What every best has:
Dryer balls are 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.