tennis ball as fabric softener alternative

Do Tennis Balls Help in the Tumble Dryer?

When it comes to doing laundry, people are always on the hunt for new washing and drying techniques that are going to speed up the process.

One such hack that’s been trending for quite some time is popping tennis balls inside a tumble dryer.

But will tennis balls help your clothes in the dryer, or will they be a hindrance? Find out below.


Why Use Tennis Balls in the Dryer?

tennis balls and tumble dryer

The idea of using tennis balls in a dryer comes from the practice of using traditional dryer balls in the dryer. And tennis balls do, in fact, work in a very similar way to normal dryer balls.

Like regular dryer balls, when tennis balls are added to a dryer alongside a pile of wet laundry, they bounce about in the drum, and help to agitate the items inside the dryer as the cycle takes place.

In doing so, the tennis balls stop the laundry from clumping together, just as a traditional dryer ball would do.

Naturally, because the items in the dryer are separated by the bouncing effect of the tennis balls, warm air can flow in between and all around the items.

As a direct consequence of this, the laundry inside the dryer is dried more evenly and faster.

Tennis balls can also help in other ways. They can reduce wrinkles, sometimes soften laundry, prevent a build-up of static on clothing, and ensure that the washing is lint-free by the end of the drying cycle.

The only major difference between tennis balls and dryer balls is what they’re made from.

Tennis balls have a rubber core which is covered in a nylon-wool casing. Dryer balls, on the other hand, can be made from a wealth of materials, including rubber, wool, and plastic.


Do Tennis Balls Help in the Dryer?

So, do tennis balls help in the tumble dryer? Yes, they do.

However, before you all dash off to bung your laundry in the dryer with your tennis balls, you need to keep a few points in mind. Let’s have a look at these pointers in more detail.


Points to Remember When Using Tennis Balls in the Dryer

using tennis balls in the dryer

1. Use high-quality tennis balls

One of the key points to remember is that you must make sure that you use high-quality tennis balls in the dryer.

In short, you don’t want a tennis ball to be all broken and churned up at the end of the drying cycle. You want it to be in one piece.

If the tennis ball(s) fails and breaks down, you could end up with bits everywhere in the machine, and your laundry could be covered in yellow-green fibres.

As a result, you’d have to clean the dryer out to make sure all the chunks, that might’ve dropped into the nooks and crannies, were removed from the appliance.

Failing to take care of the dryer after such an episode could lead to problems in the future.


2. Use the right number of tennis balls

In addition to this, you must also add the correct number of tennis balls to the dryer when trying this method out.

If you add too many tennis balls to the dryer you risk damaging your washing, and in the worst-case scenario, the appliance itself.

On the flip side, if you don’t add enough tennis balls to the drum, your laundry might not be agitated enough, won’t be dried evenly, or feel soft enough for you by the end of a cycle.

As a guide, for a small to medium sized load you should add two to three tennis balls to the drum (sheets/t-shirts, for example).

For larger loads, or bulkier items you should use three to five tennis balls (quilt/pillows, for example).

Of course, you can use your own judgement on this. So if you feel like you need to add more tennis balls to the dryer do so, and, of course, you can experiment and learn as you go.


3. Don’t use them with delicate materials

do not use tennis balls in dryer for silk and wool

Another point to keep in mind when using tennis balls in the dryer is that they shouldn’t be used alongside delicate materials.

Materials like silk and wool don’t always fare well in the dryer anyway, so adding a few tennis balls to the drum might make things worse for the delicate material.

In some cases, tennis balls can make woollen items pile or bobbly!


4. The tennis ball’s colour could transfer onto laundry

Further to the points above, you should bear in mind that sometimes, although very rare, the neon colour of a tennis ball can transfer onto an item or two of laundry.

So, be sure to check to see if your garments are colourfast before drying them alongside tennis balls.


5. Tennis balls aren’t a substitute for regular laundry products

Another point to keep in mind is, while tennis balls can be helpful in a dryer, they’re not going to solve all of your washing worries.

Tennis balls are there to aid the drying process, but they’re not going to substitute every other product and tool(s) used throughout the laundering process.

For example, because you cannot use them alongside every material, you’ll have to think of alternative ways of softening, de-linting and un-wrinkling these items.

In turn, you might have to take care of your clothes by adding fabric softener to the washing machine or ironing them.

woman smells rubber in laundry


6. Can make laundry smell rubbery

One of the main complaints people have after using tennis balls in the dryer is that laundry can smell a little rubbery at the end of a drying cycle.

This is largely down to the fact that the core of a tennis ball is made from rubber, and as the ball heats up the rubbery smell permeates throughout the dryer. The pungent odour can be a put-off.

Nonetheless, you could reduce the risk of getting rubber-smelling laundry by adding some tennis balls into the dryer halfway through a drying cycle, using a lower temperature, or by only using the balls when drying large/heavier items, rather than every single time you pop laundry in the tumble dryer!


FAQs on Using Tennis Balls in the Tumble Dryer

How many tennis balls should I put in the dryer?

As a guide, for a small to medium sized load of laundry, you should add two to three tennis balls to the machine.

For heavier and larger loads, you can add three to five tennis balls.

However, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use more than five tennis balls. And on that note, you shouldn’t add too many tennis balls to the dryer on a regular basis because this might put a strain on the machine’s innards.

You should also use your own judgement when adding tennis balls to a dryer. For example, if you feel that you’ve added too many tennis balls to the dryer, you should take one or two balls out and experiment a little!

As you continuously use the tennis balls, you’ll learn roughly how many you need to add to the dryer to suit the load you’re trying to dry. Practice is key!

fluff pillows with tennis balls


How do you fluff pillows in the dryer with tennis balls?

To fluff up your pillows with tennis balls all you need to do is add a pillow(s) to the dryer, pop in some tennis balls, and start a low heat cycle. For an in-depth guide see our post on fluffing pillows with tennis balls.


Can you put tennis balls in the washing machine?

tennis balls in washing machine

Yes, you can put tennis balls in the washing machine. The only real reason to do so would be to clean the tennis balls themselves.

For example, you’ve got a few muddy tennis balls, or you need to wash your dog’s tennis balls.

You don’t need to use things like tennis balls inside a washing machine to agitate your dirty laundry, as the washing machine will do this itself.