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Remember when sustainability was on our minds, and we made efforts to tweak our habits to minimize waste? Then came the pandemic, and all that went (necessarily) out the window. Suddenly life was full of plastic take-out containers, paper goods and enough throw-away masks to fill a football stadium. As things settle down I've been trying to get back to making sustainable choices when I can. The new year has me motivated
I admit, it's work for me. When, for example, it comes to my hair, I will use whatever chemical creation makes it look best and smell best. Lightbulbs? I’m addicted to the soft glow of eco-unfriendly incandescents. And laundry? My dryer sheet of choice is a popular supermarket brand, chemical-laden and “disposable”—as in, contributing to the landfill, and pricey. The cost of those sheets really adds up. So when I heard about natural wool dryer balls, I got to thinking that's a resolution I might be able to live with. I decided to give them a whirl.
These doodads — which you toss in the dryer with wet clothes — promise to make clothes soft and shorten drying time. As someone who is obsessed with not washing and drying my clothes too much (it wears them out so fast and I don’t particularly enjoy doing laundry), I found this very appealing. Shorter drying time is not only easier on fabrics but it also saves energy, which means lower energy bills.
The brand I’d been hearing about, Smart Sheep, are handmade in Nepal of pure New Zealand wool. That’s a lotta traveling already for something meant to save the earth, but still, I was excited to test them out — and even more excited to see that they were on sale for New Year's; right now, a six-pack of extra-large Smart Sheep dryer balls costs just $14, at Amazon.
I saved up all my laundry in preparation for this experiment (as in, I used this as an excuse to ignore the mounting piles of clothing, sheets, and towels). Here, dear reader, is how it went.
Meeting my new dryer balls
Smart Sheep Dryer Balls come six to a package, with a small instruction card. They look organic, like something you’d see in a decorative basket at a high-end home furnishings store. And my cat really, really wanted them.
Putting them to use
I shoo’d my cat out of the basement and followed the easy instructions: “Place wool dryer balls in the dryer with your laundry. Turn on dryer.” Simple.
The promise was that by bouncing among my clothes, the balls would “lift and separate fabrics,” increasing air flow, thus drying clothes faster — and making them softer. I tossed in five dryer balls with a large load of workout clothes and jeans, reserving one in case I decided to gift it to my cat. I noted the time.
Instead of waiting for the dryer’s angry beep, I returned to the basement 15 minutes shy of the usual 30-minute dry time. Not only were my clothes completely dry, but they were so soft — as if they’d spent an hour in there with fabric softener and my favorite (chemical-laden) dryer sheet.
I pawed through the basket of clean clothes and detected no moisture, just silky softness. I retrieved the balls then repeated the experiment with a load of towels and pillow cases. Perfection.
Slipping on my favorite t-shirt, I thought I might miss the fragrance my dryer sheets provided — but I didn’t. My clothes just smelled … clean. If you like a little fragrance, Smart Sheep recommends adding a drop of essential oils like lavender or lemon to a dryer ball.
Smart Sheep dryer balls eradicated chemicals from my laundry life painlessly. That’s the kind of sustainability move I love. No sacrifice, no discomfort, and a huge financial savings — because at $14 for six, these balls cost $3 less than a large box of my (now former) favorite dryer sheets. More important, where that box gets me through 105 loads, my wool dryer balls promise more than 1,000 loads — that’s more than five years’ worth of laundry! And because they cut drying time by two-thirds, I’m saving on my energy bill, too.
Join me in the easiest New Year's resolution of all time — on that requires no effort, saves you money and time — and delights your cat, to boot.
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