Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wool Dryer Balls from The Willow Store: Review and Giveaway {FluffyFebruary} (Closed)

I know I've kept y'all waiting for my second Fluffy February feature, but this one is worth the wait - I promise! :)

The Willow Store is a company based in Verona, Wisconsin which offers reusable alternatives to many personal care and household products which are most commonly available today in disposable forms - for example nursing pads, wipes, feminine care products and, of course, cloth diapers! Catherine Bolden, founder and mom behind The Willow Store, recognized that recent generations have been treating the Earth as "single use", thus disrupting its natural cycle and putting its future at risk. As such, she created The Willow Store in 2005 out of a desire to help care for and preserve our planet for future generations.

All Willow Store products are ethically manufactured in the United States. In addition, the company strongly supports small business and living wages, and selects top-quality materials which are organic and sourced in the US whenever possible.

That's a strong set of core values and business practices, don't you think?

So let's take a closer look at one of the particular products offered by The Willow Store. And nope, despite the fact that it's Fluffy February, I'm not going to be reviewing a diaper this time around. But don't be disappointed - the item I am going to tell you about can definitely play a key role in the overall practice of cloth diapering!

** Drumroll please! **

Enter the Wool Dryer Ball!

For those of you raising your eyebrows in uncertainty, wool dryer balls are used in place of disposable dryer sheets to reduce static, soften laundry and reduce drying time. Most importantly, they are free from the harsh chemicals which are rampant in disposable sheets. (These chemicals are bad news in general but particularly damaging when it comes to cloth diapers, as they leave residue behind which reduces absorbency and can cause irritation to sensitive little bums, not to mention potential longer term health risks.) Finally, since wool is naturally antibacterial, these balls can be used for weeks (if not months) before they're due for a cleaning.

I've been using wool dryer balls for about 8 months now and I love them - they totally work! Not just for dipes, but all different types of laundry. The balls I have owned the longest were made by a fellow mama blogger who used to sell them online. I wrote about her laundry balls, as well as how I first discovered this wonderful natural laundry concept in general, last September.

Let's look at The Willow Store's wool dryer balls in more detail. In addition to the general benefits I mentioned above, these balls are:
  • Natural wool felted; they won't unravel in the laundry or in your little one's hands!
  • Safe from color bleeding, as the dye used is fiber-reactive
  • Soft and malleable, so they tumble quietly in the dryer
  • Hand-made in the US
In addition, they come in a wide array of vivid colours! To me, brighter is better when it comes to locating the li'l guys quickly from your clean laundry pile. However, a "natural" option is available as well for those of you who prefer to go dye-free.

For review purposes, Catherine sent me a 3-pack of their wool dryer balls in yellow, green and blue. They came packaged in a cute li'l recyclable cardboard box:

Each one is approximately the size of a tennis ball, but as you can see there is some variation in both size and shape. This is expected since each ball is hand-made!

Here's a close-up of the biggest ball. This one's closer in size to a baseball, I'd say. Also notice how the surface is uniform and "fuzzy"; this is because the balls are made with wool roving, a piece of wool that has been combed, clumped and twisted. (A more common style you'll see on the market today is made with wool yarn and has a corresponding "wrapped" appearance.)

The balls are, indeed, very soft and almost "squishy", and true to description are extremely quiet in the dryer.

In terms of performance, the three balls used together are quite effective at keeping the static at bay, and I'd estimate they cut down drying time by 20-25%. For my cloth diapers in particular, without using any balls I need to run a full dry cycle (on low heat) and then turn the dryer back on for about 25 minutes longer to finish the job. And then everything's stuck together, of course. With three balls, I only need an extra 10 minutes or so, and static is minimal to nonexistent.

My daughter is quite fond of these balls herself. A few times now, one of them went missing for a day or two, and then I'd find it hiding under her crib or in her toy box. (Eventually I realized her intentions weren't exactly honourable when she'd saunter over to "help" with the laundry! ;) In any case, these situations allowed forced me to test performance with just two of the balls, and I found that these loads did require slightly longer drying times and resulted in a bit more static.

On the flip side, more is definitely merrier when it comes to dryer balls - to a certain extent, anyway. (I'm sure the Law of Diminishing Returns applies at some point. :) When I dried a load of dipes with all five balls (three from The Willow Store and the two I had previously) I barely needed any extra time on top of the initial dry cycle.

In terms of longevity, aside from some surface pilling (which doesn't affect performance and is probably inevitable, especially if used with lint-emitting laundry) these balls are extremely hardy! Despite their softness, they maintain their shape well load after load, and the felted wool continues to be fused strongly to each ball's core.

And even the pilling can be "fixed" using a sweater defuzzer, if desired. It took me 2-3 minutes to "beautify" the blue ball below, which was previously as pilly as the green one:

All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend wool dryer balls as a key component of a natural laundry routine, especially for folks who cloth diaper! The Willow Store's dryer balls in particular are a great choice; hand-made, soft and colourfast, they come in a wide variety of bright & cheery shades and I find them to be highly effective (at reducing static, cutting down drying time and softening laundry), quiet and durable.

Buy It: 

Visit The Willow Store to pick up some of their wool dryer balls for yourself! Individual balls cost $6.95 each and 3-packs (natural or assorted colours) go for $19.95. Check out all the other natural, reusable products while you are there! Shipping time averages 2-5 days. The company stands behind their products and demonstrates this by offering a 60-day return policy. Willow Store products are also available at numerous 3rd party retailers (online and across the US).

** Sale Alert! ** Until the end of February, all Natural Feminine Care products are 20% off! Plus, you can get a free Anywhere travel bag with every pad!

Win It:

Catherine has generously offered to give away a set of three wool dryer balls from the Willow Store to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Winner chooses colours from among available options.

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by The Willow Store.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample items free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.


  1. I bought my wool dryer balls from a Mom at 2 years ago and they are still going strong in my dryer today! We love hers, they are undyed and will not leave color on white laundry.

  2. RSS = fieryone99 at gmail dot com