Ed and I recently went to the Prairie Arts Festival, a fairly large arts and crafts festival held each year in West Point, Mississippi. In my 6 years as a Mississippian, I had never been, and this year I was determined to go. So we headed to West Point one Saturday morning to meander through funky crafts booths and mingle with Mississippi artisans.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by booth after booth of tacky, factory-made junk. You know what I’m taking about: no-name cosmetics bags that are lime green with big pink polka dots, comforter sets in plastic bags, sports memorabilia that is meant to look cute and girlie, etc. It was a disappointment to say the least. We must have walked by over 50 booths of this crap. Nothing was handmade. Nothing was even made in the US, much less Mississippi. A happy camper, I was not.
Then we rounded a bend and started seeing less plastic and more quirkiness. And we had found the real arts and crafts. We walked among these booths and saw a guy selling paintings that I totally wanted but couldn’t afford, a lady selling jewelry made from scrap buttons and cloth, some glass works, and more. I didn’t love it all, but I did love some of it, and it definitely had a better homemade feel.
I didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without (or that I couldn’t live without and could afford) until right before we were getting ready to leave. As we were walking back towards the entrance, we passed by this booth with scarves and lotions and such and this big basket of these funny-looking balls. Then I noticed the chalkboard sign advertising a natural alternative to dryer sheets. I’ve long felt a little guilty about using a one-time-only sheet for every load of laundry–a sheet that isn’t very biodegradable and not so sustainably produced. But what can you do, right? (Aside from hang a clothesline out back for drying, which I have seriously considered but haven’t actually done yet–nor have I run this idea by Ed.)
Anyway, back to the basket o’ balls. I stopped and talked to the vendor, and she explained that they were dryer balls made of Alpaca hair. You throw around the words “all natural” and some adorable furry animals and hand-made products from nearby and I’ll go weak in the knees in no time.
Here’s how it works: She sells them in packs of four. You put all four balls in the dryer when you dry a load of laundry. Your clothes get dry, soft, and static-free.
Here’s the good stuff: There are no chemicals or other bad stuff in them. She felts and knits (right word?) the balls herself. She (and family, I think) raises the alpacas herself right here in good ol’ Mississippi. Your clothes dry faster than when using dryer sheets, and the dryer balls last forever. Really, forever.
True story (in play form)
Me: Hmmm, how do these dryer balls work.
Alpaca Lady: (Explains process detailed above)
Me: So how long does each ball last? (Doesn’t understand that all four are used at once)
Alpaca Lady: (Explains that all four are used at once)
Me: Weeeelllll, then how long does the set last (Mentally guesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 months)
Alpaca Lady: Well, really forever, but I hesitate to tell people that because forever is a long time.
Me: (Mentally guesses a couple years max)
Alpaca Lady: So I feel comfortable just saying 50 years
Say what?! I know. That is forever, right? I mean, 50 years from now, will we even still have dryers? And her phrasing makes me think that they will probably last longer than 50 years, she just doesn’t “feel comfortable” verbally committing to longer than 50 years. I was sold. Twice.
I bought a set for me ($22) and a set for my mom ($22), and $44 later I left with the one purchase I couldn’t live without at the Prairie Arts Festival. She packaged them up in a little bag tied with string and a handwritten business card inside. She said, “Here’s my contact information, so you can order some for someone else because you’ll never need any more.” Now that’s someone confident in her product.
Here’s a picture of the cute package in our newly de-cluttered laundry room.
It’s only been a few weeks, but Ed and I are loving them. They’re so soft, and they do exactly what they’re supposed to do. They dry, de-static, and soften our clothes. Cathy (Alpaca Lady’s real name–I love these dryer balls so much I feel like we’re on a first-name basis) said that over time the balls will get a little fuzzy on the outside. When that happens, we’re just supposed to trim off the fuzz. No biggie.
Oh, and Cathy claimed less lint in the lint tray, about which I mentally thought “yeah right,” but she was right! There is less lint in the tray, meaning the dryer runs more efficiently. All in all, these four little balls may be the best purchase we’ve made in the last six months. And when I consider that we will likely not need dryer sheets ever again, it may be the best purchase we’ve made ever.
And here are the balls out of the package. They’re just the softest thing you’ve ever touched. It’s hard to tell their size in the pictures–they’re a little bit bigger than baseballs.
If you like your clothes to smell like something, Cathy suggests adding a few drops of essential oils to the dryer balls. We don’t particularly care about flowery laundry smell, so we haven’t done that yet. We may eventually though. If you have a dryer (and I know you do), I suggest you get yourself a set of Cathy’s alpaca felted dryer balls. You can buy them at her Etsy shop here, or you can read up on the Coldwater Alpaca Ranch (where the alpacas live) here.
Do you have any natural home product that has knocked your socks off like this one did for us? Or a DIY idea for what we could do with the box of dryer sheets we no longer need for their intended purpose?
UPDATE: In response to Jess’s comment below, I e-mailed Cathy to ask about cleaning the balls and the possibility of mildew. Here is her response:
They should not need to be washed and should not mildew. However… If you put wet clothes in the dryer and forgot to start the dryer and they laid there for a couple of days then mildew is possible. Normally they will dry with the clothes and would not mildew. They shouldn’t get dirty because you are putting them in with clean clothes. I am going to put additional instructions on my blog as soon as I get a chance. If you ever needed to wash them you could put them in a lingerie bag and wash in the machine with hot water and soap only.
If you want to check Cathy’s blog for updates, you can find it here.
Disclaimer: We weren’t paid or perked for writing about this product. We just love it so much we wanted to share it with you!
Post is linked up at One Project Closer’s DIY Link It Up #1. Check it out here.