I have a serious love-hate relationship with dryer sheets. They’re amazing at getting rid of static cling, and they can make even the ripest laundry smell like a spring breeze. But they’re also surprisingly expensive, often toxic and terrible for the environment. While I’m happy to just grin and bear it when my static-y clothes shock the daylights out of me, my husband’s a different story. A much longer, crankier story. So I finally caved and made the DIY wool dryer balls I’ve been seeing everywhere.
Not only are they inexpensive and eco-friendly, but wool dryer balls can make your clothes feel softer and keep them static-free without the help of chemicals. While they take a little getting used to, especially for my dryer-sheet loving husband, we’ve both noticed that they cut drying time in half and they last forever. You know, basically they do all the things dryer sheets do, only better.
DIY Wool Dryer Balls
In a nutshell, dryer balls help soak up some of the moisture in your laundry as it dries and then redistribute it into the air. Not only does this “soaking and releasing” action make your clothes dry faster but it also helps reduce static cling and removes wrinkles. (You can reduce static cling even more by adding a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the washing machine rinse cycle.)
You can make these with either wool yarn or wool roving, but it’s best to avoid anything with acrylic or cotton since it could prevent them from felting properly. I just bought whatever 100% wool yarn I could find at my local craft store. And at about $6 a skein, I got about 4 dryer balls for 12 bucks. That’s less than I would spend on two boxes of natural dryer sheets.
To make these even cheaper, you can cut up old wool sweaters into strips, roll them into loose balls and wrap them with wool roving until you get a sturdy ball. Then felt them the same way you do the yarn. It’s a nice way to put old sweaters to use while also cutting down on the time it takes to make your dryer balls.
I’ve seen dryer balls in all sorts of colors, but truthfully, that scares me a little. The last thing I want rubbing against wet clothes, especially wet white clothes, is some vibrantly-dyed wool. Instead, I opted for the most neutral yarn I could find, which in this case was an off-white. But white, gray or super soft pastel colors would work just fine.
How to Make DIY Wool Dryer Balls
From start to finish I would say this project took me a few hours, including felting time. Since wrapping the yarn into a tight ball can be pretty time consuming, I did it one evening in front of the TV. Then I just popped them in washing machine with some towels and let it do the rest.
- 2-3 skeins of 100% wool yarn
- Old pair of pantyhose
- A crochet hook (optional)
Wrap the yarn several times around your fingers. Remove the loop from your fingers and wrap yarn around the center to create a little bundle. Continue tightly wrapping in alternating directions until you have a ball about 3 inches around (if you wrap your yarn tight enough, they can last you up to 5 years).
Trim the loose end of the yarn and use crochet hook to pull it under several layers of the ball to secure it. Clip with scissors.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 to make 3 – 4 dryer balls.
Cut the legs off an old pair of pantyhose and drop balls into the legs. Tie a knot in between each of the balls to separate them.
Wash the balls in a hot wash with detergent and several bath towels. Dry on high heat. Repeat 2 or 3 times until balls have felted. Use sharp scissors to remove them from the pantyhose.
Just like with herbal sachets, you can add a couple of drops of essential oil to the wool dryer balls before each use. Then just toss them in the dryer with your next load of freshly-washed laundry.34