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.
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.
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”)
- blunt-tipped needle or crochet hook
- string or cotton/acrylic yarn (to secure the wool ball in the pantyhose)
1. Begin wrapping your wool yarn around your first two fingers about 10 times.
2. Pinch the bundle of yarn in the middle and pull off your fingers. Wrap more yarn around the middle of this bundle.
3. Wrap yarn around the entire bundle until you have the beginnings of a ball.
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.
Repeat these steps with more yarn until you have 4-6 balls.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!