These claim to soften laundry without adding liquid softener, and also reduce drying times. Are these claims true? I tested them and the results were surprising.
I washed a normal laundry load as usual and dried it with the laundry balls. I have a sensing tumble dryer that stops automatically when the clothes are dry. It took 1 hour 35 minutes to dry the laundry with the balls.
I then rewashed the same load and dried it again, without the balls. It took 2 hours 22 minutes. That's 50% longer, which astonished me. Obviously you can save significant energy using the dryer balls.
As for softness, I washed two identical towels together, and dried one with the dryer balls, one without. This time the balls failed the test. Both towels felt equally soft to the touch, and came out equally fluffy when folded. However my clever sensing dryer also has a reverse tumble feature, meaning it changes direction every now and then. It claims to reduce static, tangling and stiffness. This could have wiped out any softening effect of the balls. Or then again maybe they just don't make clothes softer. I'd be interested to see how the balls perform in a standard dryer.
One thing the balls don't do is scent your laundry. When you buy them they have a lavender fragrance that fades after only a few uses. If you like the smell of softener then you may not like the balls. But I hate the strong sickly perfumes in washing powders and fabric softeners, so for me the lack of scent is a distinct plus.
I'd say the dryer balls are worth the money, because they substantially reduce drying times even if they don't soften clothes. But remember that you can save even more money and energy if you dry clothes on a line instead.