How and why are tennis balls used in tumble dryersand washing machines?

Have you ever wondered what curiosity and ingenuity can lead to? We could spend hours researching and discussing all the inventions that humanity has come up with, whether they are the result of argument, as …

Have you ever wondered what curiosity and ingenuity can lead to? We could spend hours researching and discussing all the inventions that humanity has come up with, whether they are the result of argument, as in the case of aerogel, or naivety, of which there are many examples.
I would like to tell you about a rather strange but very useful action that can reduce clothes drying time and improve the quality of washing down-filled items, be they pillows, jackets, or blankets. The secret is simple: put tennis balls in the tumble dryer or washing machine. How and why do tennis balls help with washing and drying? I suggest you try to understand.
Let’s start by explaining what kind of magic these multicolored balls are doing in such an unusual habitat for them. Isn’t it dangerous to use them in this way? The tennis ball is a relatively light and small spherical object, which almost certainly ensures that it will not damage household appliances when washed.

Who came up with this interesting experiment has yet to be known, but the results were impressive. Tennis balls are used to wash down jackets or down duvets. The problem is that the down can clump together during the washing/drying process, causing things to lose their properties and heat up much more. And fluffing down by hand is a tedious and, let’s face it, extremely daunting task. However, it is necessary to fluff it up to keep your clothes in good condition and to preserve their properties.

How does this method affect the drying of items?

Adding down balls to the tumble dryer also helps to speed up the drying process because when the down is in its normal state, it dries much faster than when it is in a lump. And that, in turn, greatly reduces the risk of something as unpleasant as mold. Water evaporates more easily, so moisture does not remain in one place, meaning there is no favorable habitat for fungus. It is also worth noting that the balls prevent the formation of creases, so it is possible to wash things without down. This means we save time because we need to iron less clothes or linen that has been washed and dried in this way. The most important thing is to hang things up immediately because creases are formed when drying. Also useful is the ability of the balls to knock dust and dirt out of the down due to collisions. High-speed spinning is not the best option in this situation, as the tennis balls simply cannot cope and are likely to be damaged. Once inside the spinning drum, our heroes bounce off the walls, crash into things, and keep the fluff from clumping or breaking. The speed at which the drum rotates is very high, which means that on a down jacket, for example, there are many such impacts, which helps to even out the whipping of the down.

What is the right way to wash clothes in this way?

Next, I propose understanding how to wash clothes or laundry properly with such a peculiar method. First, I would like to mention an important point: outerwear or blankets are quite bulky, so they should be washed separately from other things. Washing should be done at a low temperature. Otherwise, there is a risk of damaging the down, which does not like high temperatures. It is, therefore, better to use a delicate cycle and a low temperature. Tennis balls, not surprisingly, were not designed for this activity, although they have proved to be very useful. Therefore, you need to do a little preparation before using this method. Paint tends to stain clothes, and tennis balls are rarely white. If the temperature is too high or the quality of the paint itself could be better, there is a good chance that the clothes will be stained when washed. It is, therefore, necessary to prepare the tennis balls for the washing process. It is better to choose white balls if they are available. Otherwise, it is necessary to carry out the actions described below.

There are several variations of the action here. Let’s look at them below:

  • The first option is to boil the balls in water. Do not boil them for a long time, just a few minutes; otherwise, they may be damaged by the high temperature. The paint will start to dissolve in the water under the influence of the temperature. You can then take them out and bleach them. This will get rid of the paint residue. The bleach should be rinsed off under running water. The balls themselves need to be dried. Please put them in the sun or on a radiator.
  • The second option is to buy already-invented accessories for washing and drying. These are plastic or rubber figures about the size of a tennis ball. Depending on the type, they can prevent static electricity or replace washing powder. These balls are slightly more expensive and do not require any additional steps to prepare them for washing.

How many tennis balls do you need for a wash?

Now, let’s talk about how many balls to use for washing. Opinions vary, and the reason for this is simple. The size of the drum and the amount of laundry to be washed are different for everyone, and so are the considerations. This means that you will have to experiment to find the best option. It is worth starting with a small amount. 3 or 4 pieces are enough for a down jacket. If the drum allows it and if you feel like it, you can add more, and the result may be better in your case. But usually 3-4 is enough to get the desired result.
Only add a little, as this will fill the drum. There will be no room for the tennis balls to maneuver, and they will no longer perform the desired function. In particular, the more space there is, the more space there is for the down to be evenly distributed. Some people add 8 per wash, which usually does not improve the result. It all depends on the size of the drum in the washing machine.

What types of special washing balls are there?

Let’s Demand creates supply, so limiting ourselves to tennis balls for washing would be inappropriate. So, let’s move on to the special washing balls created specifically for washing. They work on the same principle as tennis balls but can be prepared without preparation. They can also have properties that tennis balls do not have, such as making water softer and significantly reducing static electricity, and they can be used separately from washing powder. There are different types of balls:
Plastic. They are light and embossed. They are cheap and perform the same functions as tennis balls, except they do not need to be boiled. They have a longer life than tennis balls, which is also an advantage.

Tourmaline. They contain washing gel. This limits their lifespan, but the advantage is that you can wash them without using powder. Of course, no one forbids you to add it, but the quality of the wash will not suffer. Users of tourmaline balls note that the efficiency of washing without powder/gel is noticeably worse than with it. It is, therefore, better to use them (balls and powder) together to achieve the desired result. It is advisable to use them separately if you are washing the clothes of a child or a person with allergies. Washing powder can negatively affect small children, such as allergies, rashes, etc. This is where tourmaline balls come to the rescue. Things may not be perfectly clean and snow-white, but at the same time, they will not leave a drop of powder behind, which is very difficult to remove from fabrics in conventional washing.


These are usually smaller than the other options but weigh more. Because of the material, you can use them for much longer. Reduce the amount of limescale by reducing the hardness of your water. They cost more, but this is more than made up for by their longer life. Most are covered with soft rubber, and for good reason. They are comparatively heavy, and without a rubber seal, they could damage (bend) the drum. The effect is similar to that of a washing machine. The reduction in stiffness makes things softer and more delicate. At the same time, there are disadvantages. Such balls elicit things and contribute to the formation of static electricity, which is very different from tourmaline, designed to avoid such moments.


They do not differ from tennis balls in functionality. They are rubber-ribbed balls that last up to a year. They are cheap, which is an undoubted advantage. They are relatively light, so you don’t have to worry about your washing machine’s safety.


This way of using sports equipment has proved to be quite useful. It helps to keep things in good condition, saves you from having to break up lumps of dirt, and reduces the time it takes for things to dry, which helps to prevent fungal growth. Banging the balls on the surface of things also helps loosen dirt embedded in the down. It sounds great in theory, but this method only guarantees that things will be in perfect condition after washing. You will probably have to fiddle with them, but much less than conventional washing.
And the price for all the advantages does not cause negative emotions, because tennis balls cost little and special washing machines cost not much more and have additional features.

All of the above works in theory. To test this method, let’s turn to people’s reviews:

1 About the tennis balls

The recommendation is to wash your down jacket with 5 tennis balls. Two are hidden in the pockets and fastened, the rest in the free space.
I washed on a delicate cycle with an extra rinse. The spin cycle went well, but the down jacket still dripped water. After a few hours of drying, you need to shake the down jacket as often as possible during the drying process. The down is then distributed by hand.
The result:
The down is still lumpy. Even shaking it didn’t help. But it did fluff up a bit as it dried. We must straighten it out again as we get closer to the season.

2 About the rubber balls

Spring has come, so I faced the problem of washing down jackets after the winter cold. I saw a set of balls for washing at Megamarket, so I bought them and washed down jackets. In general, they coped with their task perfectly. I am very happy about it, given their low cost. It is a gift. There are 4 pieces in the set. I used it for washing all 4 pieces. Thank you, I recommend.

3 About the rubber balls

Collects hair and threads from things. Whip up detergents, and save a small amount on powder or gel.
Unfortunately, I did not feel the softness of things and took specifically for towels.

Commentary. It is better with balls than without them. It is stated that they replaced the conditioner, which is certainly not true. I tried washing things without conditioner, with balls, and with conditioner and balls, and the difference is very noticeable. For the most part, I took them for the softness of the laundry, but alas. There is a plus; they are very good at picking up hair and threads, if there are any.

4 About the rubber ball

Small but quite heavy balls of laundry. They did the job, although I doubted the operation’s success because of their small size.
We used to use tennis balls to wash jackets and other coats, but we tried these balls and were pleasantly surprised. Although they are quite small, they seem and are designed (if they were bigger, they would be much heavier and perhaps traumatic for the machine) to do the job much better than balls. This is because they have spikes of different sizes, which prevent the filling from bunching up to form a lump. I’m going to buy a second pair and try washing with four at the same time.

The reviews show tennis balls are less effective than their specially designed rubber counterparts. Therefore, I recommend buying such balls as they will last longer and do the job better.

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