Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wool Dryer Balls

Continuing with my green crafty phase, I decided to try making wool dryer balls. They are incredibly easy, practical, and inexpensive. I used old wool yarn from my mother-in-law's attic and I've seen other people use wool scraps or even unravel old wool sweaters.

Benefits of wool dryer balls:
- Wool is hypoallergenic
- Wool is resistant to mold, bacteria and mildew
- As opposed to dryer sheets, wool dryer balls are organic and chemical free
- Naturally fire retardant - wool self extinguishes when lit
- Made from renewable resources
- Can be made from recycled wool
- The natural lanolin in wool is what softens your clothes
- Saves you money -

The average person can shorten about 1/4 (some say 1/2) of their dry time using dryer balls. For large loads the average US price to run a dryer for 90 minutes (the average dryer cycle time) is $1.02, that means dryer balls save you $.26 per 90 minutes of dry time on large loads. That doesn't really seem like a lot, but when I think about our family - we do about 6 loads of laundry a week. That's $1.56 per week or $81.21 per year - just in energy costs. If I figured in not spending any money on fabric softener it would be even more.

*I didn't include the fact that I try to line dry clothes quite a bit during the summer. So our savings would be a little less than that. However, I still "machine finish" everything so it's soft and completely dry.*

Here's how you make them:
1. Gather wool yarn (not superwash - it needs to felt as it washes), old pantyhose, rubber bands, crochet hook, scissors, very small fabric scrap

2. Wad the fabric scrap as tightly as you can and begin winding the yarn around it. Essentially, you're just making a ball of yarn but much more tightly than you would normally.

3. Once the ball is about the size of a golf ball, cut the yarn and use the crochet hook to pull the string into the ball to keep it from unwinding.

4. Put the ball in the pantyhose and use the rubber band to close off the end. If you do not put them in the pantyhose they will come unraveled and you will have a huge mess. This also happens if the rubber band isn't tight enough.

5. Wash the dryer ball / panty hose with your regular laundry and then throw in the dryer. Run it through with several regular loads (washing and drying both) without taking it out of the pantyhose, to make sure it felts completely.

6. Once the dryer balls seem adequately felted, start again with wrapping in wool yarn. I tried experimenting with using different colors at the same time and came up with a few patterns. I'm not sure if I could explain exactly how to do it, but it was fun to experiment. When the ball is the size you want, use the crochet hook to pull the last bit of string into the depths of the ball.

7. When you think your dryer ball is big enough (I've heard anywhere from a 7-10 inch circumference is standard; mine are all different because I didn't measure), repeat the felting process by putting them in the pantyhose and washing and drying several times. Washing on hot makes this process quicker. Again, skimping on this step will result in a giant rat's nest of yarn - promise.

8. That's it! Take them out of the pantyhose and they're ready for the dryer. They may pill some over time, depending on your yarn. You can fix that with a sweater shaver or ignore it. Either way.

8a. (Other things to consider): I've heard of people using a scented sachet in the middle or using essential oils to scent the dryer balls. I'm not really into my laundry smelling like anything, so I don't plan on trying that. I know nothing about the color bleeding or leaching on your clothes. So far, none of the bright colors I've used have bled at all, but I can't promise that on all types of yarn. They will shrink a little in the felting process, so if you want a ball that's 9 inches in circumference then I would make it a little bigger.

You can use anywhere from 2 - 8 in their dryer and have amazing results. So far I've used 2-4 and I love them. Our clothes are static free and super soft!

I am attempting to teach myself to sew. Josh dressed Ben in sheep pajamas with his refurbished sheep burp rag - my first sewing project.

Garrett came over today and rode the donkey. I'll have those pictures up in the next post with more about the donkeys!


  1. Wool Dryer Balls work really well. I don't have the time to make my own so I bought mine from and received them fast. They also make the cloth diapers dry faster and softer!

  2. i wish i had seen this last week! I just ordered some wool dryer balls on etsy because i didn't think they were that easy to make! oh well ..

  3. So is it okay to use them with diapers? I know dryer sheets are a no-no with diapers.

  4. From what I've read, they're great with diapers. I've been using them and haven't had any problems, but I'd hate to promise something and see it mess up diapers. The only hesitation might be the lanolin in the wool doing something to the diapers. So far they've worked great for my diaper laundry though.

  5. No lanolin left in the wool dryer balls! It is the friction of the fibers that softens and dryes the diapers- not lanolin.