern, and you don’t want to spend more than $10 on a pack of dryer balls, Cleancult is for you. Bonus: The brand offers cute, colorful storage options both for the balls and your detergent.
Best Kit: Steamery Laundry Kit
Material: Natural wool | Amount: Three count | Diameter: 3 inches | Lifetime: Three to five years
What we like:
- Extra-large size
- Comes with three beautifully scented detergents
- Good gift for grads or new homeowners
- Made in Sweden
Why we chose it: Like taking your laundry to the spa.
The first inkling Domino deputy commerce editor Samantha Weiss-Hills had that Steamery’s dryer balls were an excellent product? Their success with wrinkle-prone linen napkins. “Opening the dryer door to what looked like softly steamed napkins—truly, I could have set them right on the table—was an aha moment for me when it came to the difference between dryer sheets and balls (and these in particular!),” she notes. “Not to mention, the gorgeously scented detergents that come in this set are formulated by type of load. It’s not often I’d want to gift something as mundane as a laundry kit, but with Steamery’s sleek packaging and product efficacy, who wouldn’t want this?”
Best for Bedding: Coyuchi Felted Wool Dryer Balls
Material: American wool | Amount: Three count | Diameter: 3 inches | Lifetime: 1,000-plus loads
What we like:
- Made in the U.S.
- Soft to the touch
- Expertly fluffs sheets and towels
- Web exclusive
Why we chose it: Softer American wool makes sheets even softer.
These American-made dryer balls are ideal for tumbling your bedding—just take Weiss-Hills’s word for it. She found her king-size percale sheets to be the softest and least staticky they’ve been after running them through with these. Typically, when tackling heavy loads, she’ll have to run her small stacked dryer twice, but the extra step wasn’t necessary with this handmade pack of three. “The balls are also considerably softer than others I tested,” she adds. “And I really appreciate that Coyuchi works with local California sheep farmers to source its wool.”
Best Scented: Zum Sea Salt Wool Dryer Balls
Material: Natural wool | Amount: Three count | Diameter: 3 inches | Lifetime: 1,000 loads
What we like:
- Three clean scents to choose from
- Essential oils come in an easy-to-use spray bottle
- Part of each purchase goes to an animal rescue in Kansas City
- Packaging isn’t as design-forward
Why we chose it: Like hanging your linens to dry near the sea but with just a spritz.
If you’re looking to cut back on single-use dryer sheets or fabric softener but still craving a cozy scent that’ll linger on your clothes long after you’ve folded and put all your laundry away, our testers found Zum’s formula has staying power. Even before opening the package, you can smell the essential oils (and we mean that in a good way). While most others will burn off during an intense drying cycle, we found garments still retain a mild, natural fragrance that calls to mind putting your clothes out on a line during the summer months.
Best for Colors: Serena & Lily Dyer Balls
Material: New Zealand wool | Amount: Three count | Diameter: 3 inches | Lifetime: 1,000 loads
What we like:
- Specifically for dark loads (though you can choose between white and blue sets)
- Handmade in Nepal
- On the pricier side
Why we chose it: Help your new denim jeans fight the blues.
Although adorable, the pretty pastel periwinkle and dark navy blue of these dryer balls (also a subtle nod to the brand’s staple aesthetic) are actually for more than just looks—they’re designed to join garments that bleed (denim, wool). This pack of three offers a range of shades, so if you’re worried about the usual creamy white wool ball getting stained (or leaving behind any visible loose fibers), turn to Serena & Lily for options. Handmade in Nepal, these are somehow both soft and dense.
On Our Radar
We Also Tested
- Public Goods Wool Dryer Balls: In all honesty, you might not be able to beat this price—four balls for $12 is basically unheard of, but that’s pretty much Public Goods’s M.O. However, when it came time for tougher, heavier loads, these balls didn’t cut back as much on drying time or static as we had hoped.
- Grove Collaborative Dryer Balls: We always appreciate Grove’s commitment to low-waste packaging, and the size of its dryer balls was on par with others we really liked. The selling point for us, however, was that these balls come with the brand’s essential oils to add as a scent. We found the bergamot orange to be slightly cloying (there are three other aromas) and the application method a little clumsy. The suggested three to six drops didn’t produce a scent after drying finished; however, if more were added, we could see the lavender or eucalyptus scents working well.
- Three by Three Wool Dryer Balls: We loved that this set from the Container Store offered double the amount of dryer balls, but when using three for the same load, it didn’t make a huge difference. Bonus points for the storage tray, though!
- Five Two Dryer Balls: While we absolutely adore the look and feel of these dryer balls (the cute colorways are unparalleled), the small size just wasn’t as effective as others on this list with the same diameter.
How We Chose These Products
We did too many loads of laundry to count with 10 different brands, tossing in different colors and mixes of clothes, in addition to separate loads for linens. We used our typical heat settings in comparison with the dryers in our homes: A dated (but reliable!) 3.4-cubic-foot Whirlpool dryer that gets the job done for two people’s worth of laundry, and a larger, 30-pound capacity, family-size ADC machine (the kind you’d immediately recognize if you’ve ever had to wait at the laundromat).
Our Shopping Checklist
All the dryer balls on our list are made from wool, specifically that from New Zealand or the U.S. An inherently durable fiber, wool lasts for years, though as a natural product it is susceptible to pilling just as much as our favorite sweaters. We prioritized products with eco-friendly features—in other words, harvested from farms that won’t harm their sheep and no petroleum-based ingredients (really, there shouldn’t be anything added other than just straight-up wool).
But sustainability doesn’t start and end with the dryer ball itself. A major benefit of saying goodbye to dryer sheets is reusability and cutting back on energy costs; you won’t be running your dryer for nearly as long with the best dryer balls, trust us. We also looked for brands with sustainable packaging, whether filled with recyclable paper or shipped in compostable boxes, so we kept an eye out for these extra details.
In fact, Dropps earned extra points as the exclusive cleaning partner of Oceana, the largest ocean conservancy in the world, and for working with 3Degrees to offset the carbon footprint of every shipment it sends. The company even offers the Cora Ball, which is specifically designed to catch any loose microfibers from ending up in the world’s waterways.
Most dryer balls available today are preferred over dryer sheets for being fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. (If anything, when you take a sniff of some, you may catch a fading hint of a farm-y, warm wool smell, which, in our testing experience, faded after the first use.) But nearly every company on this list advises that, if you’re looking to infuse your laundry with a bit more fragrance than your detergent alone, you can always add a bit of essential oil to your balls. Though Coyuchi does advise that, if you want a more noticeable scent, the timing of when you add your oils is key: near the end of the cycle.
Q: So what exactly do dryer balls do? Are they any different from dryer sheets?
If you’ve ever questioned how much those thin pieces of polyester (yes, dryer sheets are often made from it!) actually do for your garments and linens, you’re not alone. Tumbling around with your wet clothes, the balls help pull your items apart, circulating heat more evenly—this leads to quicker drying times and often a softer feel—no matter if you have an electric or gas washer and dryer.
Q: How many dryer balls should I use at a time?
This magic number really depends on a number of factors—the size of your dryer, size of your load, what you’re drying (for loads consisting mainly of towels, feel free to pop an extra ball in), and the size of the dryer balls themselves. According to Cleancult, this number can be as small as three balls to as big as six, though Grove also notes you can add as many as 12 for extra-large loads (families, take note!).
Q: Is there a proper way to store dryer balls so they last longer?
Part of the eco-friendly allure of dryer balls lies in their life span—a good set of dryer balls should last you a decently long time (we’re talking close to three years, or after about a thousand loads; though Dropps notes its dryer balls can make it through 10,000) before starting to unravel.
To prevent this from happening sooner, store these handy helpers away from too much moisture or questionable smells (the worst thing might be to pop in dryer balls that remind you of last night’s dinner). And if you do have them hanging around longer, cleaning them every now and then wouldn’t be a bad idea. Giving them a gentle scrub using a little detergent and warm water before air-drying can go a long way.
The Last Word
Take it from us: When we say swapping dryer sheets for the best dryer balls is one of the best things you can do to cut back on drying times and gain fluffier, softer garments, we mean it! Not only will your energy bill likely look less scary, you may never have to add on extra time to a heat cycle again.
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