Sunday, January 28, 2007

Whole Different Ball Game

Eco laundry balls didn't stand up to the test, performing no better than plain water in our highly rigorous (ahem) Bean Sprouts lab. Since then I have used neither eco balls nor laundry powder in any of my washes, and my clothes still get clean to my satisfaction. But what about dryer balls?

These claim to soften laundry without adding liquid softener, and also reduce drying times. Are these claims true? I tested them and the results were surprising.

I washed a normal laundry load as usual and dried it with the laundry balls. I have a sensing tumble dryer that stops automatically when the clothes are dry. It took 1 hour 35 minutes to dry the laundry with the balls.

I then rewashed the same load and dried it again, without the balls. It took 2 hours 22 minutes. That's 50% longer, which astonished me. Obviously you can save significant energy using the dryer balls.

As for softness, I washed two identical towels together, and dried one with the dryer balls, one without. This time the balls failed the test. Both towels felt equally soft to the touch, and came out equally fluffy when folded. However my clever sensing dryer also has a reverse tumble feature, meaning it changes direction every now and then. It claims to reduce static, tangling and stiffness. This could have wiped out any softening effect of the balls. Or then again maybe they just don't make clothes softer. I'd be interested to see how the balls perform in a standard dryer.

One thing the balls don't do is scent your laundry. When you buy them they have a lavender fragrance that fades after only a few uses. If you like the smell of softener then you may not like the balls. But I hate the strong sickly perfumes in washing powders and fabric softeners, so for me the lack of scent is a distinct plus.

I'd say the dryer balls are worth the money, because they substantially reduce drying times even if they don't soften clothes. But remember that you can save even more money and energy if you dry clothes on a line instead.


Lesley said...

Very interesting!
Do find it necessary to dry clothes inside out to stop the little balls of fluff gathering on the surfaces of jumpers etc?

Sal said...

This is really interesting I have been looking at these dryer balls in asda wondering if they are any good, thanks for the info you have just convinced me to give them a go!

Ally said...

We were given some a few weeks ago and have been using them. I have a tendency to overload the drier (which I've been trying not to use, but it's been SO wet), which of course means they don't work so well.

I use the eco-ball thingies in the wash - but I've come to conclusion that actually, if they help at all, it's because they bash the washing about a bit more inside the machine.

So I use them, and a tiny amount of ecover powder, which seems to work pretty well. I don't think the balls on their own or just water gets stains out. Cat sick, I am thinking of particularly :/.

Mel's Dad said...

They're not much good with cow slurry either.

kiran said...

i wasnt as satisfied with my results of the dryer ball. It tore up (visible holes) and drastically shrunk two of my wool sweaters, both that were 5 years old and been through plenty of washes. It may be that certain materials dont work so well, my other clothes came out fine, but i was too bummed about my sweaters to use the dryer balls again. It may be great if your dryer is advanced and stops when your clothes are dry...if it requires you set a time, it may not be as worth it...

The Gnome said...

What in heavens name has this got to do with the price of marrows ? Its Sunday for goodness sake, stop faffing about the laundry and get up there digging ! Oh, and dont forget your carbon footprints.

Subject A said...

Cheers Dr Mel - all this testing is much appreciated. I noticed that I was saving a guestimate of about 30 mins on each dry this weekend.


karen said...

Neither my SAHD husband or I have got the attention span to time the dryer cycles with dryer balls and without like you did, so our opinions are extremely unscientific: I like them, he doesn't! I like the idea that we might be saving energy by using them, he doesn't like the racket they make clanging around in the dryer. I think it's funny that a guy who can stand the incessant racket of two young boys thinks the dryer ball clanging is annoying...but I love him (and he does my laundry!) so I let it go. :) I like line-drying, but weather here doesn't allow it much of the year.

Stonehead said...

How grimy are your clothes? I ask because our outdoor clothing is usually extremely filthy and encrusted with mud, pig and chicken muck, pig slobber, and worse.

We use eco balls and they definitely make a big difference with this amount of grime. We don't see much difference, if any, with clothing that isn't as grotty but use them anyway.

As for dryer balls, I wouldn't use a dryer anyway, even if we are in NE Scotland. But, I always get told off for saying "don't use a dryer" as most people find them convenient, so I won't take it further!

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