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 Downy April Fresh, depending on what your household was into.) But do me a favor, 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 gotten 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 mom 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 in Brooklyn, my building-shaking 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 mom 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 apartment.
And for those who can’t separate clean laundry from a lingering scent trail, Woolzies also make an essential oil for dropping directly onto the wool balls in three calming, underwhelming-in-a-good-way scents.
If you prefer starting small, the Woolzies come in a pack of three, too.
More Strategist-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.”
This is one of the best-reviewed (and most affordable) laundry bags on Amazon: “There are so many things I love about this. One: It has a strap. I can easily carry it on my back when I go up and down different floors, should I need to when doing laundry. Two: It is made of canvas. It’s a breathable material that isn’t flimsy. Three: It is lightweight and keeps its form. Laundry itself is already heavy, so it’s good that this bag isn’t some sort of heavy and bulky article. Four: It’s the perfect size. I can hold two weeks’ worth of laundry in here and still be able to close it comfortably without clothes spilling out.”
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, or Forever New; soak them overnight; and then give them a good swish and rinse. And its washboard, of course, is for cleaning underpants (or as some men like to call them, ‘panties’). I imagine if you were wanting to wash up any evidence of a murder, it would be very useful, too.”