About three years ago Matt purchased a set of felted wool dryer balls on Etsy. When he opened the package I laughed and asked why he was purchasing balls of yarn for such a ridiculous price! He explained the purpose of the dryer balls and asked if I would experiment with them in our laundry.

Wool dryer balls are not a new concept. I had just never heard of them before this package showed up on our doorstep. People have been making them for years as an eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener (read about our homemade dryer sheets and fabric softener). But wool dryer balls can do so much more than just eliminate chemicals from your laundry.

Wool Dryer Balls


What are the benefits of using wool balls in your dryer?

  • They decrease drying time, saving you money on utility bills. (Especially helpful in the winter months!)
  • Commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets are filled with harmful chemicals and perfumes that coat your clothing, eventually ending up on your skin. These chemicals can be especially harsh on sensitive skin. There are no chemicals in wool dryer balls!
  • Commercial dryer sheets can be costly, and are thrown away after use. Wool dryer balls can be re-used for years, saving you hundreds of dollars.
  • Commercial fabric softeners shouldn’t be used on cloth diapers. Wool dryer balls are perfect for keeping your cloth diapers soft and chemical-free.
  • Wool dryer balls won’t affect the absorbency of your towels, kitchen cloths, or cloth diapers – commercial softeners will.
  • 100% wool dryer balls increase fluffiness and reduce static as dryer loads tumble.
  • Dryer balls help to soften clothes naturally.
  • Dryer balls are made from a renewable resource.

How do they work?

It’s simple. They bounce around in the dryer separating clothes, allowing more hot air to circulate through all the garments. As they tumble, the wool balls fluff your laundry, reduce wrinkles, and basically pummel the laundry to make it softer. They do so much more than a dryer sheet by pulling moisture out of your clothes so you don’t have to run the dryer as long. The more dryer balls you have in a load, the shorter the drying time will be.

Maybe you’re using those plastic PVC dryer balls because you don’t want the chemical scents from commercial products coating your laundry. We don’t recommend these, because plastic releases all kinds of nasty chemicals when it’s heated. Ditto for tennis balls. Wool dryer balls are a much more natural, chemical-free alternative to all the other options out there.

Don’t bother paying someone else to wind yarn into a ball for you; making your own felted wool dryer balls is a simple process you can do while watching a flick, helping kids with homework, or waiting for dinner to cook.

Making felted wool dryer balls with yarn

Choosing Your Yarn

Finding the right yarn is the most critical part of making these wool balls. Look for 100% wool yarn. Most hobby stores sell it, or you can purchase it online.

Note: Stay away from any wool labeled “superwash” or “machine washable.” This type will NOT felt.

I have successfully used many types of wool yarn to make felted wool dryer balls, but I prefer the thick, lightly spun roving yarn (pictured in beige below). It felts much better than the Fishermen’s Wool or the other tightly spun wool yarns.

Wool Dryer Balls 2

If you want to be really thrifty and “green,” unravel an old 100% wool sweater you’re not wearing, or purchase wool sweaters at a second hand store and use the yarn for this project (or other projects). If you use a yarn with even the slightest bit of acrylic or other blend, your balls won’t felt correctly, if at all. If they are not felted, they will unravel in the dryer and you’ll have a stringy mess.

I like to use brightly colored yarn so I can easily separate the dryer balls from my clothes when coming out of the dryer. I haven’t had trouble with colors from the yarn balls bleeding onto fabrics, but you can choose lighter colors of yarn if you’re worried about this.

You Will Need:

  • skein of 100% wool yarn (NOT wool labeled “superwash” or “machine washable”)
  • scissors
  • pantyhose
  • blunt-tipped needle or crochet hook
  • string or cotton/acrylic yarn (to secure the wool ball in the pantyhose)

Wool Dryer Balls 3


1. Begin wrapping your wool yarn around your first two fingers about 10 times.

Wool Dryer Balls 4

2. Pinch the bundle of yarn in the middle and pull off your fingers. Wrap more yarn around the middle of this bundle.

Wool Dryer Balls 5

3. Wrap yarn around the entire bundle until you have the beginnings of a ball.

Wool Dryer Balls 6

4. Continue wrapping tightly until your ball is the desired size. (I make mine softball-sized to help cut drying time more, but tennis ball or baseball-sized will help save money on yarn.)

5. Use a blunt-tipped yarn needle or crochet hook to tuck the end of the thread under several layers of yarn. Pull it through and cut the end.

Wool Dryer Balls 7

Repeat these steps with more yarn until you have 4-6 balls.

Wool Dryer Balls 8

6. Cut the leg off an old pair of pantyhose. Put balls into the toe of the pantyhose, tying tightly in between each one with string, or cotton/acrylic yarn. (Just don’t use wool yarn or it will felt around the pantyhose.) Tie off the end. Take a few minutes to play with your yarn ball caterpillar if you like.

Wool Dryer Balls 9

Felting the Dryer Balls

7. Throw the entire yarn caterpillar into the wash with towels (or a load of jeans if you used brightly colored yarn).

Wool Dryer Balls 10

8. Wash in a hot wash cycle with a cold water rinse cycle. Dry your yarn caterpillar with your laundry using the hottest dryer setting.

Remove balls from pantyhose and check for felting. Some types of wool yarn will not felt well on the first try. You may need to repeat the washing and drying cycles up to 3 or 4 times. You’ll know felting has occurred when you can gently scrape your fingernail over the ball and strands do not separate.

Wool Dryer Balls 11

Using your wool dryer balls

Just throw these babies in the dryer with your freshly washed clothes, and let them do their work! For regular loads, use at least 4-6 balls to notice a decrease in drying time. For large loads, use 6 or more wool balls. The more you use, the more quickly your clothes will dry.

Wool Dryer Balls 12

Store your dryer balls in the dryer between uses or display them in a basket in your laundry room. (They’re pretty!)

If you want to lightly scent your laundry you can add 1-2 drops of your favorite essential oil to each ball before throwing in the dryer. If you’re using a good quality, pure essential oil, you will not have trouble with the oils spotting your clothes. (Find 100% pure essential oils here.)

Don’t want to make your own? Find 100% wool dryer balls here…already made for you!

Are you using wool dryer balls?

Share any experience you have with the community!


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Comments

  1. Jena says

    Look for 50% off coupons at JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby. I buy one skein at a time that way, it makes it very economical. I give them as wedding gifts with a set of towels and instructions.

  2. Barbara Werner says

    Thank you so much. I have looked at many tutorials for dryer balls online, but yours is by far the best and most straighforward one. I shall definitely be making some now.

  3. Janet says

    A couple of question.
    1) Why not just soak you dryer balls in hot water in a bucket instead of putting though a wash load – I never use hot for my wash? I would assume you don’t need to use detergent to get them to felt but do they definitely need the hot water to felt?

    2) Why not just leave in the nylon stocking? Forever or just until they felt.

    Thanks so much! Love this site!

    • Shameaka says

      1) In addition to hot water, you also need agitation or friction which is provided by the washing machine to felt the yarn.

      2) You wouldn’t want to leave them in the stocking for regular use b/c the individual balls need to be free to tumble around the dryer. The purposes of the stocking are to hold the yarn balls together until they felt and to keep the balls separate so that they do not felt together.

        • Rebecca says

          Just seems like a waste of hot water..If they are in the nylon tied off, they will still be able to move freely in the dryer and wouldn’t they get the agitation from the dryer if they were still wet from the hot water? That seems logical to me..

  4. Heather says

    How many skeins should I expect to need to make each dryer ball softball- sized? I’m trying to plan how much yarn to buy! Thanks!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Heather! It kind of depends on the yarn you’re using. Most of the Paton’s wool comes in skeins of about 210 yards for their classic or worsted, and I have made one ball from each of these skeins. The Paton’s roving yarn I used in the tutorial comes in skeins of 120 yards, and made one perfect softball-sized ball (even though it’s a shorter length, the yarn is much chunkier so it can’t be wound as tightly). The fisherman’s wool (Lion Brand) comes in 465 yd. skeins, and you can get 2-3 balls out of this. Hope this is helpful!

      • Laura says

        Is $10 about the price of a skein(?) of Patron yarn? That’s how much Amazon wants for it. If that only makes one ball, that makes making them yourself way more expensive than buying them. 10 wool balls with shipping from CleanSypria (a seller featured in Parenting mags) is $55 including the shipping.
        A tip from her: She says they make excellent dog/cat toys and a tool to teach babies colors. :) I thought that was neat.
        I want to make them, but if that is a normal price, I’ll pass. :(

        • Betsy Jabs says

          NO! Don’t spend $10 per skein! Michael’s and JoAnn’s sell a skein of Paton’s wool yarn for $5 or $6. Print off your 40% off coupon before going, and you’ll spend even less! One reader mentioned here in the comments that she buys a skein of yarn with her coupon each time she’s at the craft store, and she builds up a nice collection of good yarn for just a few dollars a piece. Sometimes I’ll print off 2 coupons and make my hubby go through another checkout with a coupon. This might be cheating. :)

          • Laura says

            Phew! That makes more sense! I make the bf go through the Michaels lane with a coupon if I need frames. It is cheating, but it feels oh so good! :)

          • Eve says

            Betsy, I made 6 dryer balls from 4oz of real roving wool. Not yarn. I forgot to wash them in hot water but I ran them through the dryer a few times in the panty hose. They are working very well, not falling apart since I took them out of the pantyhose. I’m going to try putting lavender essential oil on before the next load. Thanks for all the good info! I love it.

  5. says

    I definitely have to try this. I just got a dryer, and I want to get rid of the softener. I do have quite a bit of bright wool yarn at home, so as soon as I get the time, I will :) Thanks

  6. Lisa Quenon says

    Dear Matt,

    I’ve always just kept tennis balls (2 or 3) in my dryer…is there an advantage using these wool balls? They seem labor-intensive to me as opposed to just throwing in someone’s used tennis balls.

      • Lisa Quenon says

        Hum. I have never known this in years and years of usage…maybe my old tennis balls are so old that it doesn’t occur anymore. They were old when I first tossed them in several years ago and have used the same ones since. Dunno. Thanks for the information though. :)

        • Laura says

          I’m pretty sure plastic, rubber, etc. continues to leach out toxic chemicals forever until the material breaks down.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Since these balls are 100% wool, right down to the core, they do much more than a tennis ball. They absorb moisture from your laundry, therefore decreasing dryer time, saving you money, and being completely natural (unlike the synthetic fibers and rubbers used in making tennis balls). Hope this helps!

  7. Yvonne says

    I love this. I am fighting an uphill battle in my house eliminating all the nasty chemicals. My fiancee loves those bounce dryer sheets. I finally got him to stop buying them but now our clothes are full of static. We live in an apartment and have to take our clothes to a laundromat, this should reduce the amount of money we spend drying the clothes. This is going to be my weekend project this weekend.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Awesome, I’m glad you’ll be trying these out! Also keep in mind that much of the reason static occurs is due to over-drying clothes. So even if you use these balls you’ll notice static if the dryer is allowed to run too long. Another cause of static is synthetic materials. Try to separate synthetics and try hang drying those to keep the rest of your laundry static-free. Have fun making your dryer balls!

  8. says

    Great article I have been wanting to make these. I did have to laugh about the pantyhose…I cannot even recall the last time I bothered to buy PANTYHOSE, the word itself gives me shivers and not in any good kind of way. Ha. Any alternative idea? a small sock? cheesecloth? I am not going to go out and buy pantyhose for any reason. Hee hee. Friends? Nope. I don’t even KNOW anyone who wears pantyhose now!
    :)

    • Dawn Parks says

      I didn’t have any either, but I did go to Walmart and buy 3 pair for 1.00 each. So now I have 6 “legs” to use for felting my dryer balls…lol. This works great!!!!

      • Jenni says

        You can also use old tights, or knee high stock, anything light in weight. this is basically to keep the ball together instead of falling apart while “felting” together.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hahaha! I know…I was actually surprised to find some old pairs of pantyhose in the back of my sock drawer! (They must have been given to me by my grandma.) You can certainly use a sock…do not run out and buy pantyhose! :)

    • Sarah says

      I do not wear the full pantyhose, but I wear knee-high nylons still…it’s required for certain outfits at work, under our dress code. (Actually the dress code still says the hose, but I cheat and use the knee-highs.) My old almost worn out pairs have come in handy often in the last few weeks. I fill them with a shoe deodorizer as well because my work shoes tend to smell. :-) They are fairly cheap to replace and can be useful…but I like the ideas of everyone else below if you do not have them…or see if friends have old pairs of nylons that they are just tossing out anyway.

    • mrscireland says

      I am planning on making these and since I don’t use pantyhose either I am going to use some of my daughter’s outgrown dance tights. They are made from the same material just slightly thicker. So I hope it works.

      • Mandy says

        I bought a bunch of panty hose at a garage sale, (cleaned them) and use them for hanging Onions for storage, great to keep around. and now I have another use for them, :)

    • lynn says

      a family sells these at our farmers market.

      he starts with wool ‘roving’ not yarn and he puts the balls in socks, not pantyhose. he says that the balls will stick a little to the socks (they ‘felt’ to the socks).

      i can’t remember if he said to detach them each washing? maybe turn the sock inside out the next time, then right side, then inside out…

  9. Vicky says

    I raise Shetland Sheep and have my own wool yarn. I loved the idea of dryer yarn balls. One problem I see is my cat would LOVE these.:>). I guess that is a good problem. If you want to do only one you can buy some cheap nylon pants socks which at the dollar store you can get for 50 cents a pair. Thanks for the idea
    Vicky

    • Betsy Jabs says

      How cool Vicky! When I was running all over town looking for the perfect yarn to make these, I was DYING to know someone who was raising their own sheep! And yes, your cat will love these, so perhaps you should make a few just for the kitty. :)

  10. Dawn Parks says

    I do have a problem with static on some of the fleece robes and blankets I have and also some of the more satiny undergarments…any ideas on how to eliminate the staic? I don’t have room to hang all these items up either as I have done that with a few things and it doesn’t help much. I make my own laundry detergent and have added the purex softener crystals, but would like to eliminate that if there is a way around the static. We don’t have any allergies to the softener, so I thought it might help a little. Would be grateful for any ideas! :) I am slowly getting all my household cleaners switched over and have been enjoying trying new things!! Thanks for all your info!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      One really cool static-reducing trick is to throw a ball of tin foil in the dryer with your clothes. It will turn into a nice, smooth ball after one load, and you’ll need to change it out every few weeks when you notice static coming back. I’m not sure how “natural” this is, but it definitely works.

  11. Laura says

    I would be interested too in alternatives to panty hose and an idea of how much wool I would need. I want to have about ten tennis ball sized ones.

    I don’t use panty hose (would it even be green or economical to buy them just for this?), and don’t really know anyone who does… Maybe I have old pairs at my mom’s from when I was a kid if there’s no alternative…

    • Twinkle says

      Laura- You can use old cotton socks to separate them. Just cut the dryer balls out the same way you cut pantyhose.

      HTH.

      • Jenni says

        You can also use old tights, or knee high sock, anything light in weight. this is basically to keep the ball together instead of falling apart while “felting” together.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      If you use any of the Paton’s brand yarns, you can get about 2 tennis-ball sized balls from these skeins (they’re typically sold in 210 yard skeins). If using a larger skein, like the fisherman’s wool (465 yds.), you can get about 4 tennis-ball sized balls from this.

      Definitely don’t rush out and buy pantyhose…see Twinkle and Jenni’s comments for ideas! :)

    • Laura says

      Thanks for the ideas. I give all my clothes to the Goodwill before they get worn out, so I really don’t have any old sleeves per se, and I have no knee highs or tights… Would using a still wearable shirt work, or would that ruin the shirt?

      • Betsy Jabs says

        I don’t think it would ruin it, but you may want to try it out first with a shirt that’s not your favorite. :) However, like someone mentioned above, you can also use a sock. You won’t have to cut the sock either, just tie it off before throwing it in the washer/dryer, and cut the string (not the sock) to release the ball when you’re all finished.

  12. Jen B. says

    This may be a silly question, but how long do they last? Do they need to be replaced and how would we know when to replace them?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question, actually! They will last for several YEARS if done correctly. You may need to replace if they start unraveling, but again, if wound tightly and felted correctly, you shouldn’t have trouble with this for years. They don’t ever “go bad,” so you don’t have to worry about them losing their effectiveness.

      • Michelle says

        Betsy, When I made my wool balls (several years ago) the article said to felt them twice. First you roll each ball to 2 1/2 to 3″, felt them by throwing in hot water (in the sock), dry, and then add more yarn to the small ball until the full size and felt one more time. They also said if your ball starts to unravel to re-wind the loose end, tuck it, put in the sockand just re-felt it. I got the impression they don’t “wear” out because you can “update” them so to speak.

    • Laura says

      I’ve been told by wool ball makers that you don’t have to replace them, potentially ever. Some of them have been using them for like a decade. Like Betsy said, if they unravel, that’s when they need to be replaced. Otherwise they work forever.

  13. says

    I am highly allergic to wool, but am tired of using those plastic dryer balls for the reasons mentioned in this article. If i use these wool ones, does any wool transfer onto the clothing? i would be a hot mess if that happened!
    thank you.

    • Cheryl says

      I hear you on the allergy. I was thinking about using crochet cotton, like Sugar N Cream and experiment. Or maybe some balled up old cotton socks??

      • Teresa says

        At the time I learned about “wool” dryer balls I did not have any wool yarn laying around but I did have “a lot” of old 100% cotton t-shirts. Since the point of the dryer balls is to absorb moisture and move around to help clothes dry faster I figured cotton could do the same. I used a method to create t-shirt yarn and rolled it into several large balls. To reduce static I placed several safety pins in each. They work fine. Keep in mind that since cotton won’t felt the balls can unravel if not well wrapped and tied off. I’ve handled this by tying and then placing a safety pin in the appropriate end spot. I’ve since made my first wool balls, so far both work equally well.

    • Terrie says

      I don’t know if the wool would transfer, but I wouldn’t want to risk it. An alternative would be to use aluminum foil balls as dryer balls. They will function the same as the wool balls, and last about 6 months.

    • Melissa says

      I am VERY allergic to wool as well, and I don’t know whether or not the wool would transfer onto the clothing or not, but I wasn’t brave enough to find out. Instead, we make our dryer balls out of alpaca fleece. They work the same way as the wool and have been wonderful!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Oh geeez…please don’t experiment with these wool balls to find out! That would be awful! There are other animal fibers that will felt, so maybe you could try to get your hands on mohair, angora, alpaca, or llama. I haven’t tried them myself, but they should work in theory.

      • Patti says

        I’m also allergic to wool and found out the hard way! Thank God for the epi-pen. I also can’t have mohair, angora or any animal hair/fibers, hate having allergies. Does anyone know if there’s something else that will work? Thank You for any helpful suggestions! Betsy love the work you and Matt do!

          • Susan says

            or, i’ve heard of cutting a sock and sewing pouches with either small beans or lavender (for scent) and flaxseeds for weight. should be similar as they would be heavy enough to bounce the clothes around, but would not get the benefit of helping dry clothes faster like the wool does. chemical/toxin free though.

  14. Twinkle says

    I made some wool dryer balls a couple of years ago and love them. I just read on Pinterest about making them with old stray cotton socks too! You just sew them closed. Genius! Thanks for the tip about using more per load. We use a commercial laundromat and using more dryer balls will definitely lower our cost even more. To the sock drawer and yarn stash!
    Happy 2013!

  15. Cheryl says

    If you are allergic to wool, can you use crochet cotton, like Sugar N Cream? I have been using a dry cotton towel in my dryer, so it would stand to reason that cotton yarn balls would do the same? What do you think?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      The problem with cotton is that it won’t felt, and cotton yarn balls will start to unravel in the dryer. If allergic to wool, try another animal fiber that felts, such as angora, mohair, alpaca, or llama. They will be trickier to get your hands on, but I’m guessing you could find them online or maybe even from a local farmer.

  16. Heather B. says

    I made these previously. I used the Paton’s and my balls worked great for about 2 months, then one day I opened the drier and it was just a ball of yarn. It took forever to get out. Any tips on making more, but better? I probably ran it through the washer about twice the first time.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yeah, this is why I prefer the wool roving yarn. It just felts better than the other Paton yarns. When I used the Paton’s regular wool yarn and the Paton’s worsted weight wool yarn, I had to run them through a hot wash 4 or 5 times until it looked like the fibers were really felted. I found the Paton’s roving yarn at JoAnn’s, and it felts well on the first try, but looks even better after a second wash.

  17. Michael says

    I had better success using natural wool roving (bought directly from a sheep farm). It wraps easier, for sure. My first attempt left me with towels mummy-wrapped in yarn.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Ha! That gave me a great visual! :) Yes, the roving definitely looks much easier and felts better. The reason I chose to use yarn is that it absorbs more moisture from the laundry, and the resulting balls are heavier, so they tumble harder and soften/fluff clothes better.

  18. Emily says

    Too funny that you posted this! I bought the stuff to make these months ago but haven’t found the time to do it. This should give me inspiration :-)

  19. Sue says

    The dryer sheets make me break out so I have been using vinegar for about a year now. We are a casual dressing family so no dresses or fancy clothes, just jeans and tshirts, so the amount of static we have is pretty low and the vinegar is fine. I do notice a small amount of static cling when I wear nylon workout pants though, so I am going to try this in addition to the vinegar in every load and see if it helps. I used those blue plastic balls for awhile but they just fell apart and really did very little. Thanks for the tip.
    PS I don’t have any pantyhose either, I would suggest that you buy the cheapest ones at the dollar store.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks for reading Sue! You really can get away without the pantyhose…a thin sock, leg from an old pair of tights, or other thin knee-high will also work.

    • Laura says

      I’m not sure how true this is or not, but I read recently that to extend the life of your workout clothes, you should wash them in a natural detergent with no commercial fabric softener and hang dry them. Hang drying in your house increases the humidity in the house slightly too, which is great if you are like me getting electrocuted and dehydrated from the central heart running all winter long. :) Hope this helps!

  20. janice says

    I was able to obtain a big ball of roving from a local sheep farmer. I was able to make about 15 tennis ball sized balls out of it! I love them and they work great. I also took a couple back to the sheep farmer, she was skeptical, and she loves them! They are definitely worth the effort!
    Chemicals BOO!
    Natural YEAH!

  21. says

    I made 10 wool drier balls and I’m lucky if I have 3 when its time to dry again. Too funny but the only ones I can find on a regular bases are the three I left in the panty hose I felted them in. If I can find all of them I’m going to put then in panty hose 3 in each knitting them between each. But, I love them. I make my own laundry soap and use white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle and never have stactic cling. I’ll never use store bought dryer sheets or detergents again.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      They will last several years if they are made well. Make sure you’re winding tightly and they are fully felted before using. This will ensure they don’t start unraveling prematurely.

  22. says

    I love how colorful they are and the layout of your post! It all comes together in an easy to understand and memorable way.

    I have heard of them before and recently saw another post so it must be meant to be.

    I look forward to trying them over my homemade stuff in the near future :-)

    Teri
    terigelseth.com

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks so much Teri! They were such agreeable subjects to photograph, so I had fun snapping pics of them. ;) I really hope you’ll give them a shot soon!

  23. JMBailey says

    Any idea if these would be as effective if I used any old yarn to make a tennis ball sized “starter” ball and then added a half inch or so layer of wool (or other yarn that will felt) on top of that before tying them in the pantyhose? I can usually find skeins of yarn in thrift shops for a good price so that would cut the cost.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      You can definitely do it that way (or even put a tightly rolled up piece of an old wool sweater in the middle). However, the wool is much more absorbent than other types of yarn, so your absorbency will be cut a little if using a different material for the core. Still effective, but it might not reduce drying time as much as having a 100% wool ball. You should definitely try it though!

  24. Ethel says

    I also have a severe allergy to wool as does my husband. Neither of us can use any of the alternative animal fibers either. I guess we would have to use the cotton “sheets” of perhaps I can use some of my old cotton yarn and make the balls but leave them in the panty hose, separate by tying both ends and then sewing them shut to keep them from fraying in the dryer. I also like the idea of using old mismatched socks. We always seem to have a few laying around that have no mates and those would make good balls as well. We also have the need to replace my husbands diabetic socks about every 12 – 18 months and those too would make great balls.
    I hang clothes on the lines out back whenever weather permits. We also have to use the laundromat at present and being on a fixed income (my husband was disabled from a stroke about 3 years ago and I retired early to take care of him) we need to save every penny we can. I do a lot of crafts and DIY so this will give me another winter pastime to work on this year. When weather permits though I am outside working on different projects for the gardens, including making more raised beds. Now that I have retired I have the time to invest in these things that I didn’t have before, just not always the money to invest when I want it. I love working in my greenhouse and even turning the compost bins (set of 4 for now with 1 more in the works) isn’t really a chore as I can see the improvement in the decomposition process with each turning.

    Thank you so much for this article. I have also been trying to get my husband to let me try making our own soaps – bath, dish, laundry – but so far to no avail. He has allowed me to start using borax in the laundry with my regular detergent and it has allowed me to cut back the amount I need by about 1/2 so it’s a start. I have also started using vinegar for cleaning as well as in the laundry which has really helped with his smelly socks LMAO. I would like to make some glycerine based soaps as the ones I’ve been able to buy have not given my any problems. Again though, money to begin is the problem.

    I have to be very careful what detergents, bath soaps etc I use as I am highly allergic to some of the ingredients, especially anything that smells, such as the added perfumes and some of the other chemicals in them. I haven’t tried any of the essential oils for things, yet, but would like to. I have been a bit reticent to use them as one of my problems is with things that smell strongly. I do use some homemade herb infusions and liquid from boiled citrus peels in making our own air fresheners as I cannot breathe using the commercial ones. We have to use something as we have a son who has intestinal problems that cause extremely smelly bowel movements that will permeate the entire house if something isn’t used. I also keep a bowl of baking soda in the bathroom to help absorb some of it but that doesn’t keep it all down.

    I just love this site and have gotten many ideas that I am either currently trying for myself or have plans to try in the future as I can talk my husband into letting me buy the ingredients I need.

    • Leanna Stupperich says

      Vinegar, water and baking soda (mix carefully) works well as laundry softener. If you use quality oils they also work well without being overpowering. All of us in my family have breathing and chemical sensitivities, and switching to homemade cleaners has been well worth it for us. I wonder if the balls would work for you if you sewed them into a cover, like sections of cotton sock so that the wool can’t actually touch anything but would still be absorbent? I guess there would still be the problem of having to touch them to roll them though…

  25. Rebecca says

    I have a washer/dryer combo. Would these work for that too. It basically washes, then dries the clothes all in the same machine. The wool balls would then get wet and have to be dried too, so I figure the answer is no, but thought I would see if anyone out there might know.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Can you stop the machine before the drying cycle begins? If so, you can throw the balls in at that point so they could do their work during the drying cycle. But yes, they need to be dry to begin with if you want to reap the benefits.

  26. Mari says

    Wow balls of real wool must be cheaper on your side of the world, they certainly aren’t here.

    I have been an advocate for using scrunched up tinfoil for years but went Male of the species require new socks, despite his protestations that holes in the toes and heals were fine, I decided it was time they had to go. Having previously read about using felted wool and the reason, I had an idea when knotting his socks beyond redemption to throw out. I then stuffed it in the toe of another sock and did a combination fold, twist, fold action until I had a reasonable sized ball. I then wrapped it in tinfoil and another sock and stitched it closed. I have two of them in my dryer and they worked wonderfully. Am eyeing up other socks now hehe.

    Because a lot of our winter clothing (I line dry as much as possible) is what we call polar fleece, it really attracts the static .M of S refuses to kiss me because I zap him. I have found the sock balls, plus an old flannel I spray with white vinegar and throw in with the clothes, seem to prevent this static.

    As an aside – my step daughter brought me a top she wanted altered. I put it in my room by my sewing machine while I was busy doing some other repairs. My eye started to itch and my throat felt irritated and I started to sniff. I noticed a fragrance in the room and when I picked up her top, I really started to feel blah. Why? Well she is heavily into smellies in her washing, saying’ its all about the smell, darling’. I have had to wash the top using my home made detergent before I could handle it. Even after washing once the smell is still there. No wonder she suffers so badly from sinus issues.

  27. Alii says

    The wool dryer balls were not in my budget, and I didn’t have the time to take apart (or find) a wool sweater to make them, so I did the next best thing, googled and found a pattern online to make balls the correct size with scraps of cotton fabric. I made up five of them, and they seem to work just fine.

  28. Barb says

    How about recycling old wood sweaters? Just unravel and follow the instructions for making the wool ball with purchased yarn. Practically free!

  29. Betsey says

    I have a lot of old scraps of wool yarn, none of which is large enough to do a project. Would it work to tie them together and make a ball, or would the knots get in the way of the felting? I have never felted wool before.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Definitely! Just be sure to use one of your longer scraps to finish the outside and cover the knotted ends so you don’t have strings sticking through the ball. It should work just fine.

      • Jess says

        I’ve made my own using wool sweaters from a second hand store (about $5 each). Ran the sweaters through the washer and dryer with a load of wash, exactly how you would have done if you accidentally shrunk a sweater. ;) Cut them into strips, wound them up, and finished by wrapping with roving instead of yarn. Spending $5 on a sweater got me about 6 or 7 tennis sized balls, and if you use a $5 or $6 skein of wool yarn you’d not need to use much. I’m guessing a skein would do it? All told, it’s about $2 a ball. They’ve lasted me 3 years so far.

  30. janice says

    My son just discovered another use for them last night. They are great balls for your dog. We have a mini dachshund and she loves to play fetch with them. They are soft on her teeth and they actually bounce. I think the best part is that they are all natural unlike tennis balls!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      How cool Janice! I saw an article somewhere about lead in tennis balls…specifically the ones made to be a dog toy. Sounds like yarn balls are a much better alternative.

  31. Jeanette says

    I have a couple of questions:
    1) I’m allergic to wool, so the actual making of these may pose a problem, however, do you think using these will cause any trouble on my clothing? I’m unsure, I may try one load just to see if it will affect my clothing/skin.

    2) do you think cotton balls would work the same as wool?

    3) do these balls stop static cling? that is the main reason I use dryers sheets is to stop the static cling. I did not see anything that mentioned that.

    Thanks.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi Jeanette,

      1) Check the above comments for suggestions on alternatives to wool. You can use alpaca, angora, bamboo, mohair, or llama.
      2) One reader commented her cotton balls work well. 100% wool balls will be more dense and absorbent, but you could try cotton.
      3) These balls help with static. You must be careful not to over-dry though, or you’ll end up with static even when using the balls.

      Hope this helps!

  32. Alii says

    I think the cotton works as well as the wool would, as natural fibers don’t seem to create static like synthetics do, but I avoid synthetics anyway. I have one aluminum foil ball in my dryer with the five cotton balls, seems to work well enough to avoid static.

  33. says

    I am of the opinion any type of ball would work. I see folks on here using tennis ball, felt, cotton, paper. You name it just so you have something keeping the cloths separated is all that counts regardless of the method

  34. Vicky says

    I just finished “trying” my new dryer balls. After the first try, I opened the dryer to find a bunch of yarn. My water doesn’t get hot enough and my dryer doesn’t have a hot setting. After 3 hours of untangling the yarn, I am going to hand felt them with roving. THE trick I think is HOT water and aggaitate.
    I do have one that survived and I really like the results. Thanks much for the suggestion on it.

  35. JMBailey says

    For those that want wool outer yarn and want to save money I have a suggestion. I bought 4 skeins of Sugar’n Cream 100% cotton yarn and 1 skein of Paton’s Classic Wool. I made 2 balls with each of the Sugar’n Cream and then covered each of the balls with about 2 layers of the Paton’s wool. I was lucky and got the cotton for 1 dollar each and the wool for 4 dollars so a total of 8 dollars for 8 balls. Each ball comes weighs near 2 oz which is the same as one of the plastic dryer balls that I was using.

  36. VaGirl2 says

    Ok, I did not anticipate the pain in my fingers when trying to make these wool balls! I hold the beginning of the ball in my left hand and wind with my right. The pain in the left thumb and next 2 fingers is terrible…am I missing something? Is there some trick to getting the ball started and big enough quickly so that it’s not so tedious in the beginning? Thanks!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      It’s tedious work for sure in the beginning! That is one of the reasons I like the roving yarn over the regular width yarn…the winding goes much faster and starts to become a ball quickly. Take breaks if your fingers are aching or maybe even pass it off to a family member to do some winding. :)

      • Christine Decarolis says

        If your fingers hurt, you might be holding the yarn too tight. As a knitter I manually wind hanks into center-pull balls often and the yarn will wind itself tight enough without a lot of effort. I also wind the balls around my thumb so I’m not grasping the growing ball.

  37. Sarah-Mae says

    I was super excited when I saw this article the other day. I have a huge problem with static because I don’t use any fabric softener at the moment. (My husband and I are still making the lifestyle switch.) Once I read this article I went out and got the supplies right away. Yesterday I felted them and today I used 3 balls with a small load of tee-shirts. When I pulled out my clothes, there was no static and they were significantly softer. I’m flipping out like a geek over these things and trying to convert my mom now. Thanks so much!

  38. Sarah says

    I may sound silly, but what is the difference between the regular wool yarn and the roving yarn? I’ve never heard of roving yarn before…

    I always enjoy reading your posts. I went to make hot cocoa tonight…but alas, we had no cocoa powder and I didn’t want to go out in the “cold” (I live in Central Florida, so my cold now is different than what I grew up with as being cold, even from a more mild climate) to get some. I was so excited to have an excellent reason to try a new cocoa recipe! Sad day.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Not silly at all Sarah! Roving yarn was new to me…I accidentally found it while searching for the perfect felting yarn. It’s just a thicker, more loosely spun yarn. It takes less work to wind, and it felts with less washings compared to regular wool yarns.

      And wow, yes, a sad day for sure when you don’t have cocoa on a chilly day!!! :)

  39. Diane says

    I took apart an old 100% wool sweater and got five baseball sized balls. These are amazing. I am now drying things using the damp dry setting and everything comes out dry and soft.

    Thanks so much!

  40. PBS says

    Hi all,

    These balls are great. My twist is to roll them up around a core made of aluminum foil balls. I’ve been using the aluminum balls for the same purpose but with the added benefit that they reduce static.

  41. Christine Decarolis says

    I do felted knit projects. You can use pillowcases and those nylon lingerie bags for felting. If you don’t use hot water in your wash, you can felt in a tub of water or your sink but you have to manually agitate the project which may be too labor intensive. A little detergent/dish soap helps to speed things up too.

  42. Erin says

    I inherited some skeins of Irish wool from my mother, but I have been unsuccessful learning to knit or crochet anything worth looking at. Ah, but I didn’t have the heart to give away the wool. My newly felted wool dryer balls have given me another connection to my mom that I can use every day, and I will never buy another bottle of fabric softener. I used a syringe to inject a couple drops of my husband’s favorite essential oil into the middle of a couple of the balls, and it gives a very light scent to his clothes

    • Betsy Jabs says

      How sweet Erin! I love that you have this new “connection” to your mom now. :) Thanks for sharing, and we’re so happy you’re enjoying your new wool dryer balls!

  43. says

    This is AWESOME!!! Thank you for sharing this. We do use green laundry products but if I could save some money each month and eliminate dryer sheets and fabric softener I will! I also love that I can make these. I’m not all that handy with yard related hobbies/crafts, but I can roll some yard into a snazzy ball like nobody’s business! ;)

  44. DS says

    My first efforts are in the washer right now. Some of the balls had yarn come loose as I stuffed them into the pantyhose. I got more yarn on a needle and poked it in and out to try to hold the balls together better. I wondered if crocheting a chain and then rolling THAT would work better.