A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist US.
Not that long ago, when it came to making clothes fluffy, wrinkle-free, and smell good in an overwhelmingly artificial way, Bounce was the only game in town. (Or Lenor, depending on what your household was into.) But do me a favour, pop over to Google real quick, type in ‘dryer sheets,’ and wait for the word toxic to auto-populate. The main ingredients, found in both conventional sheets and the liquid equivalent, have been linked to a whole slew of stressful stuff. As someone who has got more sensitive to synthetic smells over the years, dryer sheets became the thing I slowly stopped restocking.
On a recent trip home, though, I noticed my mum had a wire basket of crunchy-looking woolen balls parked on top of the dryer. What are those? I wondered, reflexively tossing one up in the air. Some kind of craft project?They were Woolzies dryer balls, actually, an all-natural fabric softener that staves off static, prevents wrinkles, and — maybe most appealingly — cuts down on drying time. That same day, when I needed to dry a single pair of jeans (which always come out all twisted and most definitely not dry), the Woolzies worked stupendously.
Back home, my washer-dryer combo does a fine job of washing, but a very terrible job of drying. So much so that in a race, air-drying my stuff would win every time. It takes maybe three full cycles (at 45 minutes a pop) to dry shirts, socks, and jeans. (Forget about sheets.) But now, I throw three of these tennis-ball-size wool guys in with my regular loads; all six for heavy-duty stuff like towels and duvet covers. The little guys last for 500-plus loads, or about a year (my mum says you’ll know they’re done when they get too fuzzy). Everything is perfectly dry and tumbled all before the buzzer goes off. It’s all wrinkle-free, too; my handheld steamer stopped working a while back, so now if I need to steam anything, I’ll toss it in the dryer with a few balls for five minutes and it’s all good — all without introducing carcinogens into the flat.
More Strat-approved laundry accessories
Writer and costume designer Alison Freer swears by these mesh laundry bags for her delicates: ‘I now put everything that might need protection from an aggressive washing machine into the bags: tights, bras, underwear, stockings, leggings, slips, and swimsuits — basically anything delicate, prone to snagging, or silky. Even inexpensive polyester dresses from chain stores, linen pieces, and vintage items that may have fragile seams will benefit from the protection a mesh wash bag gives.’
If you’re interested in hand-washing, try this Japanese washbasin recommended by Sadie Stein: ‘I like to put my unmentionables to soak with a little Woolite, soak them overnight, and then give them a good swish and rinse. And its washboard, of course, is for cleaning underpants. I imagine if you were wanting to wash up any evidence of a murder, it would be very useful, too.’
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