Contributor post written by Kelly from New Leaf Wellness.
Looking for an all-natural alternative to store-bought dryer sheets? Wool dryer balls are your answer! Not only are wool dryer balls all-natural, they’re so easy to make!
Benefits of Homemade Wool Dryer Balls
- Shorten drying time
- Reduce wrinkles
- Decrease static
- Soften laundry
- Save money
- Fragrance-free (or naturally scented with a few drops of essential oils)
You can buy wool dryer balls on Amazon or Etsy, but they’re also incredibly easy to make yourself. All you need to make your own is 20 minutes and four basic supplies: wool yarn, a crochet hook, scissors, and pantyhose.
I’ll admit that I know nothing about using yarn to knit and crochet, but I know a heck of a lot about doing laundry. Between me, my husband, and our three young daughters (ages 4 and under), laundry is just a part of our everyday life.
Doing laundry isn’t exactly what I’d call “fun,” but an easy, practical craft sure is. These homemade wool dryer balls rank up there with my homemade coconut oil lotions and sugar scrubs. They’re a simple DIY that I absolutely love and want to share with all of my friends.
Actually, I think making these wool dryer balls would be a really fun craft to make with friends. I made my first two wool dryer balls with the help of my super-crafty mom and then asked for a crochet hook and wool yarn for my birthday so I could make more.
The more dryer balls you have, the more they will bounce around with your laundry and help it to dry quickly. Six to eight wool dryer balls that are between the size of a tennis ball and soft ball seem to be just right. The tutorial below shows you how to make two dryer balls from one skein of yarn.
The best yarn is 100% wool. After wrapping your yarn into balls, you wash them in pantyhose so the yarn “felts” together and becomes a solid ball that won’t unravel. Thick, wool roving yarn felts perfectly.
The best colors for homemade wool dryer balls are ones that are bright and will be easy to pick out of your laundry. Avoid red or other colors that might bleed. (I learned that the hard way.)
Have I convinced you to make your own wool dryer balls yet?! Let’s get started!
Homemade Wool Dryer Balls
- 1 skein 100% wool roving yarn 120 yards
- 1 crochet hook
- 1 pair knee-high or pair of pantyhose, no need to buy new, use an old pair
- 1 pair scissors
- Start your first wool dryer ball by wrapping the yarn around a couple of fingers 10 times.
- Remove the yarn from your fingers and wrap about 10 times around the middle.
- Continue wrapping around the ball from every angle. Make your way around the ball, wrapping 5-10 times before moving to a new angle. (There's no exact science to this. Just keep trying to form a round ball.) Wrap the yarn tightly and hang onto your ball so it doesn't pop out of your hands.
- When your ball is a little bigger than a tennis ball, cut the yarn and pull the end through the ball with your crochet hook.
- Repeat Steps 1-4 to make a second wool dryer ball with the remainder of your yarn.
- Place your wool balls in your pantyhose, knotting the pantyhose between the balls.
- Run your wool dryer balls through your washer and dryer with separate loads of laundry until they "felt" and become solid balls. (Mine "felt" in 3-4 loads.)
- Remove balls from pantyhose and use in the dryer in place of dryer sheets.
Tip: These wool dryer balls would be great to use with Kristin’s Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap or Powder Laundry Soap (from my cleaning book).
Do you add an essential oil?
Hi Lisa, it’s up to you if you want to add essential oils!
Thanks for sharing.
I have used wool dryer balls for 3 years. They really cut down my drying time and make my clothings free of wrinkles, which are far better than chemial drying sheets or noisy plastic dryer balls. I love DIY dryer balls. But i usually bought some premium dryer balls from Amazon. And then i will DIY some patterns on them with yarn. In this way, my gift dryer balls will be made more faster. Please note that you should choose premium quality dryer balls. Premium quality is non business with price on Amazon. Don’t make wrong choice. You can choose such as SUPA MODERN brand dryer balls on Amazon. I have used the dryer balls of this store for 2 years. They are great. Sometimes, if i don’t have enough time. I will use them directly. For me, they are even better than some expensive dryer balls cost 16.99 or more. https://amzn.to/2BoKUgx. If i have enough time, i will DIY few ones.
My daughter and I used this tutorial to make dryer balls for our Life Skills class as we’re trying to eliminate plastics and chemicals in our home and environment. We used Patons Classic Wool, Roving and followed directions. After 10 washings in hot water and 10 tumbles in the dryer (we used white towels in loads) our balls still have distinct lines of yarn, they haven’t felted. We didn’t use laundry soap or fabric softener in loads. Any suggestions of how to make them felt? Thank you!
I know this is an older post, but I wanted to give a different perspective. I have been a fiber artisan for 25+ years and a shepherdess for 20+ years. I’m going to bust a few myths here through experiment and demonstration, but at the end, I’ll give you a few tips that actually do work.
Something to keep in mind is that one of wool’s best and most famous characteristics is that it naturally repels moisture/water. Wool dryer balls will not do anything to absorb moisture from your laundry load making it dry faster. It simply won’t – because it can’t. Also, given the surface area of a dryer ball, it would have a hard time sucking up much moisture anyway, even if it had a natural propensity for doing that. Which it doesn’t. If you’re in a pinch and need to dry a load of clothes faster, I do have a good tip for you: Throw a clean/dry towel in your dryer with your wet clothing. THAT will help your laundry dry a bit faster as the towel is actually is made from the right material to absorb moisture (usually cotton, etc) and has a large enough surface area to do so. Which brings up an interesting point. You’ll never see a bath towel made out of wool because it wouldn’t dry you off. Right? If you grabbed a pure wool sweater and tried to dry yourself off with it, you’d be disappointed. Wool just isn’t designed to be good at absorbing moisture.
Also, wool does not have any magic ingredients to make your laundry ‘softer’. Any softness comes from abrasion/friction in your dryer that rubs the fibers off the clothing/towels/etc as they all tumble together. That’s what makes the lint in your lint filter. Lint is the fibers of your clothing, etc abraiding away (wearing off) of the items in your laundry and that’s what’s getting trapped by your lint filter. That’s one reason that clothes dried on a clothesline will feel stiffer, they haven’t had an abrasion session in the dryer after being washed. Will dryer balls increase the wearing away of your clothing to make them ‘softer’. Maybe microscopically, But your clothes, etc are already abraiding each other during the course of the dryer load with much more surface area to have contact with other garments for abraiding/buffing/wearing off of fibers.
Regarding wool dryer balls reducing or eliminating static, there are no magic properties in wool that will reduce static. Static is a result of over drying, not a result of not having enough dryer balls in your laundry. It’s like having low humidity and shocking your finger when you touch a lamp or something in the winter. The atmosphere is dry, so there’s static. If you had a dryer ball in your hand you would not reduce that static and you’d still get shocked by the lamp.
I’ll touch on the dryer ball claim of eliminating wrinkles very briefly. Say what??!! If you leave your clothes in the dryer for too long, they will wrinkle. 1-12 dryer balls laying in a heap of clothing will not make them unwrinkled. I don’t even know what to say about this claim. It defies logic, so I’ll leave it there.
One last thought, I’ve sold a wide variety of natural fiber items at the wholesale level for the last 7 years of my fiber career. I’m often asked to make dryer balls for retailers to sell to their customers but always avoided the idea because my gut told me it was gimmicky. But I was asked so many times that I felt like I had no other option but to design an honest and repeatable experiment. If I was going to sell them, there needed to be a real and measurable benefit to customers or else I would be adding to the notion that there was something helpful, beneficial, innovative, time and money saving about dryer balls. So I made a dozen for myself. Not out of yarn, but out of clean wool fiber. I used the same weight of fiber as all of the other dryer balls out there so that my experiments would be apples to apples. Then I started doing loads of identical laundry. LOTS of loads of identical laundry. I timed them in the dryer with 1 – 12 dryer balls. Result: dryer balls sound natural and clean and ‘simple’ and homey and virtuous and a lot of other things, but they don’t live up to the claim. At all. They just don’t. There was no difference in dry time and I found that the more dryer balls in the load, the longer my load took to dry, according to the moisture sensors in my dryer. I’m sorry.
I have a bit of good news to offer though. After using dryer sheets for years (yuck) I just stopped using them a few years ago. Cold turkey, I just quit. You know what? My clothes were just as soft (because they abraided against each other in the dryer) and they had no static (unless I overdried them) and they were not wrinkled (unless I left them in the dryer for too long – you know how that goes).
Last free tip: if you really want to use essential oils to scent your laundry, you can do that and you don’t even need a wool dryer ball! Take a clean rag or clean old washcloth, add a few drops of your favorite EO and toss that in the dryer with your clothes. Done. Simple, cheap, non-gimmicky.
(One caution – some EOs could be potentially flammable – be careful.)
I am a wool advocate/fanatic. It’s just about the best natural fiber out there with a huge number of sheep breeds that bring various strengths and uses to the table. There’s almost no end to wool’s versatility and desirability. I want people to love wool as much as I do…and I love wool a LOT. But I also don’t want people who haven’t had the opportunity to learn a lot about wool to think it’s less incredible than it is, because they believed the stories about putting wool in the dryer to make laundry day all natural and hassle-free. That’s doing both the wool and the end user a disservice.
I’m sorry for any bubble bursting that may have taken place here. It’s with the best of intentions.
Now go knit or crochet or felt or spin or weave something amazing out of some quality wool…you won’t be disappointed! xoxo
Thanks for sharing, Karyn.
Thanks for the comprehensive review about wool dryer balls. Much appreciated.
Thanks Karyn! I prefer a clean cotton towel in the dryer! It helps shorten drying time and I think it does help reduce static and wrinkles! I don’t like the scent wool gives off in the dryer.
Dryer sheets were the very first “chemical” product that I noticed a have a bad reaction to, and so eliminating them a few years ago is what started my journey towards healthier products. I love this idea, but I am allergic to wool. I have simply been adding vinegar in the softener tray of my washer and that seems to soften my clothes, but I like the idea of the dryer balls speeding up the drying time. Does anyone have any other suggestions for materials to use?
I have 4 that I’ve been using for 4 years…they’ve lasted so well! I’m glad I found this tutorial, because we moved away from the area we bought them in, and I didn’t know what I could do to replace them. Thank you!
Awesome, Laura! Enjoy!
Did you know that if you have yarn leftover from another project and it is no longer labelled, you can identify it with a burn test. Take a small piece and go outside or work over a sink inside. Using a match or lighter, take a few strands and hold them with tweezers. Light them. If the smell is like burning hair, it’s wool. Any manmade fibers will melt into a small globule. (Textiles and Clothing 101, Iowa State University)
Wow, that’s fantastic info! Thank you, Sue!
I just finished making mine but haven’t started the felting process yet so I appreciate the comments.
I got my yarn at our local yarn store, Yarnology! The owner hadn’t made them herself but had a lot of customers who had. She suggested I make the base of each ball with my scrap yarn (non-wool) and then continue with the 100% wool as it would save me some $. I’ve been using a set of purchased wool dryer balls for 3 years and am excited to have more for myself and to gift to others!
Hey Jess, That’s such great advice–thank you for sharing!! I’m excited for you to have your own homemade dryer balls. I think you’ll love them as much as the purchased set.
My clothes come out with static. Is that because we only have 2? Or maybe if they aren’t 100% wool might make that happen?
Hey PortaPunch, You may need to increase the number of wool dryer balls. Another option is to try attaching a clothespin to each ball to help reduce the static.
Does it matter what color the yarn is? My friend says dark colored yarn will leave “hairs” that will show up on light colored clothing and vise versa. Thanks!
Hey Kimberly, I haven’t experienced any issues with my gray and purple dryer balls leaving behind noticeable hairs on the light colors or vice versa with the lighter dryer balls and darker clothes.
How many balls does one skein make? I have been having trouble finding 100% wool roving yarn. Does just 100% wool work? Probably not…
Hey Sophie, I’m not sure about the wool. I get about 3 balls from one skein.