Natural, Non-Toxic Laundry: Nellie’s Dryer Balls

Nellies dryer balls I was just doing my laundry the other day and was reminded of how much I have loved using these nifty dryer balls!

For starters, why would I not simply use dryer sheets?

  • They may contain ingredients such as: benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer), benzyl alcohol (an upper
    respiratory tract irritant), ethanol (linked to central nervous system
    disorders), limonene (a known carcinogen) and chloroform (a neurotoxin
    and carcinogen), among others (source)
  • Similarly to fabric softeners, dryer sheets may contain: neurotoxic toluene and trimethylbenzene, styrene (a
    possible carcinogen), the respiratory irritants phenol and xylene, and
    thymol, which can cause abdominal distress, according to a study in the
    May 2000 issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. (source) 
  • Some of these chemicals are also known to be "xenoestrogens", which are environmental chemicals that mimic estrogen and can greatly alter hormone balance. (See this previous post for a little more on environmental estrogens)

These balls are a wonderful alternative to conventional dryer sheets! The ones that I have are Nellie’s Dryer Balls
(there may be other brand out there), and they are fantastic! I've been using mine for about 9 months now, drying an average of 5-9 loads of laundry a week, and they still perform as well as ever. They are guaranteed to last up to 2 years, and from what I can see, they definitely will!

What I love about them is that they help to really air and lift up clothes as they move around in the dryer, which encourages more evenly dried clothes. Somehow, this helps to relax the fibers in fabrics, resulting in softer clothes, towels, etc. and also shorter drying times (energy and money saving- whohoo!). I have really noticed the latter benefit, as the dryer in our rental home is not exactly top notch. It would sometimes take 80-90 minutes to dry a load of towels or dark clothes (like jeans and sweatshirts). Using the dryer balls, I very rarely have to run my dryer for more than 60-70 minutes, even with those heavier dryer loads.

They also seem to cut down on static cling, even though that isn't stated in their ads. I have found it to be true, though, which is another wonderful bonus for those of us trying to do our laundry more naturally and chemical-free!

If you're still looking to add some scent, one option is to use a small cloth and put just a couple of drops of an essential oil fragrance that you enjoy (lavender, citrus, etc.) and toss the cloth in with your clothes while they dry. When the cloth begins to lose it's scent, simply add a few more drops. I just noticed that Nellie's has also recently come out with some new dryer balls, which are able to be loaded with a scent stick that uses essential oils for it's fragrance. Similar idea, slightly different method.

Do you use dryer sheets? Have you found any alternatives that you find just as effective? Any other Nellie's users out there?

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  1. I run at least 2 loads a day and when I dry indoors I always use these. They make my little daipers so soft.

  2. We use dryer balls with our laundry too. I am amazed but what a good job they do and could not see going back to dryer sheets even if those sheets were completely safe.

  3. I use them too. One of mine broke though (it got a big crack in it somehow), so I just use one, and it works just fine! I love that I’m not using chemicals!

  4. I read that using two new (read: clean) tennis balls would have the same effect. Rather loud, and not really sure if they do much for the softness (I’ve never really had a problem with my dryer dried clothes not being soft – – even without fabric softener.) My problem is the STATIC! The tennis balls don’t really seem to reduce it. I see, Stephanie, that you said the dryer balls seem to help… Anyone have a guaranteed natural remedy to prevent static cling for items dried in the dryer? I would be really appreciative. I have considered going back to dryer sheets, but they are so wasteful and toxic. Thanks for the help!

  5. This is fantastic! My husband does our laundry (he works from home) and insists on using dryer sheets to get rid of the static, though I didn’t notice it until he moved in. I may have to get some of these and hide his dryer sheets. Thanks!

  6. Growing up my family never used dryer sheets. In college I tried them a few times because they smell so good but I hate how there seems to be a film on the clothes, so I didn’t continue with them. I recently found dryer balls 90% of at CVS so I got some for $0.25! We have been using them for the past few months. I do like how they aerate the clothes so they dry faster. My husband thinks they are weird, but then again he never does the laundry!

  7. I saw these at the health food store yesterday. I’m really interested in trying them. I haven’t used dryer sheets or fabric softener for a while, and I do miss the softness that they added to my clothes and towels. I’ll have to pick these up! Thanks for the review!

  8. I’ve been using vinegar in my rinse cycle of the washing machine (put it in the fabric softener dispenser), and that seems to cut down on static. I don’t use dryer sheets or dryer balls, and my clothes seem to be soft and static-free.

  9. I love using wool balls in my dryer. I made them by winding wool into a soft ball. Then I washed tem several times to fuzz. Now I just pop them in the dryer and they make my clothes static free and soft.

  10. I’ve been using the Static Eliminator Dryer Sheet, which is a polyester/nylon reusable sheet that goes in the dryer with wet clothes. It really seems to help with the static! Our clothes come out smelling clean and natural, not perfumed. I also use vinegar in the rinse cycle.

  11. I do plan on getting some of these when I purchase my cloth diapering supplies for the baby I’m carrying (12 weeks pregnant)!!! I can’t wait to try them. 🙂

  12. I’ve seen these and wondered if they work. I might have to get some this fall/winter when I can’t line dry outside anymore.

    I don’t use any dryer sheets ever for many years. When I do dry clothes in the dryer we don’t seem to have much issues with static. I try not to over dry them though.

    Any tips on what to do with second hand clothes that are smelly from dryer sheets/scented soaps? I often have to wash them several times and line dry several times, washing with vinegar etc before they are wearable…but I also have bad allergies to artificial fragrances.

  13. Stephanie, your facts on softener and dryer sheet ingredients is alarming! The few I have left will be discarded asap! I have some Mrs. Meyer’s dryer sheets that seem to be better for the environment and people – biodegradable, essential oils, and plant derived softening agents. They really smell great! I use them for my fine washables. That said, they are too expensive for every load and I look forward to trying the dryer balls or wool ball mentioned by Valencia or the vinegar. It is so dry here that static is always an issue.

  14. We honestly have just about quit using our dryer and line dry probably 90% of the time. If it is raining or too cold, I will occasionally, but even then we’ll just have laundry strewn about our house. Yes, the clothes are a but crunchy, but I just didn’t see having softer laundry as a good enough reason to use our dryer! Our electricity bill has also decreased substantially! I guess I do dry towels when we have guests so they aren’t crunchy. Vinegar rinse also helps make them softer. It is one of my simple pleasures to see all the clean diapers out on the line:)

  15. I grew up thinking you had to use dryer sheets in every load. When we started cloth diapering, we stopped using them and now I cannot stand the smell or feel of fabric softener!

    I’ve not tried the dryer balls, but they have intrigued me. Good to hear they really work! I’ll have to keep my eye out for a good deal on them.

  16. I have been using dryer balls for about six months and love them. I also use vinegar in my rinse as well.
    I am with Megan, I can’t stand the smell of dryer sheets or fabric softener anymore.
    Even when it is on other people’s clothing.

  17. So, when dryer balls “relax the fiber in the fabrics,” does this increase the wear on the clothes? Do your clothes wear out faster?

  18. I read in an online review for these dryer balls that they are made with PVC, which may be harmful. Any research or info about that?

  19. Arlie and Kristy, they have some new ones out that are NOT made with PVC. Yay! 🙂 I already have the PVC ones (because I didn’t realize what they were made with back when I got them), but when I replace them, I’m definitely going with the newer ones. Thanks for bringing that up!

  20. Just picked these up at the store (Aldi had a two-pack for $6.99!) and I can’t wait to give them a try! Thanks for the review!

  21. We registered for these for our wedding in October, and were lucky enough to receive them. I LOVE them; however, after about 2 months of regular use and no problems, I am noticing that our clothes are coming out with a lot of static. Is there any way I can re-new them or help them to make my clothes static free again? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  22. I have wool drier balls that I use. I have used them for almost a year now and they don’t show any sign of wear. (and we are a family of 5, so I do a lot of laundry).

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