Dryer Balls vs Fabric Softener

Written by annie lee tatum
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Dryer Balls vs Fabric Softener
Dryer balls have both advantages and disadvantages when stacked up against fabric softeners. (laundry image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)

Dryer balls are spiked plastic balls designed to be added to a load of laundry while it dries, in order to help soften clothing-typically the job of liquid fabric softeners (added to the wash cycle) or dryer sheets. Dryer balls are often cited as cost-effective alternatives to the chemicals and irritants found in fabric softeners.


Fabric softeners work to stop static by depositing a film of ammonium compounds onto clothing. This results in a positive charge, which causes the edges of the fabric to repel each other, rather than clinging. Also, fabric softeners typically contain perfumes, which also cling to fabrics in a layer, leaving behind a fragrance. Many consumers find these chemicals undesirable and wish to avoid them.

Some dryer balls are made from PVC, a chemical which is known to emit potentially dangerous byproducts. PVC-free dryer balls are available but may be more difficult to find on the market.


Because dryer balls are typically only purchased once, consumers can avoid repeat purchases of expensive fabric softening agents. Many consumers find that it takes six to eight balls to equal the results of fabric softeners; this may translate to a heftier initial investment than the consumer anticipated (as much as £19-40). Dryer balls often deliver quicker drying times, which can translate into saved energy costs.

Consumers should be aware that dryer balls may not last forever, as their spikes can eventually deteriorate and break, requiring replacements. Generally, dryer balls promise a 1,000-load lifetime, and most dryer balls carry a 2-year warranty or money-back guarantee.


Fabric softeners coat fabrics with a thin film of chemical perfumes which may be toxic or irritating, even carcinogenic. Chemicals which come into contact with the skin tend to find their way into the human bloodstream via absorption, according to naturalnews.com. Even dryer balls made from PVC will not contain chemical perfumes; if you wish to avoid absorbing artificial fragrances, dryer balls may present a viable alternative to fabric softeners.

Preventing Static and Stiffness

According to user ratings on Amazon.com, six to eight dryer balls per load are typically reported as needed to cut static. However, these results may be from the fluffing action of having any clean object in the dryer to prevent "balling," or the clumping of fabrics in dryers that tumble in only one direction. Fabric softeners work by coating fabrics in positively-charged ions (found in ammonium compounds) that deliver "like" charges that repel each other, thus reducing static cling. Since the balls have no coating, they lack the inherent properties that give fabric softeners their static-fighting prowess.


Dryer balls are typically made of hard, sturdy plastic. As one might anticipate, the action of hard plastic balls clattering around inside a constantly-tumbling dryer will make noise. Depending on where your dryer is situated, this may be a minor nuisance, something you never notice or a major inconvenience. Some dryer balls made from a more flexible plastic are available; these cut down on noise and can prolong the life of fabrics. Fabric softeners experience no such problems.

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