Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Greening up your laundry: Wool Dryer Balls

I have not bought dryer sheets in 3 years… yes you read that right… 3 years. When my first son was born, I decided to cloth diaper and dryer sheets are a big no no with cloth diapers.  I knew I needed to find something to replace the dryer sheets because well walking around with a dress (pants, shirt, whatever) riding up from static is just not fun.  I started to hear tons and tons of information about wool dryer balls so I set out to figure out what they were and what they were supposed to do.

They are pretty much exactly what they sound like.  They are wool yarn wrapped into a ball that is felted. You put them in your dryer instead of dryer sheets.   

What do they do

1.   Improve drying time but helping agitate the clothes so the air can circulate better and dry your clothes more effectively and efficiently
2.   Decrease but not necessarily eliminate static (I will talk about this later) 
3.   Fluff up your clothes

I figured they were worth a try so I started looking into buy some. The first thing I noticed was the price… $9 to $15 for a ball of yarn! Oh and I forgot to mention you are supposed to use 4-­6 balls in your dry so now we are talking $36$90 (not counting shipping). I know over time they would be cheaper than buying dryer sheets once a month (or more) because as long as they are felted well, they last forever but I was determined to make my own.

When I came across Goodmama’s tutorial for wool dryer balls, I grabbed some of my worsted wool yarn and went to town. The first couple balls took me FOREVER to complete and they never really felted up as much as I would like. I made about four and gave up.  I bought a two more through a co-­op and just left it at that until some started disappearing.  One drawback of wool dryer balls is that kids 1-­3 years of age enjoy playing with them so they tend to disappear. It can be for a day or two or forever.  I revisited the Goodmama's tutorial.  A couple of friends were interested in how I did it so I made up my own tutorial with a couple changes. 

What you need… 

  1. 100% wool yarn-­ While you can use any 100% wool yarn, I found that wool roving is MUCH easier and faster to use.  I used Paton’s classic wool roving ($6.99 Jo-­ann’s) because I almost always have a 50% coupon so I ended up paying around $3.50 for one skein. 
  2. Scissors  
  3. Sock or hosiery-­ I used an old knee highs that had a run in it but you could use a cotton sock like a tube sock.
  4. Crochet hook  
  5. Acrylic yarn-­ potentially optionally  
  6. Measuring tape-­ Also not necessary if you don’t mind not having them all the same size. You can always just eyeball until you have the size you want
 First start winding the yarn into a small ball

As you can tell from the picture, I am not winding very tightly. Once you get a small ball, pull the end through with the crochet hook and make sure the loose end is tucked in. 

To get the ball ready for the initial felting, stick it in your sock/hosiery and use the acrylic yarn, because it doesn't felt, to tie it off. You can then put another ball in.  

While I tied this one off, I find that sometimes the yarn still gets knotted and can be hard to get off. I have also just tied a loose knot in the stocking between balls. This will work with smaller balls but if you have a 10-11cm, the weight may pull the knots tighter in the wash.  If you wash with other clothes, it could get tangled around other clothes and pull the knot tighter also (just an FYI if you try it)

Wash your dryer ball on HOT. It can be done alone or just thrown in with other clothes that you plan on washing. Once the washer is done, throw it in the dryer also on hot. It will help felt the ball. It may also shrink it a bit. My dryer ball (in the stocking with the yellow yarn above) shrank about 1 cm.

Take the ball out of the sock and it should look something like this

If you wanted small dryer balls, you could stop here but I usually try to make mine between 10-­11cm.

Start winding more yarn around the felted ball

Once you get to your desired size, again use the crochet hook to tuck in the loose end of the yarn. I took a picture of my dryer ball next to my coffee mug so you can get a gauge of the size. It was about 11.5 cm.

Again, wash in hot water and dry on hot. I did this twice because I didn’t think it was felted enough after 1 wash/dry cycle. If you use hosiery, some of the wool fibers may comes through the stocking, you can try clipping them if they are really long but usually I just very carefully pull the ball out. If you use a cotton sock, you might not have as much of an issue removing the ball.

Finally the end product!!

I can make about 3 dryer balls with 2 skeins so in the end 1 dryer ball is going to cost you slightly less than $3.50 (if you shop with coupons!) and it only took me about 30 minutes (combined between the two winding sessions) to wind the yarn. I am not counting the wash/dry times since I don’t have to be present during that whole time. 

While I really do love my wool dryer balls, there are some drawbacks. If you have a family member with a significantly allergic to wool, this may not be a good choice for you. As I mentioned above, they are supposed to decrease static but they don’t always completely eliminate it. For the most part, I find the static to be pretty minimal even with things like sheets and towels that is if I have all my dryer balls (7) in the dryer. Although I have found that even with 7 dryer balls, you will have static in fleece fabrics like fleece zip-­ups or fleece pants. Oh and if you are looking for a quiet drying experience, wool dryer balls will not help you achieve that. 

Now onto the good news, you have a chance to win the 3 dryer balls pictures in the end product snapshot above! You should be able to start to see a difference with just three but remember you will see more of a change in drying time and reduction of static with more dryer balls.

*Please note that I am not a professional dryer ball maker.  Each dryer ball is unique and they may differ slightly in size but they are all around 10-11cm.


  1. yay! I've been wanting to learn how to make dryer balls so this is perfect!!: )

  2. Great tutorial! I made some of my own dryer balls but they are unraveling, I think I should make some with the wool yarn you suggested, looks like it felted up better.