Can I put dryer balls in the washing machine?

It's the question on every laundry day hero's mind: can I put wool dryer balls in the washing machine too? The logic seems sound—if they soften fabrics in the dryer, why not do double duty and soften clothes in the wash as well? But resist the urge at all costs. Putting wool dryer balls in the washing machine is a recipe for a laundry disaster. 

Let’s learn why!

Quick links:

Are wool dryer balls good for your washer?

When should you put dryer balls in the washer?

What are some potential risks?

How should I use my wool dryer balls?

Buy Smart Sheep wool dryer balls for your dryer and your clothes will thank you!

“I recently decided to give wool dryer balls a try, and I must say, they have completely transformed my laundry routine! These little balls of magic have not only shortened drying times but also left my clothes softer and smelling amazing. I was initially skeptical about their effectiveness, but after using them for a few weeks, I'm a believer.” —JCastro, Amazon verified purchaser (five stars)

6-Pack Original 100% Wool Dryer Balls

Can you put dryer balls in the washer?

Wool dryer balls have become a popular eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets. They soften fabrics and reduce drying time when used in the dryer. But can they also be tossed in the washing machine for added benefits?

Wool dryer balls should be used in the tumble dryer. The wool is durable enough to withstand the heat and tumbling action. However, the washing machine environment can be too harsh for these balls.

The agitation and spinning can cause wool dryer balls to pill, shred, and fall apart quickly. Chunks of wool can then end up stuck to clothing, possibly causing damage.

Using wool dryer balls in the washer also reduces their effectiveness in the dryer. For best results, reserve wool dryer balls for the dryer only.

When should you put wool dryer balls in the washer?

Even though we don’t recommend it as a regular practice, it’s a good idea to clean wool dryer balls every few months by gently washing them. Place each ball in the bottom of a clean sock and wash them in hot water on a gentle cycle. 

Risks of putting dryer balls in the washing machine

While it may seem harmless, placing dryer balls in the washing machine can cause several problems:

Clothing damage

  • Wool dryer balls can pill, shred, and discolor clothing. The agitation tears at the wool fibers, causing pilling and holes, especially in wool garments. Dyes may also bleed onto lighter colors.
  • Even plastic balls can damage delicate fabrics if caught or wedged into the material. The hard plastic can snag and pull threads.

Clogged machines

  • Lint and fibers released from wool dryer balls can accumulate inside pumps and drainage pipes. This builds up over time, clogging the system.
  • Plastic balls may wedge into small openings, jamming the mechanics. Clogs can lead to costly repairs.

Reduced lifespan

  • The harsh chemicals from laundry detergent will cause accelerated wear on dryer balls. 

The best way of using wool dryer balls

Wool dryer balls provide multiple benefits when used properly—in the DRYER:

  • Soften fabrics naturally. Tumbling action separates fibers rather than coating fabrics with harmful chemicals. Drying towels, sheets, and clothes with wool dryer balls will make them feel gentle without artificial softeners.
  • Reduce drying time. Balls circulate air and distribute heat more efficiently allowing moisture to evaporate faster. Clothes dry quicker, saving time, and energy usage.
  • Reduce static cling. Friction between the balls and clothes releases static charge built up in fabrics. Prevents clothes from clinging together and stretching out.
  • Reduce wrinkles. Separating and aerating clothes as they tumble minimizes wrinkling. Results in less ironing.
  • Freshen laundry. The friction helps release odors trapped in fabrics for fresher-smelling clothes. A natural clean without perfumes.
  • Hypoallergenic. Contains no dyes, bleach, fillers, or other chemicals that can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Safe for those with sensitivities.
  • Eco-friendly. Reusable for hundreds of laundry loads. Biodegradable and non-toxic materials avoid plastic waste.

Follow these simple tips to properly use wool dryer balls and unlock their full effectiveness and convenience. Do not use them in the washing machine. By reserving balls for the clothes dryer only, they will soften fabrics naturally for hundreds of eco-friendly loads.

Although they come unscented, you can add 3-4 drops of your favorite essential oils to them. You can also buy Smart Sheep scenting spray to make your soft clothes smell like orange, lemon, or lavender.

“Smart Sheep's Wool Dryer Balls have genuinely revolutionized my laundry routine. Right from the outset, I was impressed with the premium feel of the natural wool. But it's their performance in the dryer that truly shines.” —Ahmad Babaa, Amazon verified purchaser (five stars)

Smart sheep 6 pack

Dryer balls FAQ

Do lint balls work in the washing machine?

Lint balls are only designed to work in the dryer. They can fall apart, shed lint, and clog drains if used in a washing machine. Always reserve lint balls for the dryer.

How many dryer balls should you put in your laundry?

Here are some general rules that should help you judge how many wool dryer balls to use.

  • For small to medium loads, 3-4 balls should get the job done.
  • For larger loads, you can use 5-8 balls.
  • For extra-large loads and bulky items, you may want to go as high as 9-12 dryer balls.

How many washes can you use dryer balls for?

Wool dryer balls have an impressive lifespan and can last for up to 1,000 loads of laundry before requiring replacement. This duration spans two to five years, depending on the size of your family and the frequency of your laundry. 

These dryer balls can be recharged, allowing them to serve you for even more loads, extending their useful life a bit further.

Are dryer balls worth it?

Dryer balls are definitely worth it. They are an affordable, eco-friendly alternative to traditional dryer sheets and fabric softeners. They soften fabrics, reduce static cling and wrinkles, and shorten drying time for hundreds of loads. As a one-time purchase, they can save money compared to disposable options.

Do dryer balls save money?

Wool dryer balls save money in a few ways. They last for years, avoiding the repeat costs of commercial fabric softeners and sheets. By shortening dry times, they can lower electricity bills. Some types of dryer balls also allow the use of lower heat settings to further reduce energy costs.

Do dryer balls damage electric dryers?

Dryer balls do not damage electric dryers. In fact, they can actually help improve drying efficiency by reducing drying time and softening clothes naturally. They are a safe and effective alternative to single-use dryer sheets and do not cause any harm to your dryer.

What can I put in my washing machine for lint?

To help reduce lint in your washing machine, you can put a mesh laundry bag or a lint trap in the machine. These accessories capture loose lint and prevent it from clogging the drain or sticking to your clothes during the wash cycle. Ensure they are properly cleaned and maintained for optimal lint removal.

Can I use tennis balls as dryer balls?

Yes, tennis balls can be used as an alternative to dryer balls. When placed in the dryer, they can help fluff and separate clothes, reducing drying time. But, wool dryer balls are way better than tennis balls. Here’s why:

  1. Wool dryer balls not only help with drying efficiency and reducing wrinkles, but they also naturally soften clothes without the risk of harmful chemicals or synthetic materials being released.
  2. Wool dryer balls can last for numerous laundry cycles whereas tennis balls may wear out more quickly.

Do dryer balls help with pet hair?

They can help with pet hair by agitating the clothes, reducing static, and preventing hair from clinging to fabrics during the drying process.

Can you spray white vinegar on your wool dryer balls?

You can spray your wool dryer balls with a half-and-half white vinegar-to-water solution. This will refresh your clothes, but they will have a bad smell like white vinegar when you remove them. Vinegar also naturally softens clothing, which is an added plus.

Further reading

Homemade stain remover for white clothes

Why is the dryer making my clothes smell burnt?

Will essential oils on my dryer balls stain clothes?

What is the best laundry detergent for sensitive skin?

Detergent sheets vs. liquid detergent—who wins?

How can I keep my sheets from balling up in the dryer?

How to add essential oils to wool balls