Start saving your 100% wool yarn scraps. Earth Day is the perfect time to think about new eco-friendly changes – big or small – that you can incorporate into your everyday life. Making your own dryer balls with 100% wool yarn is a fabulous alternative to using chemical-laden, wasteful, synthetic dryer sheets. Dryer balls reduce static cling in your laundry, cut down on drying time, and keep sheets of polyester out of our landfills. Although you can purchase PVC dryer balls or even use tennis balls, a more natural and fun option is wool dryer balls. They are easy to make and can last for years.
What Do Dryer Balls Do?
While the dryer balls bounce around in the dryer with your laundry, they separate your clothes to aid the drying process, soften your clothes, and help collect lint.
How many do you need? For a large load, you might need 5-7 balls. If the balls are not helping your laundry, add more balls or reduce the amount of clothes in the dryer. If you prefer scent on your laundry, put a drop of essential oil on a dryer ball. Experiment with how many of them you want to scent.
Will Any Wool Yarn Work?
100% wool yarn is easy to find at your local craft store. Make sure the label says 100% wool and that it is NOT “super wash” wool. Super wash wool has been chemically treated to not felt. In addition, you can use other animal/protein yarns like alpaca. However, plant-based fibers like cotton and synthetic fibers like nylon or acrylic will not felt. You’ll have a tangled ball of string. If you have a 100% wool sweater, you can recycle it by cutting it into strips and winding them into a ball. Wool roving also works, although the dryer ball may pill more than if you use yarn.
If you want colorful dryer balls, colorful yarn probably won’t bleed color or leave lint on clothing after 2-3 washes. However, to be completely sure, make dark dryer balls for dark loads and lighter dryer balls for light loads. For light loads, choose yarn that’s not super white. Bright white yarn often goes through extra processing to get the lightest color, so consider an off-white or more “natural” white for felting.
Materials & Supplies
- One skein of 100% wool yarn that does not say “super wash” – such as Patons Classic Wool Worsted. One skein will make one dryer ball, but it’s a good idea to make many dryer balls at once.
- A pair of pantyhose or a thin knee-high stocking
- A piece of acrylic yarn, cotton string, or a twist tie for each ball to secure them while felting
- Washing machine
How to Make Wool Dryer Balls
- Wind your skein of yarn into a new ball. Start by wrapping a free end of the yarn around 2-3 of your fingers about 20-30 times. Take the yarn off your hand and wind more yarn about 20 times in the other direction. Keep rotating the yarn ball and winding the yarn at different angles until you’ve wound the entire skein. Tuck the loose end in. Your ball should be about the size of a softball or 3.5 inches in diameter.
- Cut the top off your pantyhose. You only need one leg to make 5-6 dryer balls, so save the other. Put your yarn ball into the toe of the pantyhose and secure it with a piece of yarn or string. You can also secure by tying a knot in the hose.
- If you’re making more than one dryer ball, keep winding your yarn skeins into balls and tying them off separately in the pantyhose.
- Wash the dryer balls in the washing machine on the hottest setting. Heat and agitation make the yarn strands felt together. Toss them in with some towels to avoid wasting a wash cycle. The bulk of the towels will also help with agitation. Felting is complete when you can’t separate the yarn strands with your finger, and you’ll typically need 2-3 wash cycles. The yarn ball will still look yarn-y and strand-y, but it should all be stuck together. If yarn fuzz is sticking out of the pantyhose, that’s a good sign, too.
- Cut open the ties to release the dryer balls.
- Let them air dry or toss them into your next dryer load.
If you are curious about more felting projects, check out these Creativebug felting classes.