One of the things that concerns me the most about cloth diapering is how much I am spending on washing/drying. It is still less than what it costs to use disposables, but this frugal mama is all about trying to cut down on costs everywhere she can. So I was thrilled when LooHoo (formerly Woolly Rounds) offered to provide me with a batch of their Wool Dryer Balls so that I could carry out my experiment to see if they really cut down on drying time.
And BOY was it an experiment. I tried different methods for over EIGHT months. I will give you a detailed description of my methods below these results.
Vertical Axis is average dryer time in minutes
Based on my methods (discussed below), I found that the drying time of wool dryer balls appeared random and that there was therefore no significant difference in drying time with the dryer balls.
However, I did find that the amount of static on my diapers did diminish significantly (and went away almost completely when I added a ball of aluminum foil). I also found that I could use the dryer balls to add an extra fragrance to my diapers (I will show you that soon) that made them smell good.
Will I keep using them? Yes. I was impressed with the lessened amount of static and the fragrance.
I tested the dryer balls using a Whirlpool HE Dryer.
Dryer Balls measured approximately 3 inches in diameter.
My initial goal was to have 20 tests of each dryer ball quantity (so 20 clothing loads of 2 dryer balls, 20 of 4 dryer balls, 20 of 6, etc). I also wanted to do that same amount for cloth diaper loads. Unfortunately, this came to a bit of a halt when I just had to move unexpectedly (and therefore the conditions for experimentation changed), so the quantity of observations isn’t as high as I had hoped.
I initially used my hands to determine if a load was done drying. I simply set a timer and reached my hand in every 5 minutes. However, I decided that it may be more accurate to rely on the “feel” of my machine. So I used the automatic setting and checked the time of the load when the buzzer went off and disposed of all data associated with the “hand feel” method.
I tried to make all loads as equal as possible. I felt it a little wasteful to do loads JUST to determine dryer time (i.e. washing a certain number of towels a certain number of times). I figured it was a little ironic to waste doing extra loads when I am trying to figure out what cuts energy costs.
I did a minimum of 10 loads for each number of dryer balls (therefore 20 total for clothes and diapers).
If I washed towels, jeans, pillows, sheets, or any other items that I felt threw off the dryer time, I did not include those times.
When collecting the data, I removed all possible outliers (i.e. any loads that had a significantly low or significantly high drying time).
My attitude in this is that I understand that the more ideal situation would be to have more controlled conditions. However, if I want to consider the energy cuts of the dryer balls, I want the results to be visible and dramatic. Therefore, I am not as concerned that all loads have been weighed equally (although I tried to keep it similar).
Wooly Rounds is hiring a scientist to perform some more controlled experiments to truly see if there is a difference. It is my hope that more people conduct these experiments to see what they find. I am of course limited by my own circumstances and results may certainly vary. I have heard some people say 20 dryer balls makes a difference. Some say 8. It would be interesting if we could all collaborate to revise the methods for testing and develop more controlled conditions for testing these.
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Tara moved on to other career endeavors in 2014 but can still be found online blogging about health and fitness at Fit Baby Steps.
Latest posts by Tara Porter (see all)
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