Why do wool dryer balls make me itchy?

Wool dryer balls soften your laundry naturally, without harsh chemicals. But some people find these eco-friendly helpers troublesome in the itch department.

The culprit is usually a lanolin allergy. Fortunately, we’ve got the answer. 

Quick links:

What are wool dryer balls?

What is lanolin?

Do wool dryer balls make me itchy?

How to stop the itchiness

What are the benefits of wool dryer balls?

What are the best wool dryer balls?

If sub-par wool dryer balls are making you itch, you're in luck. Buy our lanolin-free wool dryer balls and say goodbye to irritated skin.

What are wool dryer balls?

Wool dryer balls have exploded in popularity in recent years as an eco-friendly alternative to fabric softeners and dryer sheets. These balls soften clothes and reduce drying time by lifting and separating laundry as it tumbles.

As your clothes tumble in the dryer, wool dryer balls bounce around knocking clothes apart. This allows better air circulation which cuts down the dry time. Wool naturally helps reduce static cling.

Unlike fabric softeners and dryer sheets, wool dryer balls don't leave chemical residues on clothes that can irritate sensitive skin. They are free of toxic chemicals, such as those found in dryer sheets, and are 100% natural and hypoallergenic.

Wool dryer balls last for hundreds of loads so you only need to buy a set once. This saves you money compared to constantly buying single-use dryer sheets. Plus wool dryer balls can be reused for years which makes them a plastic-free green alternative.

Smart Sheep wool dryer balls are made from New Zealand wool crafted by artisans and women-led co-ops to provide fair wages. They are chemical and lanolin-free.

While chemical-free and ethically sourced wool dryer balls offer clear benefits, some consumers still experience itchy skin after using them. Let's explore why that may happen and how to prevent it.

“We are in the process of becoming a "clean" household. After switching to a cleaner laundry detergent, I stopped using dryer sheets; however, our laundry was coming out very wrinkled. After research, I purchased these wool dryer balls and they have been an amazing, clean alternative to dryer sheets. There is a significant difference in how wrinkly our laundry is.” —Erin, Amazon verified purchaser (five stars)

“I love this! No more dryer sheets. I think dryer balls work better than sheets. I just leave them in the dryer and they do their job over and over again. Use them for everything.”—June, Amazon verified purchaser (five stars)

What is lanolin?

Lanolin is a waxy, fatty substance that occurs naturally in sheep's wool. It helps sheep repel water and stay dry.

When wool is processed to make products like yarn and dryer balls, most of the lanolin is removed. Trace amounts often still remain.

Some people are allergic or sensitive to lanolin. It can cause red, itchy skin, or other reactions.

If you know you are allergic to lanolin, look for wool dryer balls labeled as "lanolin-free." Smart Sheep's dryer balls are lanolin-free.

Choose lanolin-free wool dryer balls, like ours, to prevent adverse skin reactions and irritation if you have a lanolin allergy. And if you don’t have it, Smart Sheep wool dryer balls are the best option.

Are wool dryer balls making me itch?

Wool dryer balls check the eco-friendly box, but their lanolin can be a problem for some.

Wool allergies

Wool allergies or sensitivities to natural lanolin are one potential cause of skin irritation. Lanolin allergies are rare, and you can get yourself tested to see if you're one of the unlucky few. If you test positive for a lanolin allergy, you have the following options:

  1. Avoid wool products (including wool dryer balls) entirely
  2. Upgrade to higher-quality wool dryer balls to see if that makes a difference (sometimes it does)
  3. Buy lanolin-free wool dryer balls

Our wool dryer balls use only the highest quality hypoallergenic wool that meets rigorous quality standards.

Manufacturing processes

Many brands manufacture wool dryer balls using harsh chemical washes, bleaches, and other processing methods. This leaves irritating residue and chemicals behind in their products.

We take a completely different approach. Our wool dryer balls comply with the most stringent safety regulations and standards. 

Our focus is on keeping the manufacturing process completely chemical-free from start to finish. We use only pure, 100% New Zealand wool and gentle processing techniques. This protects the luxuriously soft feel of our wool dryer balls while ensuring they are harmless for sensitive skin.

Winter weather

Dry winter air and home heating systems deplete moisture from the skin, potentially worsening existing conditions like eczema.

While our wool dryer balls don't cause this issue, customers prone to winter-related skin dryness may want to take extra precautions.

Using a humidifier, moisturizing regularly, and gradually introducing wool dryer balls can help avoid excess winter itchiness.

What can I do about itchiness?

While our hypoallergenic wool dryer balls are specially designed to minimize irritation, you might still get an itch if you're ultra-sensitive to wool. Here are some smart strategies to minimize unpleasant skin sensations:

  • Wash dryer balls before first use. This removes any excess lanolin. Follow instructions to hand wash or machine wash on a gentle cycle with mild detergent.
  • Use dryer balls sparingly at first. Start by adding just 2-3 dryer balls until you know how your skin reacts.
  • Don't overload the dryer. Overstuffing can lead to friction and pilling which worsens irritation. Add fewer items per load if needed.
  • Switch laundry detergent. Try a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formula suitable for sensitive skin, like Smart Sheep detergent strips. Avoid scented laundry products. Artificial scents do not have a good impact on your skin.
  • Moisturize skin. Avoid lotions with artificial fragrances.

With some smart adjustments, you may be able to reap the eco-friendly benefits of wool dryer balls while avoiding pesky itchiness.

What are the benefits of wool dryer balls?

Wool dryer balls soften fabrics, reduce static, speed up drying time, and replace wasteful plastic products. Smart Sheep wool dryer balls are crafted from premium hypoallergenic New Zealand wool through ethical production. 

While the upfront cost of wool dryer balls may give some people pause, they can end up saving money in the long run. By reducing drying time, wool dryer balls cut down on energy use with each load. That saves electricity and lowers utility bills over time. 

As wool dryer balls bounce around the dryer, they gently separate clothes, letting air flow through to prevent wrinkles. You'll take out smoother, less crumpled fabrics, meaning less time spent ironing.

The wool also absorbs noise from the dryer. So you can enjoy a quieter cycle, without the usual disruptive rumbling.

Ready to give wool dryer balls a try? Smart Sheep's premium New Zealand wool dryer balls soften fabrics, reduce static cling, and speed up drying time—without irritating your skin.

Smart sheep 6 pack

What are the best wool dryer balls?

Smart Sheep wool dryer balls are the best choice. Our wool dryer balls are made from premium New Zealand wool that is superfine Merino grade and lanolin-free. This hypoallergenic wool ensures the balls won't cause any skin irritation or itching.

Smart Sheep balls soften fabrics naturally, reduce drying time, prevent static, and help decrease wrinkles. Their chemical-free wool material is reusable for over 1,000 loads, making Smart Sheep the most eco-friendly dryer balls.

Wool dryer balls FAQ

Why do my clean clothes have static after drying with dryer balls?

Plastic dryer balls and tennis balls don't fight static nearly as well as wool dryer balls. Try our wool dryer balls to really reduce static.

Why are my clothes making me feel itchy?

There are a few potential reasons your clothes may be making you feel itchy:

  • Residual detergent or fabric softener left in clothes that you are sensitive to. Use an extra rinse cycle or try switching to a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic brand.
  • Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can leave a coating on clothes that causes irritation for some people. Try washing without these added products.
  • Natural fabrics like wool or cotton may feel rough or scratchy, especially brand-new clothes. Wash with a mild detergent and they should soften over time.
  • Synthetic fabrics that don't breathe well, like polyester, can trap heat and sweat leading to itchiness. Try natural fiber clothing when possible.
  • Harsh laundry detergents can strip natural oils from skin and fabrics, causing dryness and itching. Use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent.

Can dryer balls damage clothes?

When used properly, high-quality wool dryer balls are completely safe for all fabric types. The gentle tumbling motion of the balls during drying will not harm fabrics or lead to tears, holes, or other damage.

How many times can you use wool dryer balls?

Smart Sheep wool dryer balls can last up to 1,000 drying cycles. It means you could do 1 load per week for almost 20 years or 20 loads of laundry per week for about a year. That is a lot of laundry. 

Why does my wool blanket make me itch?

Wool contains lanolin, which can irritate sensitive skin. Try washing the blanket in an extra rinse cycle to remove excess lanolin. Also, make sure to moisturize before and after use.

How do you use wool dryer balls for the first time?

Wool dryer balls don’t require any special care before the first usage. But you can hand wash them with mild detergent before first use to increase softness and remove any residues from manufacturing. Then simply toss into the dryer with clothes on any setting.

Should you wash dryer balls?

Our premium wool dryer balls do not require any special preparation before their first use. Simply toss them in with your wet clothes on any dryer setting as you normally would when drying a load. The balls will begin working right away to soften fabrics.

Can you have an allergic reaction to wool dryer balls?

It is possible but very rare to have an allergic reaction to wool dryer balls. We use all natural ingredients. Our hypoallergenic New Zealand wool and thorough cleaning methods minimize allergy risk. A small percentage of people with sensitive skin may still react with redness, itching, rashes, or hives.

What are the most common skin conditions caused by ingredients in laundry detergents?

The most common skin conditions caused by ingredients in laundry detergents include:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis. This is one of the most prevalent skin reactions to laundry detergent ingredients. It can result in redness, itching, and even blisters on the skin. Ingredients like fragrances, preservatives, and surfactants are often responsible for irritant contact dermatitis.
  • Allergic dermatitis. Some people may develop allergic reactions to specific components of laundry detergents, such as fragrances or dyes. Symptoms can range from mild itching to more severe itchy rashes and hives.
  • Eczema flare-ups. Individuals with pre-existing eczema or atopic dermatitis may find that certain detergent ingredients exacerbate their condition, causing increased itching and inflammation.
  • Skin irritation. Synthetic chemicals and abrasive ingredients in detergents can cause general skin irritation, leading to redness, dryness, and discomfort.
  • Respiratory issues. Although not a skin condition per se, some detergent fragrances and chemicals can trigger respiratory problems in sensitive individuals when inhaled during the washing process.

Further reading

What are the benefits of natural clothing stain removers?

What are the best laundry detergents for sensitive skin?

Is it safe to use dryer sheets on baby clothes?

Will essential oils on my dryer balls stain clothes?

What is the best stain removal for baby clothes?

Can I use dryer balls in the washing machine?

Are laundry detergent sheets better than liquid detergents?

What are safer alternatives to fabric softeners?

What is the best alternative to dryer sheets?

Wool balls vs. dryer sheets—which one is better?