Wool Dryer Balls: Cruelty Free or an Eco Disaster? It Depends.

By Georgette Kilgore | Updated on September 13, 2021

Wool dryer balls are a natural and non-static solution for reducing energy and lowering CO2 emissions by reducing drying time.

But, despite the unquestionable benefits of lowering carbon emissions, these little home savers are part of a larger debate: Whether or not the wool used to make them is harvested using cruelty-free practices.

So, are they an eco-disaster? It depends.

Keep reading…

An 8 Billion Trees graphic titled 'Eco-Benefits of Wool Dryer Balls' and listing energy saving, baby safe, reusable, hypoallergenic, reduces drying times, and removes static cling naturally as the benefits, with an illustration of a wool dryer ball.

At first glance, dryer balls look like a bleached tennis balls, but they can play an integral role in restoring environmental balance. Since using a clothes dryer is part of life (for most of us), they are an excellent option for reducing your carbon footprint… but only under certain conditions.

Best Wool Dryer Balls You Can Get in 2021: Dryer Sheets Alternatives

When choosing a wool dryer ball, it’s important to choose one that is cruelty-free, to ensure the wool was harvested sustainably and without any harm to the animal. Sheep should never need to be harmed for their wool, and it helps to know that the wool in your dryer balls came from a happy, healthy sheep. Some other considerations include:

  • Long lasting options: Of course, the reduced amount of waste by replacing dryer sheets with balls is an immediate benefit, and the wool itself is biodegradable, but choose a product that will have lasting power to get the most for your money.
  • Completely Compostable: When your dryer balls have reached their limit with laundry, they can achieve another stage of life if they are completely compostable. Place them in your garden to deliver a strong water retention solution.

Here’s some of the best ones on the market:

8 Billion Trees wool dryer balls with large 8's printed on them.

1. 8 Billion Trees Wool Dryer Balls7

Using cruelty free wool, 8 Billion Trees’ dryer balls offer a benefit that others don’t, making them a great choice for eco-conscious consumers who want to do more with their money than simply save energy. With these dryer balls, your purchase funds the planting of new trees (to remove the carb emissions generated by production), but it also helps rehabilitate endangered animals. So, you not only rebuild habitats that have been destroyed so that animals can flourish, you help the planet erase some of the greenhouse gases clogging the atmosphere.

  • Price: $12.99 for pack of 3
  • Cruelty Free? Yes
  • Eco-Disaster? No

Smart Sheep dryer balls stacked up.

2. Smart Sheep8

Smart Sheep dryer balls are made from 100% New Zealand wool and felted in Nepal by minorities paid a strong living wage. Great for removing pet hair, these sustainable and eco-friendly dryer balls come in packs of six and cost $16.95.

  • Cruelty free? Yes
  • Eco-Disaster? No

Plant Therapy dryer balls with essnetial oil.

3. Plant Therapy Essential Oils9

The great thing about this wool dryer package is that it comes with grapefruit essential oil, that can be used to gently scent your clothes. Also made from 100% New Zealand wool, and you can choose between a number of different oils.

  • Price: $16.95 for pack of 6
  • Cruelty free? Yes
  • Eco-Disaster? No

Talevt wool dryer balls in green container.

4. Talevt Organic Wool Dryer Balls10

Also great for removing hair fibers and softening clothes without chemicals, these organic dryer balls are made from New Zealand wool.

  • Price: $18.80 for pack of 6
  • Cruelty Free? Yes
  • Eco-Disaster? No

Snug Pad wool dryer balls on black towels.

5. Snug Pad XL11

These New Zealand wool dryer balls also offer the same benefits as the ones above, but are slightly smaller, which means the price is slightly lower.

  • Price: $8.95 for 6
  • Cruelty Free? Yes
  • Eco-Disaster? No

Branch Basics wool dryer ball package of three.

6. Branch Basics12

These dryer balls are made from 100% American wool, harvested from a sustainable family farm. Fragrance and dye-free, the hypoallergenic fabric softeners save energy and are biodegradable.

  • Price: $19.95 for pack of 3
  • Cruelty free? Yes
  • Eco-Disaster? No

In fact, you can’t go wrong choosing a renewable resource like wool… as long as its been sourced from a sustainable farm. And, all of these dryer balls are continue to provide environmental and personal benefits, the longer you use them.

Here’s how:

An Eco-Friendly, Organic, and Hypoallergenic Fabric Softener

Eco-friendly dryer balls deliver an organic, hypoallergenic fabric softener. In fact, their comfort and health benefits are more famous among parents than ever. On average, they can last 2 to 4 years, which means no more buying chemical-soaked dryer sheets, and no more unnecessary waste.1

For drying clothes faster, the wool balls bounce around inside the machine, agitating the laundry while in the barrel. This layered separation of clothes makes plenty of room for the warm air to circulate, drying clothes more efficiently (which reduces the amount of energy needed). They also absorb the moisture from your clothes, speeding up drying time. Plus, this combines for an excellent way to eliminate static.2

Wool-Use Cruelty Concerns

Some groups and individuals have been concerned that the wool comes from sheep, which opens up room for potential animal cruelty, but this can be avoided with a little diligence.

Sheep need to be sheared in order to keep them healthy and comfortable, and it is usually an enjoyable experience for them, once they don’t have to carry around all of that heavy wool. They are unable to shed wool on their own, so if left without shearing, they could get overheated and die, their wool could get infested with flies and maggots, or they could be so weighed down that they could not escape from predators.3 So, as long as you make sure you are buying wool from a cruelty-free source, it’s actually a good thing for sheep.

Using Wool Dryer Balls to Save Money And Save Animals

Not only do certain dryer balls save you money, some have the ability to save animals too.

When proceeds are used to help fund and operate wildlife rehabilitation centers, the purchase actually helps heal endangered animals around the world, especially in the rainforests where habitats have been destroyed.

Decrease Drying Time & Lengthen Your Clothes’ Lifespan

Because these tools help speed up the drying time, this also means less wear and tear to your clothes, and less shrinkage. With less time in the dryer, clothes will keep their original shape and quality for far longer.

When you first start using dryer balls, it can be easy to miscalculate how much drying time you need. Because of this, keep an eye on your laundry and make sure your clothes don’t over-dry the first few times, until you get a feel for how much they aid the drying process.

Another quick and proven trick you can try is to spritz your dryer balls with a water bottle before tossing them into the dryer. If they are slightly damp, your clothes will dry even faster due to the high humidity and density in the dryer.

Fluff and Soften Your Clothes

The best thing about wool dryer balls is how they turn your clothes soft and fluffy without relying on water-based chemicals that end up in the water supply. By consistently brushing their fibers against the fabric of your laundry, it creates a natural, soft touch when they come out of the dryer. So even if your drying period is relatively shorter, you can still enjoy the softness and fluffiness of your clothes.

Chemical Free: Significantly Decrease Static Cling & Safer than Dryer Sheets

Contrary to misguided perception, dryer balls work better than dryer sheets to reduce static cling. And, you can add safety pins into each dryer ball to discharge static even faster. Extensive current research has proven that dryer sheets can create serious health hazards for people.4,5 However, when used as an alternative to dryer sheets, wool dryer balls are completely hypoallergenic, preventing the chemicals from transferring and irritating sensitive skin.

Essential Oils Option

Another great thing about these laundry tools is that you can drop a small amount of essential oil onto them to scent your laundry. People have been adding oil into their regular dryer sheets for years. So, don’t hesitate to add essential oil to them to create a delightful aroma or to benefit from aromatherapy. Just drop a few drops of your favorite oil directly onto the ball, and toss them in. For help sleeping at night, add some lavender essential oil when you dry your sheets! Just make sure to soak the balls in water for about 10-20 minutes beforehand to reduce the oil’s potency.

Lower Your Ecological Footprint

Switching to wool dryer balls means you will be doing your part for the planet. It’s an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint, because they are such an energy saver. In fact, studies show that dryers generate over a ton of emissions every year!6 But, the less energy that is used to do your laundry, the less carbon is emitted because of it.

If you want your descendants to live on a green and sustainable planet, start using them instead of dryer sheets.1 To determine what your specific carbon footprint and how much of an impact lowering it will have, use an ecological footprint calculator.

Using this drying option has the power to do a lot, but you can do even more to help the environment. Reducing your carbon footprint by supporting tree planting carbon offset efforts not only helps reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but provides crucial habitats for endangered species. Therefore, by choosing the right product, you have the power to not only help your power bill, but animals, forests, and the earth as a whole!

Most people who learn about the basic benefits of dryer balls never use dryer sheets again. Here are the essential carbon-positive benefits of using them:

  • They reduce energy consumption by shortening the drying process by 20-30%2
  • They’re natural, organic, and composed of non-toxic materials
  • They’re more cost-effective than dryer sheets
  • You can reuse them for more than 1,000 laundry loads
  • They decrease the static build-up during drying

So, Are These Dryer Balls an Eco-Disaster?

Once the pros and cons are weighed, there is no doubt that wool dryer balls are a fantastic option for your laundry room and for the planet. As long as you choose the right ones. (Check out the best carbon offset providers here.)

This eco-friendly laundry solution comes with no downsides or negative effects. By switching to cruelty free wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets, you can not only protect your health, but save time, money, and the environment.

Read More About Eco-Friendly Natural Products:


References

1Henner, P. (2019, August 17). 1 Going Green with Dryer Balls. Retrieved June 4, 2021, from umaine.edu: https://umaine.edu/pagefarm/event/going-green-with-dryer-balls/

2United States Department of Energy. (n.d.). 2 16 Ways to Save Money in the Laundry Room. Retrieved June 04, 2021, from Energy.gov: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/16-ways-save-money-laundry-room

3American Society of Animal Science. (n.d.). There is no such thing as humane wool when it is left on the sheep: Why sheep shearing is absolutely necessary for sheep welfare. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from asas.org: https://www.asas.org/taking-stock/blog-post/taking-stock/2014/07/14/there-is-no-such-thing-as-humane-wool-when-it-is-left-on-the-sheep-why-sheep-shearing-is-absolutely-necessary-for-sheep-welfare.

4Steinemann, A. C., MacGregor, I. C., Gordon, S. M., Gallagher, L. G., Davis, A. L., Ribeiro, D. S., & Wallace, L. A. (2011). Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 31(3), 328–333. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002

5Goldschmidt, V. (2020, November 17). Stop Clinging To Toxic Dryer Sheets And Use These Instead. Save Our Bones. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from saveourbones.com: https://saveourbones.com/stop-clinging-to-toxic-dryer-sheets-and-use-these-instead/.

6Leverette, M. M. (2021, March 09). Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry Laundry. Retrieved from The Spruce: https://www.thespruce.com/reasons-to-line-dry-laundry-2145997  

7Image Source: 8 Billion Trees, https://shop.8billiontrees.com/collections/all-items/products/wool-dryer-balls

8Image Source: Amazon, Smart Sheep, https://www.amazon.com/Smart-Sheep-Premium-Reusable-Softener/dp/B00GA9P5P0/

9Image Source: Amazon, Plant Therapy, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RR5H5Q2/

10Image Source: Amazon, Talvet, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095SH2K8T/

11Image Source: Amazon, Snug Pad, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C4HQ5LL/

12Image Source: Branch Basics, https://branchbasics.com/products/dryer-balls?sscid=91k5_calga