Saturday, February 25, 2012

diy upcycled wool dryer balls

Making wool dryer balls has been on my to do list for nearly a year now. A few weeks ago I ordered a set of three from a shop on Etsy and someone buying them gave me the motivation to finally make some.

I searched far and wide for tutorials on the internet today and found my way back to one at Eco Friendly Homemaking, a blog that I like to visit whenever I (rarely) find the time to do blog reading these days. I think I originally saw this post when she first posted last February.

(Speaking of blog reading and searching for tutorials.. I love tutorials with lots of photos. Sometimes I find I don't even have time to read words so I will often skip over tutorials with few or no photos. Show me a photo of every step or two and I'll likely skip or skim your words and rely on your photos to get my through. So… there's a tip for ya'll.)

In my searching I found quite a few tutorials that used brand new wool yarn. No, I don't want to buy anything. So I added "sweater" to my google search. I found tutorials describing the process of unraveling a wool sweater in order to reuse the yarn. Really? Because no.

I found my way back to Alicia's blog and…. (drum roll)… she suggests chopping up an old wool sweater and rolling the scraps into balls. Now that is something I can do. :)

Yesterday I was lucky enough to pick up a bag of old wool sweaters that I saw posted on Freecycle the other day.

I started by washing and drying them (also known as felting).

I then cut the sleeves and the turtle neck part off and cut them into strips along with the body of the sweater. (yes, with kitchen shears.)

I grabbed some teal thread because it's a totally different color than the orange sweater. Why not have fun?

I grabbed a strip and rolled it very tightly into a ball and then stitched the end.

I wrapped that first roll with another strip and stitched, and did this from alternating directions a few times until I liked the size of the "ball".

I stitched the final strip on more tightly than the others and stitched the ends together through the ball as well.



I did this in steps because Olive has been a little fussy these days (teething I think?). She kept finding her way to me and wanted to be picked up, or fell over dramatically, or some other not conducive to making dryer ball kind of thing.

Here is a photo of my "ball" next to the three I bought on Etsy. Those three were around $13 with shipping. My "ball" was free. :)

Depending on the size that you make you'll need around 6-12. I'm interested to see how my "ball" holds up to the others. Assuming they last that long, dryer balls should work for about 6 months and then need replacing.

So… cool. This is how you make a dryer ball… but why?

Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are terrible terrible things. As soon as I learned of the dangers I stopped using them and our laundry hasn't suffered a bit. After a quick 3 second google search and skim I found this list of just SOME of the ingredients in fabric softeners and dryer sheets:

Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
Limonene: Known carcinogen
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders

Eww. All this stuff, and more, gets imbedded into your clothing and touches every part of your body where it is absorbed by your skin, ingested by your children, and breathed into your lungs in your laundry room and outside of your home.

So number one reason to not use that stuff is for your health, especially if you have children. Wool dryer balls fluff up your clothing by bouncing around the dryer and you can naturally and safely attain that soft feeling.

Awesome reason number two is a much shorter drying time. This is why I like them because, as I said earlier, I don't think we've lost anything by not using dryer sheets so it's not the soft thing I'm looking for. I'm especially looking for help drying Olive's diapers because they're meant to be super absorbent.. which means they hold onto moisture like its their job (well.. it is their job..). The bouncing around of the balls that adds to the softness also helps the clothes dry faster! The wool is also super absorbent so it absorbs some of the moistures from your clothes in the process. Depending on your dryer you may notice a difference of 10, 20, or even 30 minutes taken off of your drying time. Imagine how much gas and/or electrically you can save over time. For what? The cost of a free old sweater, a needle, and thread. :)

Make sure to check out Alicia's tutorial for other tips and to read comments and questions from her readers.


  1. I could certainly do this- are they supposed to help with static too?

  2. Yep, they do! I forgot to mention that part since we don't really seem to have any static problems around here. It was nice to see you yesterday! :)

  3. Oh yours turned out great and don't you just love free!! Thanks so much for mentioning my tutorial.

  4. I love my wool dryer balls. i bought mine from a mom at years ago. They really do cut the drying time, soften laundry and halp with static. LOVE THEM!!

  5. Thank you very much for the tip! Never heard about these soft balls.. Good thing we dont use any chemicals, but these balls look like the brightest idea!)

  6. nice blog of wool ball . it is very easy to prepare.