Looking for a natural alternative to dryer sheets? This tutorial will teach you how to make wool dryer balls at home – plus how to use them!
I don’t know about you, but in my house, laundry is a never ending chore. Seriously, are my kids changing 3 times a day?!
Doing laundry (and picking out laundry products) never really seemed like a big deal before I had kids. In fact, I thought very little of the chore as a whole, and just bought whatever smelled the best and was cheapest.
Enter a kid with sensitive skin and tons of allergies, and all of a sudden, my whole world was turned upside down. I’ve shared that story before, so if you want to read about what prompted the decisions that changed out we lived our entire lives, check it out here.
Today, though, I want to talk specifically about the wool dryer balls we use in our laundry. Not only will I be sharing a super simple DIY so you can make your own for cheap, but I’ll also be sharing some science behind why they’re better than dryer sheets!
Why Use Wool Dryer Balls Instead of Dryer Sheets
We actually tossed dryer sheets years before we discovered wool dryer balls. The chemicals in them were causing my daughter to break out, they were expensive, and it was something I was just throwing away. They didn’t seem necessary to me, so I just stopped buying them, and interestingly enough, the world didn’t end.
A few years later, we actually started cleaning up our lifestyle, which meant I was learning about the ingredients in all the common household cleaners. I was so grateful at that time that I had already stopped using them.
If you’re still using dryer sheets, please read the following, and consider making a switch.
According to neurologists and other experts in this arena, the toxins found in dryer sheets in particular contribute to dysfunction and disease of the nervous system.
Here are the seven most common chemicals found in dryer sheets:
- Alpha-Terpineol: can cause central nervous system disorders, loss of muscular coordination, central nervous system depression, and headache.
- Benzyl Alcohol: causes central nervous system disorders, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, central nervous system depression, and, in severe cases, death.
- Camphor: on the US EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Central nervous system stimulant, causes dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles, and convulsions.
- Chloroform: on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Neurotoxic and carcinogenic.
- Ethyl Acetate: on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Narcotic. May cause headaches and narcosis (stupor).
- Linalool: causes central nervous system disorders and is labeled as a narcotic.
- Pentane: causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness. Repeated inhalation of vapours causes central nervous system depression.
In addition, most dryer sheets also contain “fragrance” which is really just a blanket statement that covers a whole host of other harmful ingredients. Just like other perfumes, a person’s sensitivity decreases over time to the point where they don’t even notice how potent these artificial fragrance chemicals are.
None of this would be interesting if it weren’t for the fact that these fragrance chemicals are known carcinogens. They cause liver damage and cancer in mammals.
Benefits of Wool Dryer Balls:
Dryer balls are a great alternative to chemical laden dryer sheets, so the simple act of replacing those is enough for most people to invest in dryer balls. But, if you’re still not convinced at just how awesome they are, here are some benefits of wool dryer balls that have nothing to do with avoiding toxic chemicals. (Because, you know, that’s a given).
- Using dryer balls can shorten the drying time per load, because they keep your clothes fluffed.
- Dryer balls decrease static on your clothes. At least, it’s been my experience with most clothing (this is less likely to be the case if you have a lot of synthetic clothing, but for most fabrics they work!)
- They soften laundry naturally
- Dryer balls are cheaper in the long run because they last so long
- They’re fragrance free! And if you find that you miss the fragrance, a few drops of a stronger smelling essential oil will do the trick.
How to Make Wool Dryer Balls
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While you can buy wool dryer balls on Amazon for a decent price, these actually make a great DIY. All you need is about 30-40 minutes, and some basic supplies to make your own wool dryer balls. It’s also a great craft night activity with girlfriends, so invite a few friends over, have some fun, and take a step towards sustainability all with this one simple craft.
What You’ll Need to Make Wool Dryer Balls
- 8 oz natural wool roving (you can also use 100% wool yarn, but you will be able to see the yarn in the finished product)
- 1 pair of pantyhose or tights. (No need to buy new. In fact, I recommend using a pair you’re ready to throw away)
- Access to a washer and dryer
The steps for this craft are actually super simple. In fact, my daughter helped me make ours, and we had a lot of fun winding wool and chatting while we did it.
To start, wrap your roving around 2 fingers tightly a couple of times. Then, keeping a firm hold of your wool, remove your fingers and wrap the wool in the other direction. Keep winding your wool tightly and evenly, changing directions every turn or two to start creating your ball shape.
hint: this part can take some practice with wool roving. If you feel you might get frustrated and want something a little simpler, wool yarn like this one is a great alternative. Your wool dryer balls won’t have the same smooth texture, but they’ll work just as well!
Once your ball is the size you want it (approximately the size of a tennis ball, tuck the loose end in some and feed it into the end of your pantyhose. Be sure to turn your pantyhose inside out first, because your wool will felt to the toe seam otherwise. (This is not a huge deal, but you’ll most likely have to cut it free in the end).
Finishing Your Wool Dryer Balls
Tie a knot to secure your wool dryer ball, and complete these steps until you’ve run out of wool. I was able to get 8 out of mine, but a couple of them are on the smaller side.
When you’re done, your pantyhose should look a little like a fat sausage, so if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably take a picture because it’s funny.
Then, just run them just like this through the washer and dryer with your clothes until they’re felted. Mine were ready after 4 loads of clothes. You’ll know they’re ready because they’re much firmer. If you’re not sure, you can check the one on the end by untying the knot and checking inside the pantyhose. It’s ready when it’s no longer fluffy and easy to pull apart.
Once you know they’re done, remove them from the panty hose and throw them in the dryer! This is where they’ll live the rest of their lives. You can leave them as is, or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil so they leave a little scent! If you’re new to essential oils, this is the brand I buy.
DIY Wool Dryer Balls
- Washer and Dryer
- 8 oz natural wool roving
- 1 pair panty-hose or tights (just use an old pair)
- Start by winding the roving around 2 fingers twice.
- Remove from fingers and wrap roving tightly in the opposite direction.
- Start wrapping roving tightly from all angles, making as even of a "ball" shape as you can.
- Once your ball is about the size of a tennis ball, tuck in the loose ends carefully.
- Slide the ball into the end of the pantyhose (they should be inside out so your wool doesn't felt to the toe line).
- Tie off tightly.
- Repeat this process mutliple times until you're out of roving. (I ended up with 6 wool balls)
- Run your wool dryer balls through the washer and dryer with like colors (if using dark yarn) until they felt. This took me about 3 loads. You'll know they're done because they no longer feel squishy.
- Gently remove your dryer balls from the pantyhose and trim anything that's loose. (Mine had a few loose bits that pulled away with the stockings, but if you're still getting a lot that's not stuck down, you may need to continue washing and drying them for a few more loads before they're ready).
- Once they're felted, you only use these in the dryer. I just leave mine in there load after load so I don't lose them!
How to Make Wool Dryer Balls: Final Thoughts
Laundry is a part of our every day life, and we all know it’s not really fun. But, these homemade wool dryer balls sure are! These steps will walk you through a fun, relaxing craft night that gives you a practical, useful product in the end. Make some for yourself, to give as gifts, or invite some friends over for an eco-friendly craft night!