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 them in with each dryer load. They also reduce static cling!

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 softeners. (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 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 it 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 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, add 1-2 drops of your favorite essential oil to each ball before throwing it 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

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 Facebookand Twitter.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for us to support our website activities, we may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this website.

DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.

Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Wanda 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Barb says

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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…

  15. 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!

      • JMBailey says

        I decided to check the prices on cotton yarn (so that I could stay with an all natural product). I purchased Lily Sugar ‘n Cream 4 ounce skeins for under $4 each. I used half of each to make a ball that is about the size of a tennis ball and then used about 1/3 of a skein of 100% wool yarn to complete the soft ball sized final ball. They felted just like the 100% wool balls and work just as well. It did help lower the cost of each and did not add to the amount of time needed to make each ball.

  16. Teri Gelseth 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

      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.

    • Denni says

      If they do start to come a bit undone, throw them back in the washer for a cycle. But this shouldn’t happen if you are using 100% wool yarn. I’ve been using mine for almost a year now. Showing some wear, but lots of use in them yet…at this point I’m estimating at least a 3 year life span.

  17. Wanda 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.

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