Christmas is only two months away! That may sound like a lot of time, but if you’re a crafty gift-giver, you need time to create. This year, I’m on a Wool Dryer Ball kick. These are a perfect gift for just about any occasion, not just Christmas. I like to give them with a bottle of Essential Oil so they can add a couple of drops to the Dryer Balls for a naturally wonderful smell (Lavender & Grapefruit are my favorites). Another idea is to give them with a box/bottle of Natural Laundry Soap!
If you’re not familiar with Wool Dryer Balls, they are a natural alternative to chemical filled fabric softeners & dryer sheets. Since they are made with 100% wool, they naturally wick moisture away from the clothes resulting in soft & fluffy laundry without the static cling. PLUS, because the balls bounce around in the dryer, they lessen the drying time & SAVE you money on your electricity bill!
Handmade wool dryer balls can be expensive, but if you aren’t the crafty type, they are a great buy. There are a couple of less expensive options on Amazon, that also work, but I’ve found that they shed in the dryer & don’t last as long. Of course you’ve probably also seen the plastic dryer balls they sell at every chain store – but when plastic gets hot, it gets brittle & emits toxic chemicals. This goes for those that might be thinking about using tennis balls too!
I personally use 4-6 balls in my dryer at one time to really see a difference in drying time. When I’m not using them, I keep them in the dryer, or let my little guy play with them! =)
For those that might be allergic to wool, I’d advise you to be careful with these. BUT, because they are felted (washed 2-3 times), many people claim to not have an allergic reaction to them.
You’ll need the following items to make Homemade Wool Dryer Balls:
- 4-6 Skeins of Paton’s Roving or Worsted 100% Wool Yarn – I prefer the ‘Worsted’ Wool since it doesn’t pill as much as the roving. Each skein will make 1 Softball sized Dryer Ball. This comes in so many beautiful colors, and felts beautifully! You can use any 100% Wool Yarn suitable for felting, but DO NOT buy Wool Yarn that is labeled ‘Superwash’ or ‘Machine Washable’ & NO Acrylic! These yarn types will NOT felt and you will be left with a mess. This is the time to use those half off coupons at Michaels or Joann’s – where you can score the skeins for $2-$3 instead of $5-$6 each.
- 1 Crochet Hook or Large Tapestry Needle – This helps tuck in the last few inches of yarn into your Dryer Ball. If you don’t have something like this on hand, you can always improvise using a blunt kitchen tool (perhaps a thermometer), or something else that can get the job done without snagging your yarn.
- 1 Pair Nylons / Pantyhose / Stockings – This is used during the felting process. If you have an old pair laying around, bonus!
- 1 Yard Cheap Acrylic or Craft Yarn – You will only use this to tie-off the nylon, so don’t use the expensive yarn for this. If you don’t have any, you can always improvise with ribbon or whatever you have on hand… even dental floss! =)
- Pair of Scissors – These are to cut the Stockings & the Craft Yarn.
- Washer & Dryer – For the felting process.
Here’s How to Make Wool Dryer Balls:
Begin by winding the end of the wool yarn around your two fingers.
Wrap the yarn around itself tightly a couple of times.
Fold yarn over and begin wrapping into a ball.
Alternating sides as you go, so you don’t end up with an oblong shape.
Continue rolling & balling the yarn until you have finished the entire skein.
It should be about the size of a softball.
Tuck excess yarn into the ball carefully.
Cut the full leg off your pantyhose.
Carefully place the Dryer Ball into the stocking.
Push it all the way to the bottom so that the stocking is tightly wrapped around the ball.
Pull the stocking around the ball tightly and tie off with craft yarn to secure in place.
Repeat the process until you have finished all your wool balls.
Tie off the end of the ball ‘centipede’ tightly so it doesn’t come undone during the wash cycle.
Throw the balls into your wash machine with like colors if you are using dark yarn colors. Towels & Jeans make great agitators & help with the felting process, but be sure the items are ok to be washed in hot water.
Run your wash machine on the Hot water cycle. Then throw the balls into the dryer with the clothes & dry on the hottest setting.
You may need to repeat the process 2-3 more times until you achieve a ‘felted’ ball.
If the ball appears fuzzy, but felted after 2 or 3 washings, just use your scissors to trim off any extra wool ‘hairs’ that might be sticking out. But the yarn strands should not separate & be ‘fused’ together.
Hooray! That’s it! You’re Done!
At this point, you no longer will throw your balls into the wash machine – only the dryer. The more dryer balls you use, the quicker your clothes will dry. Since these are larger than the ones sold online, 4-6 Balls are all you need for an average dryer load.
If you like your clothes to come out smelling even better, use a couple drops of your favorite essential oil. My favorite brand is Rocky Mountain Oils – They offer the same Pure & High Quality Oils as other companies – But at a cost savings without the Mulit-Level Marketing.
Money Saving Tip:
If you have any 100% wool socks, sweaters or thrift store finds, you can ball them up tightly and wrap the yarn around it until it is completely covered… This will save you on yarn & repurpose those old wool fabrics.
If you make these yourself, be sure to let me know… You can also send me a picture or post it on my Facebook page!
My two kids love to chew on everything, so I’m curious about what would happen if they were left to play with felted drier balls (I have never seen them before). Is it safe to mouth or best left in the drier?
How many grams are those skeins?
Hi Shelbi! I believe the worsted wool skeins (those are my favorite and work really well) are 100 grams each. Have fun! :) God Bless! ~Erika
I had trouble starting the balls, someone suggested using a piece of old wool clothing or similar to make a core to being winding around, this works great, and uses a bit less yarn. Also I had a question, can you put the essential oils for fragrance on the piece used for the core or will that destroy the whole project?
Hi Julie! Yes, you can definitely use scrap wool to help start the ball off and save some money on yarn (I mention that at the end of my post). But, if you put the Essential Oils on the core scrap, it would unfortunately wash away during the felting process. So, what I usually do, is add the oil right before I wrap it up as a gift – or right before I dry my clothes. But remember, that oils can stain the ball, so I try to place the drop in the same spot… This way there isn’t a bunch of oil drops everywhere on the ball. =) Hope that helps! God Bless! ~Erika
I was wondering, would using a felting needle work once the yarn is wrapped into a ball?
wonderful tutorial! How long will the dryer balls last (how many loads on average)?
Thanks Heather! I am still on my original ones from about 18 months ago… and, they still have a lot of use left in them! Over time, they do start to pill, so I trim off any balled up fuzzies – but it’s not enough to wear them out too quickly. I can hear mine bouncing around in my dryer as I type this! =) God Bless! ~Erika
I think my dryer balls are about 5 years old. Make sure you are wrapping FIRMLY when you make them! One of mine has disappeared in my laundry room tho. I started with 8!😳
When you put the essential oil on how many dryer cycles does the smell last?
Hi Jenni! Great question… It depends on the oil. The stronger scents last 2-4 loads, while the lighter scents might only last 1-2. I’ve also noticed that adding extra drops doesn’t necessarily extend the smell – so now I use only a drop or two and just re-apply as needed. =) God Bless! ~Erika
I have a wool sweater that would be purfect for this project. How would I start with this? Would I cut it into a long string or would I cut a sleeve and tie a knot? What would be the best to still get the nice shape of a ball? TIA
Hi Ashley, Yes, you can definitely use the wool sweater… it works awesome! I just cut a longer strip and roll it, but you can pretty much just start winding the yarn around whatever scraps you have to make a ball and even it out as you go. =) Have fun & God Bless! ~Erika
Do you put the essential oil on before you dry the clothes or in the last few minutes of drying?
Hi Jessica! Great question… Either way would work, but I tend to put the drops on before I start the dryer. But, I imagine the smell would be stronger towards the end. God Bless! ~Erika
I made 2 balls from a skein of yarn.. My husband created a hook so the yarn tail was pulled all the way through the ball. Very secure. On the first run in the dryer one of the balls lost about half the yarn by peeling off from the ball. I hope that makes sense, The loops just came off the ball. I will rewind and try again but wondered if you have any suggestions. I did wind the balls fairly.tight..
Hi Paula, I’ve never had a ball unravel on me (and I’ve made many of these)… When you use the right kind of wool, and if it is felted properly, then you could (hypothetically) cut one in half and it would be solid all the way through. My guess is that you might have used the wrong type of wool or didn’t felt it properly. If you used the right kind of wool, then you can always go back and try to re-felt it in the washer until it sets. Hope that helps, God Bless! ~Erika
I’m wondering, once the felting process is done, do I cut the pantyhose off or do I leave them on?
Thanks so much!!
Cut them off before using.
Hi Erika ~
I was wondering the same thing as Chridtine about the panty hose. Cut them off or leave them on?
If you use 4-6 balls per load of laundry, and the wool costs $10.81 per skein, one ball per skein, I’d say this is a pretty pricey diy project! Have you ever tried aluminum foil balls instead? Just wondering.
I plan on making some wool balls as gifts, so have found wool sweaters at Value Village to use as the core, hence, saving $$.
Perhaps we could try foil balls for the core? Any thoughts?
Her previous comment said her balls are 18 months and going strong… I think that’s pretty good. Plus you know exactly what is in it 😊… even at 18 months and only 4 dryer balls works out to $2.31/month… pricey up front maybe but worth it in the end I think
I actually boiled my wool dryer balls on the top of the stove. Felted really well. Be sure to dry them throughly Worked great
How long did you boil them? Did you do it multiple times or just the once?
Did the boiling break down the wool?
100% wool, will not break down in boiling water because of the nature of wool, it will actually cause the wool to shrink together into a tighter ball of felt.
I am currently making these and I was wondering how tight do you wrap? As tight as possible?
Hi Krista, Great question! You do want to wrap it tightly, but there’s no need to pull it so hard, that you stress the yarn. This is still one of my favorite gift projects – there’s something therapeutic about wrapping all that yarn. =) Hope that helps. God Bless! ~Erika
Do you add detergent to the wash load? Does the detergent get into the balls? I’m concerned it won’t rinse out sufficiently.
Hi Sandy, I just ran the load like normal… detergent & all. I use an unscented natural laundry soap, so I wasn’t too concerned about how it would rinse out. If you’re selling or giving these out as gifts, I’d recommend a fragrance free soap so there’s no residual smell. Hope that helps. =) God Bless! ~Erika
I have a box of craftsman rug wool, all virgin wol moth resistant each is one ounce, approx. 35yards. And wonder if this yarn will give me desired result.
Hi Nancy, I haven’t ever used that type of wool before, but if it’s feltable & isn’t already washed or treated, then I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If you try, let me know how it goes! =) God Bless! ~Erika
Can I use wool-ease by Lions Brand Yarn for this project.
Hi April, I don’t think Wool-Ease will work since it is a blend… but, I’ve never tried felting it before. However, if you have a bunch of Wool-Ease to use up, then I would consider making the center of the dryer balls out of that, but finishing several of the outer layers with a 100% wool yarn that hasn’t been felted yet. Hope that helps! =) God Bless! ~Erika
DO you use laundry detergent when you wash the wool balls ?
Hi Donna, Yes, I just wash them with my other clothes as usual. =) God Bless! ~Erika
Quick question if you use color wool will the color come off on to the clothes you are drying?
You can use a color catcher, which would help get the color out. Color catchers are sold at most Walmart stores.
Wow! So much great info about wool. I have always loved wool sweaters in the winter. Thank you for sharing.
As per your suggestion I purchased a couple of 100% worsted wool skirts at a thrift store and cut them up to eliminate threads, interfacing and seams and linings. I cut them into strips, rolled them and covered only 2 so far with 100% pure new sheep’s wool.(LOPI) (purchased at flea market still wrapped in label) 2 skeins for $1.00! That was all that the women had for sale or I would have purchased more. So now I am getting nervous because this is a lot of work and I want this to work. I washed a couple of pieces of the wool skirt and I am afraid that they will not shrink.I am hoping that the yarn that is covering the wool scrapes will help the scrapes shrink(am I making myself clear??) I am wondering even though the skirts say that they are 100% worsted wool will there be anything in this fabric that will prevent them from shrinking that you might be aware of? Sorry to be so long winded. Also great tutorial.Thanks for your help.
Hi! Just wanted ro let you know that essential oils aren’t recommended in the dryer, they sometimes react badly with theheat but there are some fragrances you could put on instead that would be safe
Fyi about felting: requires 100% natural wool, no manmade fibers, also requires boiling or extremely hot water with soap or detergent, and AGITATION. The more agitation and time spent in the solution, the more complete the felting occurs. Perhaps the person whose ball unraveled was missing one of these factors.
I bought 100% wool chunky and two balls of Eskimo uni colour rolled them –threw into washer on HOT HOT water with a towel put in HOT HOT dryer and cannot get them to felt…and ideas what went wrong? or do i continue to wash and dry them and pray for a miracle??
Did you have detergent and agitation going. I can actually pull the wool out of the agitating machine and see it shrinking.
Hi I’m from the UK. Worsted is an American word in Britain its called aran. And panty hoes are called tights or stockings. Posting this to help any other brits reading this to make the most of this brilliant idea.
I have no idea what you mean about centipede tightly though
I’m pretty sure she means to put one ball in all the way to the bottom (the toe) of the pantyhose leg, tie off tightly, put in another ball, tie off tightly, then another ball and tie off tightly. When it’s done, it resembles a centipede or caterpillar.
Hi, thank you for the great tutorial. I am in the process of making some dryer balls using a badly stained sweater. I used the sleeves for one ball and the main part for the other hitch turned out a little bigger. I will start felting in a hr next few days
I made 8 of these last night and today for holiday gifts. The centers were balled up sweater parts from Goodwill (100% wool) – which made the yarn go farther. They look great!
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Thank you for this tutorial, I look forward to trying to make these!
Well, I’d have to buy pantyhose, and take these to a laundry to get hot wash. After buying the wool yarn, don’t think I’d be saving anything
Back to amazon.
arent essential oils flammable? is that safe to put in a hot dryer?
The first dryer balls I made I simply wound wool yarn into a ball, as described above. Now, however, I make the balls even more durable and impossible to fray by knitting an outer cover for the ball. I then felt the ball, cover and all. I found the directions at Pretty Little Knit Stitches.