Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dryer Balls - Made Out of PVC, an Eco Oxymoron

I remember when I first came across dryer balls - they're funny looking, almost cute. Dryer balls are a soft plastic with spikes that are meant to bounce around in your dryer and lift the clothes so they will dry faster, some claim as high as 40% faster. Some claim to reduce static too. Well, hold on to your seat.

I found 3 dryer balls on the market: Dryer Max Dryer Balls, The Original Dryer Balls by Mystic Wonders and Nellie's Natural Dryer Balls. Most reviews I found said the balls didn't live up to their claim but did reduce drying time on the average of 10-20%. Reviews also were very mixed about the anti-static properties, some yeahs, some nays.

So what's the big deal? Here's the part that I (and I hope you will too) find absolutely outrageous. All 3 of these balls are made out of PVC, Polyvinyl chloride, . The Original Balls boast of being made out of high grade virgin PVC, like that is suppose to be better or something. But this is my favorite - Nellie's Natural Dryer Balls, are also made out of PVC. There ain't nothin natural about PVC. THEN (sorry about the caps but this is legit) goes on to claim "it's toxic-free, environmentally friendly". How this claim is allowed to continue to be marketed is beyond me. So here's some scoop on PVC, Polyvinyl chloride, the most toxic of all plastics, and nothing natural about it.

PVC, number 3 plastic, is the worst of the worst of plastics. It is the most toxic in production, presents problems during its use, creates a nightmare for disposal, with recycling barely and rarely done. In order to soften it, like some toys that are now banned in Europe, additives are added to the PVC. These additives are also very unhealthy, some say toxic, and include chemicals such as the phthalates and lead. PVC is considered the the most damaging plastic to the environment.

You know all the warnings recently about vinyl showers curtains and that new car smell we keep hearing about. Well that's all PVC off-gassing some pretty seriously bad stuff. Released chlorinated dioxins and furans are unwanted byproducts of the manufacture, off-gassing and burning of PVC. A lot of literature considers this to be the most toxic environmental hazard known to man. No point in making a list here, it's too long, please click through to all the links.

So getting back to Nellie's Natural Dryer Balls made out of PVC. What's wrong with this picture? Maybe I missed something on Nellie's website. Maybe PVC means something else that I don't know about. Maybe it is a misprint. It's all too hard to believe. Imagine, you heat these soft things up in the dryer and let them bounce around all the clothing. What chemicals are being released from the PVC onto the clothing that causes the anti-static cling? Is there a film or layer of plastic coating on the clothing giving it the softness and reducing the static? PVC is notorious for degrading with heat unless you add more additives to stabilize it. Hmmmm. Kind of makes me sick to think about it. This is PVC we're talking about, the skull and cross bones plastic, and then you heat it up to boot.

And, and, and...dryer balls are suppose to be eco-friendly because they cut down a little on the drying time? Who said it was eco friendly to even use your dryer? Aren't we as eco minded enthusiasts suppose to be encouraging line drying clothing? (okay, maybe a final 5 minute max dry time fluffs up the shirts and towels, though still hypocritical) Given that the dryer is the second energy hog in the house next to the frig it is really hard to justify its use. Co-op America makes it clear that hang drying your clothes is the green way to dry. And with the latest news that CO2 is way up compared to last year, exceeding expectations with the dire consequences to come, anyone who wants to even pretend to have an environmental bone in their body should not be using their dryer.

Any green, earth friendly, sustainable, organic, natural, environmental business worth their weight in gold should not even be carrying these dryer balls, made out of toxic PVC, (which continue to promote using a dryer). My goodness, this has to be the eco oxymoron of this century.


E said...

I am so disturbed to find out about the PVCs in dyer balls. I've used them for years because I hate the smell of fabric softner (I also hate the way it makes my clothes feel). I always thought it was a bonus that I wasn't putting those chemicals out into the water. Now of course...well, I don't know what to do, but I've got to find an alternative to those dryer balls. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

Anonymous said...

Love this! A not green girl suggested dryer balls to me-- I'm glad I thought if she liked them, they couldn't be good.

very interesting... thanks!

Anonymous said...

If you need an alternative try looking for wool dryer balls. They are made by a lot of work at home moms and work well when you HAVE to use the dryer!

Anonymous said...

I am a WAHM and make the Organic Wool Dryer balls. Feel free to visit my site to learn more and ask any questions!

Lisa B said...

I really appreciated the information in this article but got completely turned off by the end - the second to last paragraph where the tone becomes judgmental and self righteous. I'm curious if there are any parents out there who never use the dryer and hang dry everything. Having a family usually means non stop laundry, even if you wear your clothes several days in a row before washing them. Also, I've found that being eco conscious usually makes more laundry, that is if you're going to use rags and cloth napkins instead of paper products. I find it pretty unrealistic to be critical of people that don't hang dry everything, considering the extra time involved. I'm really curious to know how many families out there never use a dryer.

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Anonymous said...

I must agree with Lisa, excellent article.... up until the last couple self righteous paragraphs. To a lot of people mot using a dryer could be very impracticable. Try living on the west coast of Vancouver Island and hang drying clothes in the winter when you don't use paper products and have a son in cloth diapers. May I suggest that if you need to use a dryer make wool dryer balls out of recycled fabric and wool. Aside from that a great blog.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

I'll admit,doing diapers on Vancouver Island would be a drag. The inside of the house could look like you were on a sale boat. I also know the coast of Wales, Ireland, Norway and such has babies and diapers too and their dryer use is about 12%. (and probably lots of complaining moms) It would depend upon your home's heat source I suppose. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Anonymous said...

I like to hang my clothes out to dry, both to save on energy and because they smell wonderful that way, BUT I've pretty much decided that hanging clothes out to dry only really works well if you are home most of the time! I spent a spring and summer using just line drying and my clothes were constantly getting 3 or 4 rinses due to these inconvenient rainstorms that came up whenever I had to leave the house with lcothes hanging out drying on a day forcasted to be "sunny". Soon my husband's tee-shirts started to smell funky to boot from never getting completely dry. And I really don't have enough space to dry very many clothes inside, which takes even longer. So I reluctantly went back to using my dryer, albeit on low heat and for as short a time as is needed. I have been using the PVC dryer balls for about four years. I have pretty much liked them, but HAD wondered about mixing heat with plastic on my clothes. Now I know - yikes! I'll be getting some wool dryer balls ASAP!

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks for posting. There are dryer balls made from non-PVC however they may contain phthalates. So it is still a buyer beware moment. Wool is the safest option. Good luck.