Dryer balls may look unusual, but the concept behind these spiky spheres isn't as farfetched as it may seem. They're designed to separate clothes as they tumble, and the constant fluffing and air exchange results in a faster drying time. According to manufacturers, dryer balls also eliminate the need for fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Just toss them into your dryer with a load of laundry.
Dryer balls are made by different companies, but all brands essentially look and function the same. We chose to cover several brands -- which may or may not be officially called Dryer Balls -- in order to provide readers with enough reviews to gather a general consensus.
Popular Mechanics writer Harry Sawyers runs National TV Products' Dryer Balls through a lab test and comes away unimpressed. His biggest complaint is the noise they produce as "the hard plastic clanks audibly against the dryer drum." What's more, Sawyers says they don't make appear to make laundry noticeably softer. They do appear to do a decent job of fluffing clothes, but Carolyn Forte, the director of home appliances and cleaning products at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, tells Sawyers that other objects -- such as a clean tennis shoe -- will fluff clothes just as well. The Dryer Balls also fall short when it comes to controlling static electricity, he says, something that dryer sheets are designed to do.
Three news stations -- KOMO in Seattle, KCBD in Texas and WJAC in Pennsylvania -- test Dryer Max Dryer Balls and get mixed results. Tish Johnson, a volunteer for KOMO, gives them a thumbs-up, although she says that her laundry is not nearly as soft as when she uses fabric softener. KCBD editors pit Dryer Max Dryer Balls against a fabric sheet by washing two identical loads of laundry. They find the dryer balls made the towels fluffier and reduced the drying time by 15 percent. Charlene Kulick, a volunteer tester at WJAC, gives Dryer Max balls a thumbs-down after running them through a complete cycle. Kulick says the balls created too much noise in the dryer and she had no idea when to replace them.
In a brief review, Erin Huffstetler, guide to frugal living for About.com, also reviews Dryer Max Dryer Balls, listing their pros and cons -- but not disclosing her testing methods. She says the balls do cut energy costs by reducing drying time and soften clothes without the use of chemicals. Echoing the complaints of other reviewers, Huffstetler cites noise and static cling among the product's drawbacks.
User reviews for The Original Dryer Balls at Amazon.com are pretty evenly spilt down the middle. Some owners love them and say they work as advertised, while others say they're very noisy and fall apart easily -- in as little as a week in one case. A few users actually recommend using a tennis ball instead, saying they're cheaper and work just as well, if not better.
"Amy," a blogger at MakesMomHappy.com, writes a lengthy post -- complete with before-and-after photos of her laundry -- praising Mystic Wonders' Wonder Balls. She says they took "10 minutes off the dryer cycle," and her clothes came out incredibly fluffy. However, she points out that Wonder Balls do not alleviate static cling from her towels and says she'll continue to use a dryer sheet along with the balls.
Harry Sawyers tests National TV Products' Dryer Balls to see if they perform as well as the advertisements claim. He is largely unimpressed, saying he notices no difference in his laundry -- aside from a lot of noise while drying clothes -- when using them. He also dislikes the fact that they cannot control static electricity, making them inferior to dryer sheets in his opinion. Sawyers asks Carolyn Forte of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute to weigh in, and she says "a clean sneaker" would be just as effective in fluffing clothes.
Review: Do Dryer Balls Work? As Seen on TV Lab Test, Harry Sawyers, Oct. 23, 2009
2. KOMO (Seattle)
In a test for this Seattle news station, volunteer Tish Johnson tries Dryer Max Dryer Balls while drying her sheets. She likes the clean feeling they create, saying, "It feels like if I'd have hung 'em up outside." However, she says the sheets don't come out as soft as they do with dryer sheets. Despite this, she says she'd recommend the product.
Review: Does It Work? Dryer Ball, Connie Thompson, Updated: Aug. 31, 2006
3. KCBD (Lubbock, TX)
Editors compare Dryer Max Dryer Balls to a fabric sheet by washing two identical loads of towels. They come away thoroughly impressed with the Dryer Balls, saying they made the towels fluffier and reduced the drying time by 15 percent.
Review: The Dryer Max Dryer Balls: Does It Work?, Editors of KCBD, Mar. 1, 2006
4. WJAC (Johnstown, Pa.)
Charlene Kulick , a volunteer tester for WJAC, uses Dryer Max Anti-Static Balls on a load of her laundry and comes away unimpressed. Her biggest complaint is that they make too much noise while they are in the dryer. She also doesn't like the fact that the manufacturer doesn't indicate when to replace them.
Review: Try It Thursday Tests Anti-Static Dryer Balls, Editors of WJAC, Updated: Nov. 8, 2007
About 20 users have posted reviews for The Original Dryer Balls, and they earn an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5. Reviews are mixed: Some users say they really like them, and notice their clothes are fluffier and drying time is shorter. Others are disappointed, complaining that the Dryer Balls make a lot of noise in their machines, and one user says they fell apart after about a week.
Review: Dryer Balls - The Original Dryer Balls, Contributors to Amazon.com
Erin Huffstetler, About.com's guide to frugal living, reviews Dryer Max Dryer Balls but doesn't provide any details about her testing methods. She does recommend them, saying, "Dryer Max Dryer Balls are a great buy for those looking to cut energy costs or move away from chemical fabric softeners." However, she does encounter some drawbacks, including noise, static cling and a tendency to get stuck in clothes. Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.
Review: Dryer Max Dryer Balls: Product Review, Erin Huffstetler
In this detailed post that includes photos, blogger and mother "Amy" raves about her experience with Mystic Wonders' Wonder Balls. She says they reduced her drying time by 10 minutes, making her clothes especially fluffy. Wonder Balls must still be used with a dryer sheet in order to eliminate static electricity, she adds.
Review: Laundry with No Soap?! It's a Mystic Wonder!, "Amy", May 18, 2009