Learn to Make Homemade Felted Wool Dryer Balls

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How to make Wool Dryer Balls

Learn how to make wool dryer balls, then save time, money, and energy by tossing four to six felted balls in with each dryer load. They also reduce static.

How to Make Wool Dryer Balls

So 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! Then he explained the purpose of the dryer balls and asked if I would experiment with them in our laundry.

While wool dryer balls are not a new concept, I had never heard of them. Nevertheless, 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.

Benefits of Using Wool Dryer Balls

You should learn how to make wool dryer balls for all of the following reasons:

  • To begin with, wool dryer balls decrease drying time, saving you money on utility bills. Which is 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. In contrast, there are no chemicals in wool dryer balls!
  • Commercial dryer sheets are costly and you must throw them away after one use. Conversely, 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.

According to Energy.gov:

Wool or rubber dryer balls will help separate your clothes and get more air to them, cutting drying time. They can also reduce static so you don’t need dryer sheets (see #7 below). The wool balls are said to absorb some moisture, further cutting drying time. We use these at my house and have seen a noticeable difference in the time it takes our clothes to dry.[1]

How do Wool Dryer Balls 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; learning how to make wool dryer balls is simple. You can do while watching a movie, helping kids with homework, or waiting for dinner to cook.

How to Make Wool Dryer Balls (Felted 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 here.

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

Be really thrifty and “green” by unraveling 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 blends, your balls won’t felt correct, 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.

Supplies for Making Wool Dryer Balls

  • skein of 100% wool yarn (NOT wool labeled “superwash” or “machine washable”) – find my favorite kind here
  • scissors
  • nylons or knee-high stockings
  • blunt-tipped needle or crochet hook
  • string or cotton/acrylic yarn (to secure the wool ball in the pantyhose)

Steps For Making Wool Dryer Balls

What You Will Need

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

Step 1

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

4. Continue wrapping tightly until your ball is the desired size. (I make mine softball-sized to help cut drying time more, but a tennis ball or baseball-sized will help save money on yarn. You can also fill your ball with an old, wadded up sock or piece of fabric if you don’t want to use so much 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 nylons, or use knee-high stockings. Put balls into the toe of the nylons, tying tightly in between each one with string, or cotton/acrylic yarn. (Just don’t use wool yarn or it will felt around the nylons.) Tie off the end. Take a few minutes to play with your yarn ball caterpillar if you like.

Wool Dryer Balls 9

How to Felt Them

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 nylons and check for felting. When learning how to make wool dryer balls you’ll see that 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.

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.) Just be sure to use a clear essential oil.

Love the idea, but don’t want to learn how to make wool dryer balls?

Find 100% wool dryer balls here, already made for you! (We recommend purchasing 2 packs.)

Do you know how to make wool dryer balls? Are you using them in your laundry? Share any experience you have with the community!

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Sources

  1. Dennis Schroeder. 16 Ways to Save Money in the Laundry Room. February 14, 2018. Energy.gov
Betsy Jabs

About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebook, Twitter, and her +Betsy Jabs Google profile.

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Comments

  1. Sonja says

    I’ve bought wool dryer balls at wall Mart, they’re cheap enough and work well. I’d like to make my own after reading this, but live in an apt and can’t adjust the settings to their machines 🙁

    • Shirley says

      If the machine you use doesn’t allow you to wash in hot water, I’m sure you could probably just soak the caterpillar/nylon train of wool balls in a tub of extremely hot water, then throw them into the washer just before spin cycle, so they will spin the water out of them. Then put them in the dryer at the warmest cycle it allows. If you put them through this scenario several times , it would probably felt them as needed.

  2. Sue says

    I want to try this but I’m allergic to wool. Has anyone else tried this that was allergic to wool?

    • Patti says

      Hi Sue,

      Highly allergic to wool here and tried these, for us it was a horrible idea. I had to rewash everything not to mention the rash we had. I guess it really depends on how allergic to wool you are.
      I have a cleaning service and the biggest problem people make is over stuffing their dryers. Clothes will take twice as long and wrinkle if you over stuff. I also never use anything but the lowest temp even for towels and everything dries fine. It cuts down on shrinking and fading. The biggest mistake people make is using too much fabric softener, your clothes will take almost twice as long to dry. Using vinegar in the rinse cycle and low heat is really all we need. It’s product build-up that ruins fabrics.

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      Hi Sue,
      Some of our other readers who are also allergic to wool have used mohair, angora, alpaca, or llama with great success. Of course, if it’s animal fibers in general that you’re allergic to, then I guess these won’t work for you.

    • Laurie says

      I have raised alpacas which do not have lanolin and are said to be hypoallergenic. The micron count (measure of density) on alpaca fleece can be five times less than a human hair, making it finer to the touch. I have used 100% alpaca socks (that have had holes worn in them) that have been tied into a knot and thrown into the dryer. I have enjoyed many years of using them this way. These socks are not dyed, therefore their colors don’t bleed. Every state in the U.S. has alpacas, and every farm has unwanted fleece by the garbage bag full that is gladly given away. You can order it online, too. Felting is easy and it is not necessary to use yarn. You can use an underlayment of old nylons, lightweight scarves, tulle, etc., with warm water and sudsy soap.

      • MiTmite9 says

        Hello, Laurie. I have read the last two sentences of your comment five times now and I still don’t understand what you mean re: ” . . .it’s not necessary to use yarn.” And what do you mean, please, by “underlayment of old nylons, scarves, tulle, etc?” Also—what does one do with the alpaca fleece? Thanks so much.

        MiTmite9

  3. Alhasan says

    This is a nice concept. New to me just as it was to you at the beginner. I’ll need to see if I can partner with someone to make some of these balls. Thanks Betsy.

  4. Denni says

    When felting multiples, I tie bone rings into the knots of nylons (plastic, available in sewing notions dept). This makes it a bit easier to untie the knots when you are finished with the felting process. If you don’t want to reuse the nylons, you can just cut them open.

    For decorative or gifting dryer balls, I have purchased hand dyed wool yarn/roving on e-bay. Many lovely color variations not available on commercial yarn, they felt beautifully, and it doesn’t take much to add a design or a few wraps over a basic commercial yarn.

    Regarding static in your dryer, I’ve not found a reliable method to eliminate it completely on synthetics. Nylon especially. Even line drying nylon and some other synthetics is not enough to completely eliminate static IME. Especially on cold winter days…my hair (regardless of conditioner) and synthetic fabric require extra management.

    When feeling more craftsy, use a felting needle to add designs to your dryer balls. I’ve seen articles on using wool felt yardage to your dryer balls (say a jack-o-lantern face), but I haven’t had enough success with wool felt yet to make any recommendations. I have had lovely success felting swirls and such on dryer balls with a felting needle and pretty hand dyed yarns.

  5. coloradomama says

    I used fisherman’s wool – put a bit of lavender essential oil in the center of each ball and put in the washer on the “sanitize” cycle. Felted up perfectly on the first wash. Giving them out for xmas gifts! Fantastic idea that’s practical and will be helping us avoid the commercialism of the holidays 🙂

  6. MVeigel says

    I am wondering if the dryer balls can be felted too much? I made some and put them through a couple of hot water laundry loads and then made some by agitating in a bucket of hot water. The ones that went through the washing machine are slightly larger and float in water. The ones made in the bucket are smaller, more dense, and sink. Will they absorb water as well as the ones that were run through the washing machine or have they shrunk too much? Thanks in advance for any input.

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      Hmmm…I don’t know for sure. Maybe someone else has experience with this and can jump in here? If you experiment with the two and find out, please return and let us know!

  7. Diane says

    I crocheted my dryer balls after I realized they were shrinking in size after a year or two. Just covered them with single crochet and they have stayed the same size after that-6 years so far. Used what ever colorful 100 % cotton yarn I had on hand, probably Sugar and Cream brand. The colors of the yarn did not come off on the clothes, but one can just use white to be safe.

  8. Amber says

    My clothes are still coming out very static-y. Does this mean I need to felt the wool balls again? Thanks! Any other tips would be great to reduce static as well.

    • Patti says

      Amber, rub a metal coat hanger over your clothes and this should help with the static charge. Try not drying natural fibers with synthetic, check the labels on your clothes if you’re not sure. Try adding a cup of vinegar to your rinse cycle along with reducing the amount of detergent you use. Sounds like you have a build-up of residue on your clothing. I wish I could use the felt balls but my family is allergic to wool.

      • Roxie says

        For people allergic to wool, you can put safety pins on corners of a cotton wash cloth and spray it with the vinegar or a drop of essential oil for static control and nice odor.

        • Denni says

          I’m allergic to wool, but do not find that wool dryer balls leave enough residue to cause a problem.

          • Patti says

            We’re epi-pen allergic to wool so I can’t even bring it into our home. Glad that you don’t have that problem.

          • Sonja says

            I’ve bought wool dryer balls at wall Mart, they’re cheap enough and work well. I’d like to make my own after reading this, but live in an apt and can’t adjust the settings to their machines 🙁

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      Thanks for jumping in here, Patti! I agree with everything she said!

      Amber, your balls are probably felted properly, so don’t worry about that. I always spray vinegar directly (and liberally) on the wet clothes after I have thrown them in the dryer to assist with the static issue. Winter is just so dry that the wool balls normally won’t eliminate the static completely. And air-drying your synthetic fabrics seperately (as Patti mentioned) will make a big difference.

        • Patti says

          No vinegar doesn’t leave any odor in your clothing. It’s great at removing detergent build-up which can cause many problems one of them being stiff clothing.

    • Shirley says

      I’ve been using wool dryer balls for about six years. Since being diagnosed with Severe Environmental and Chemical Sensitivity, I’ve had to find, or make, products to use that font affect my condition.
      Use of commercial fabric softeners, detergents, cleaning supplies, perfumes, soap, Body wash, shampoo & hair conditioners can cause me to develop a severe case of bronchitis that lasts a minimum of 4-5 weeks and ingesting multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids.
      Using a “Clear & Free“ detergent and a vinegar/water/essential oil” combination for my fabric softener along with wool dryer balls, has made it possible for me to go my own laundry.
      Another good reason to go this route is that commercial fabric softeners can gum up your washing machine. I was amazed at the “crap” that was released from my machine from using vinegar in it. Vinegar also deodorizes your clothing . I have at times forgotten I had a load of clothes in the washer for more than a day …. and couldn’t believe that the clothes were still fresh smelling. Thanks to vinegar, it not only is good fir clothing, it keeps your washing machine clean!

  9. 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.

  10. Kristine/Real Food Girl 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! 😉

  11. 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 JabsBetsy 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Wooliez says

    Hi! I just love to use wool dryer balls. They are so beautiful! So beautiful that I made my short video tutorial on how to make wool dryer balls. You can check it out on youtube, here’s the link – http://youtu.be/ItkQVV4Y-34
    Thank you!

  15. 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!

  16. 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 JabsBetsy 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!!! 🙂

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