Dryer balls are a good alternative to using dryer sheets, which contain potentially harmful chemicals. These chemicals, such as Dipalmethyl hydroxyethylmmoinum methosulfate, can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Fragrances added to the sheets can also cause health related issues, such as asthma and migraines. The sheets may also be harmful to our environment, as volatile organic compounds have been found in dryer vents, although the significance of this has not been determined. As single use products, dryer sheets produce needless waste.
Wool dryer balls are naturally environmentally friendly, long lasting, economical, and efficient. Wool dryer balls are also biodegradable and can be composted when necessary.
Wool dryer balls work by tumbling between the layers of clothes, separating the fabric, allowing warm air to circulate better which can reduce drying time. The movement of the balls against the fabric can also help fight wrinkles, prevent static and soften clothes.
Making your own dryer balls is easy. You will need about 2 ounces of natural wool roving for each ball. Most (non-superwash) wool will felt, but I find the wools that are coarser by nature are more sutable for making dryer balls. I am using Coopworth for these balls, but you can also use Romney or Corriedale.
To start, tear the roving into 2-3 shorter pieces, then strip each piece into several thinner strands to make them easier to work with.
Take one of these, thinner strands and wrap it into a tight ball. It will look like this:
I will often use a felting needle to make this little ball firmer and easier to handle, but this is not necessary. Just hold onto the ball when you begin the next step. Now take another strand of wool and begin wrapping it around the ball, making sure you keep the wool flat and change direction as you go to form a round ball. Smooth the ball out occassionally to lock the fibers down and keep the ball shape.
Continue wrapping the wool until you have used all of the roving. You are almost done. Here is the dryer ball ready for the next step:
Now you need to felt the ball in your washing machine using a nylon stocking. You can cut up an old pair of hose or use a knee high stocking. Putting 2-3 balls in a stocking with knots between them works well. Here are two balls ready for the washer:
Just throw them in with your next load of wash then into the dryer. Using warm water and heavy clothes, such as jeans, can speed up the process of felting. You can also send them through two or more loads until they are felted to your desired firmness. Cut the knots off the stocking, releasing the balls, you may need to work your finger between the ball and the stocking if it is stuck in a few places.
Here is a before and after photo (it’s actually an after and before photo):
They are now ready to add to your dryer loads. These balls will last years, I recommend putting them through a wash (without the stocking) about every 6 months to recharge them. Another use for wool dryer balls is to remove wrinkles from an article of clothing, if, like me, you want to avoid ironing. Lightly wet a ball and throw it into the dryer with the dry article of clothing for a few minutes, it will be visibly less wrinkled.
I have used natural color wool for these dryer balls, but you can add a colorful touch to wash day by using dyed wool, such as dyed corriedale:
Now, pat yourself on the back. You have made a useful product that will help you and the planet.
“Each person must live their lives as a model for others.”
Rosa Parks – Civil Rights Activist