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Homemade Dryer Balls

If you’re curious about homemade dryer balls and you are reading this then I can only hope that you want to rid your life of chemicals, at least some of them. Lord knows we have enough of them surrounding us at any given moment. I mean why have extra chemicals in your life when you don’t need them? So that brings us to the reason for this post. Let’s take a look at a more natural way to soften and freshen your clothes (without chemicals) while saving you money AND it involves a DIY. Hell yeah, I must be in heaven!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Laundry

Why should you use felted dryer balls?

If you routinely hang your clothes out to dry on the line then you, my friend are my hero! But if this isn’t feasible or you just don’t want to then let’s continue looking at the benefits of dryer balls. Just so we’re clear, wool dryer balls are essentially going to do the same thing that your dryer sheets, fabric softener or tennis balls are doing.  The thing that is different about them is what they don’t do. These little guys don’t put any chemicals into your laundry, where they get into direct contact with our skin.  They do the same things as the other three but they do it naturally PLUS they also have the ability to shorten drying time.

Wool naturally absorbs water and can also evaporate it faster than most other materials. This is key to how these dryer balls are able to shorten the time it takes to dry your laundry.  You may be wondering how they manage to do this, and it would be a very valid question to ask!  So let me explain the whole process. 

Dryer ball

When you throw in a load of laundry, especially if there are towels or sheets involved, they get all bunched up and tangled together.  This means the centre of this mass of fabrics stays damp…or worst case wet.  When you add the dryer balls to the mix they get between the tangles and push them apart due to their weight.  As they add space between the tangles, they also allow the warm air to get in between.

Additionally, the wool is absorbing and evaporating the water and voila…shorter drying times and increased energy efficiency! This means that you can’t go doing gigantic loads of laundry or the balls won’t have the room they need to work.   As a good rule of thumb only do small to medium loads and throw in about 3 large-sized balls. 

Laundry detergent

Are felted dryer balls better than the alternatives?

In order to answer that question, we have to look at what the available alternatives are. I mean you really shouldn’t be deciding something is the next great thing unless you fully understand the competition. It is also a personal choice. For me, I want to reduce the number of chemicals I surround myself with and I’m not a vegan. This meant that using wool was not an issue for me. If you are vegan then maybe the plastic dryer balls would be a better choice. Like with anything in this world, you do you, because that’s what really matters.

Plastic dryer balls

Let’s face it, plastic is the devil.  While it surrounds us in our daily lives, any steps we can take to diminish its presence is better for us, our families and the planet.  But in keeping with full disclosure, I have to mention that there are plastic dryer balls available. 

Tennis balls

Tennis balls are cheap, and you probably have one in the house right now….no NOT the one in the dog bed. But again we are dealing with chemicals, mostly rubber this time.  I can just picture the smell of burning rubber and that’s enough to put me off using them. That said, many people do use them and swear by them (including their grandmothers), they just aren’t for me.  But by all means, give them a try if it piques your fancy, but you will miss out on a fun-filled DIY.   

Dryer sheets

They are easy and come by the box….but they create waste that is then headed to the landfill and that’s after they deposit all their pungent chemicals onto your clothes.  If you save your dryer lint for your composter (which you should…check out my post on making your own compost) then the last thing you want in it is chemicals.

If you can’t, however, picture your life without dryer sheets in it, then a great alternative would be to make your own ones at home. This allows you to control what goes into them and depending on what “recipe” you use, they will be reusable as well.

Fabric softener   

Fabric softener is basically a conditioner for your clothes. By definition, this is liquid chemicals…but damn it smells so good (just like those B&B candles, but I stopped using them too click here to see why).  There is a lot of research about, particularly from health experts and organizations, that suggests that people should be skipping the fabric softener stage of washing and cleaning clothes.

The fact that most of us use tumble dryers reduces the need for us to rely on chemicals to add softness to our laundry. So many fabric softeners are there to help reduce static and add pleasing smells.

If you don’t want to give up your fabric softener but you do want to reduce the number of chemicals used when you do laundry. Then you may want to consider making your own fabric softener at home. This way you will know exactly what is going into it. While you are at it, it would be great to make your own laundry detergent as well!

Are dryer balls bad for your dryer?

Nope, not in my experience anyway. As far as I am concerned, the lack of chemicals and the benefit to the environment outweighs a wee bit more noise. There is no need to worry about terrible loud banging noises or damage to your dryer.

That said they are not going to be as quiet as a chemical ladened sheet but they aren’t going to sound like the house is coming down either. I mean unless you put them in an empty dryer and then they will make a racket but you won’t so that’s not really an issue. So let’s agree that there may be some noise but they aren’t going to damage your clothes or your dryer.

How to make homemade dryer balls

So enough talk, let’s get down to some DIYs! There are multiple ways you can make your own homemade dryer balls, the method I opted for (and would recommend) are the ones made from wool roving.  If you’re making that WTF face, I will explain roving for you (‘cause I made that face the first time I read the word).  So what the heck is roving?  It is a long and narrow bundle of fibre that is made as part of the production of making spun yarn from wool fleece, raw cotton or other fibres.  But let’s walk through all of the other options for this DIY.

Balls of wool

How to make homemade dryer balls from yarn

This method requires a quick trip to Michaels, Walmart or Joann’s (or other such yarn selling store) to acquire a few balls of wool yarn. This is a pretty quick DIY and the supplies are easily found which is a bonus. You need to make sure that you get 100% pure wool yarn, none of that artificial stuff!

Start out by wrapping the wool around your four fingers about 20-25 times and then carefully slip it off. Make sure to keep the loops together and then pinch the centre and wrap the wool around the middle about 10-15 times. It should look like a crappy bow tie at this point.

Dryer ball from wool

Now you want to start wrapping the wool around to start shaping it into a round ball. Just keep at it, changing directions until it id about the size of a tennis ball.

Wool dryer ball

At this point, you are going to need to do something with the end of the piece of yarn. If you have a large embroidery needle you can thread the wool through it. Then carefully feed it through to the other side of the ball and then back again. Do this a few times until you are sure it isn’t going to pop out. Then repeat for as many dryer balls as you feel you need.

Now you need to grab a pair of old pantyhose, or if you don’t wear them (like me), then a quick trip to the dollar store should sort you out. Put the first ball into the pantyhose and then tie a knot. Insert the next one and tie a knot…you get the picture. Once all your dryer balls are safely stowed away in the pantyhose resembling some strange sausage looking thing. Throw it into the washing machine with some towels. You are going to want to wash them on hot and then pop them in the dryer on high heat.

It is best to run them through this cycle 2-3 times before you cut them out of the pantyhose. When you do you will notice that they have “felted” themselves a bit, which is ultimately what we want. They may fight you a bit when you try and take them out of the pantyhose, but this just means the “felting” went according to plan.

Wool sweater

How to make homemade dryer balls from old sweaters

Go through your closet for that ugly Christmas sweater that you don’t wear or maybe that one from grandma that you seriously are not going to use….like ever and let’s put it to better use (we can consider it recycling if anyone asks). You just need to make sure that the sweater is 100% pure wool. If it isn’t or you arent sure then your best bet is to go to the store and get some wool. If however, you are sure your sweater is wool then you can get started. This DIY is going to have the exact same instructions as the one for making dryer balls from wool yarn. The only three differences are:

  1. You are recycling
  2. You don’t have to go to the store or spend any money
  3. You have a bit more work to do

So in order to create your wool dryer balls, you are going to need to deconstruct your wool sweater. So start at the bottom and clip one of the threads and start unravelling. Rather than just unravelling the whole sweater, once you have an end you can start wrapping it around your fingers like in the instructions above. That way as you are undoing the sweater you are making your first dryer ball. This is a way better approach than unravelling the whole sweater and then trying to deal with a sh*t ton of wool all over the floor.

Wool socks

How to make homemade dryer balls from old socks

This is my least favourite option because you need to use old socks…..I mean need I say more?  But it is apparently a viable option and I want to make sure that you are aware of all the options that you have at your disposal. Then you can make the best choice for you and your family.

This is probably the quickest and easiest of the 4 DIY methods of making dryer balls. When I say quick, I mean like the done in a minute or two kind of quick. So here we go…

For each of these “dryer balls”, you are going to need two socks. Lay one flat on your work surface and roll it along itself from the toe right up to the cuff. When you get the end just roll the cuff onto itself so that it doesn’t come undone. Next, grab the second sock. Put the first “ball” onto the to and roll it up again. When you get to the cuff again then roll it over itself again to secure it all together. And that’s it, you’re done, see I told you it would be quick.

This is a great way to use up any of those socks that have lost their mate to the black hole that exists in all dryers (as far as socks are concerned).

Wool roving

How to make homemade dryer balls from roving

This is my option of choice and based on my research the most long-lasting. Wool roving is basically just the wool as it comes off the sheep (raw wool). You are going to need about 1oz of roving per ball, so you will need to figure out how many dryer balls you want before you set out to get your roving. Once you have all the complex math figured out (just kidding) you’re good to go, so let’s get started.

Much like with the wool, you will need to make a base to start to form the ball. With the roving, you just want to make a little clump and then start to wind it around.

Felted dryer ball

You want to try and wind it as tight as you can. If the roving gets unruly you can rip it into shorter pieces. Try not to drop your ball as it is forming (I dropped mine…facepalm). Once the ball gets to the size you want, just tuck the end into the ball as best you can. I made mine bigger than I wanted to account for shrinkage in the felting process. Bacon was really interested in the dryer ball.

Felted dryer ball

Then all that is left to do is pop them into the pantyhose, one at a time with a nice big knot in between each ball. Then you can put them into the washing machine on hot. Next, they go into the dryer on hot and then repeat. After this, you can cut them out of the pantyhose and you should have yourself some kick-ass wool dryer balls, my friend!

Essential oils

Felted dryer balls and essential oils

In the interest of safety, this needs to be said and I am not going to sugar coat this part….

DO NOT USE ESSENTIALS OILS IN A HEATED DRYER…LIKE EVER

I think that covers it, I’m seriously not joking around about that.  There is the possibility that with heat you can spark a fire due to the combustible nature of essential oils.  Each one has a different flashpoint (the temperature at which it catches fire), so like I said…no heat.  It’s the same reason that most companies won’t ship them internationally. Safety first!  

I have seen DIYs showing how to make dryer sheets with essential oils. For the reasons stated above please do NOT use these either! Not in a heated dryer at least. Now you may have used essential oils in a hot dryer for ages or know someone that has. That doesn’t mean they are safe, it just means you have been lucky so far. It’s just not worth the risk people!

So if you do want to try using essential oils with your dryer balls I would suggest having specific ones for essential oils.  I used two different colours of wool, one for essential oils and one without.   So assuming you aren’t terrified at this point and plan on forging ahead then all you need to do is finish your laundry using the regular dryer balls.  About 20 minutes before the cycle is complete put a few drops of your chosen essential oil (I like orange or grapefruit) onto your dryer ball and set it aside to let it soak in. 

This is important as you really want to give the oil a chance to get right into the wool.  The more it soaks in the slower it will seep out, which is what we want.  Set your dryer to a no-heat tumble dry setting, open the door, take out the regular dryer balls and put in the ones with the oil.  Set the timer for 15-20 minutes and you’re done!

How long do felted dryer balls last?

You may be wondering are homemade dryer balls reusable and oh happy day yes they are!  So it is definitely worth the effort to make yourself some of these bad little boys.  So your next question is probably, how long do wool dryer balls last?  Seeing as I’ve just made mine I can’t speak from experience (but I will update this in the future).  Based on the research I have done, popular opinion seems to be about 1000 loads.  After that point, they seem to start breaking apart and making a mess of your laundry.  So when they start to look a bit mangy it’s time to make a new set.

So now that you are fully versed in the wonders of homemade dryers balls you may be chomping at the bit to make your own (I know I was) or you may be interested in them but don’t want to make them yourself.  In which case you may be looking for the felted dryer balls for sale, so here is a great option. Or perhaps at this point, you are like meh, I like my current dryer game. In which case carry on my friend!

Have you used wool dryer balls or the alternatives? What did you think of them? Hopefully, you found all this helpful and you are ready to make your own homemade dryer balls!

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