Using a tool that looks like a many-pronged hair pick, Brooke Petry rolls and sculpts a handful of washed wool until it's a little bit smaller than a baseball. And then she makes another, and another, and another, and so on. The process, called felting, knots the wool fibers together and makes the balls strong.
If you hang around our Shop, you might know what's happening here. Brooke is making a set of dryer balls, our much-beloved, all-natural alternative to dryer sheets that have become a favorite amongst our readers, shoppers, and staff. Here's what they are and why we love them so, and why you might, too.
As they bounce around in your drying laundry, wool dryer balls sneak into the folds to aerate and fluff, keeping your wet shirts from being pinned together in one dense, soggy clump. Not only does this quicken the whole drying process, but it also smooths out wrinkles and reduces static along the way.
Unlike dryer sheets, which smell so good because they contain waxy chemicals that will rub off on your clothes—and, therefore, you—Brooke's dryer balls are composed of 100% wool. The fabric softener from dryer sheets might feel soft, but Brooke says it can actually render towels and cloths less absorbent. Not so with wool dryer balls, which won't leave anything on your laundry at all.
And if you miss the scent of dryer sheets, Brooke suggests adding a few drops of essential oils to your dryer balls before tossing them in.
The felting process makes dryer balls them sturdy; they aren't ever going to unravel on you or quit doing the job you hired them for. After about a year of use, wool dryer balls won't be as perfectly round as when you first got them—but they will still work! (Brooke's been using one set for five years!)
Dryer sheets, on the other hand, can only retire to a landfill after you've used them (and you have to keep buying them when you run out!).
The laundry room isn't where you typically expect pretty, happy things to pop up—which is why we think there's all the more reason to beautify it. A bowl full of dryer balls (especially if you opt for a colorful set) is a happy addition—and they make a great gift.
Editor's Note: This article previously stated that Brooke's dryer balls are baseball-sized and will eliminate state; it's been updated to reflect that they're actually just smaller than a baseball and reduce static.
Do you use dryer balls? Tell us why you love them in the comments.