Wool Dryer Balls

dryer-ballsThe following is a guest post by Mothering’s Melissa Holik, dishing some behind-the-scenes how-tos for an article in our brand new March-April issue, “A Green Clean.”

As Laura and I were prepping for the “Green Clean” photo shoot, we sat down—as we usually do for these shoots—and made a shopping list of all the products from the article and how they might look together:

“Vinegar, that’s clear. Baking soda, white. We need some color. . . . OK . . . . flowers, maybe bright yellows and oranges? Gloves, can we can get some in green? Reusable dryer ball . . . uh . . . wait, what?”

Laura had never heard of such a thing. I had often eyed these reusable dryer balls in the stores, but I’d resisted getting them because I despise plastic. I tried in vain to describe the ones I’d seen: “Well, they’re like these pink and blue spiky balls of plastic . . . I don’t think they’re going to look so good with the rest of the colors.” Before making the final call, Laura wanted a visual. So, we did what we always do: Google it!

Our Google image search returned many shots of the blue spiky balls, but further down in the results were images of beautiful, soft, natural-looking balls. Intrigued, we clicked on one to find out more. That’s when we found out about the world of wool dryer balls. It’s difficult to convey just how excited I was about this discovery. (I know, I should get out more.) A natural and beautiful alternative to the plastic balls?!? And even better. . . something I could make?

The internet had a couple of different tutorials on how to make them. I was pumped. We added yarn to the shopping list, and I spent a Sunday afternoon happily assembling about a dozen of these balls in colors to coordinate with the rest of the photo shoot.  Here’s what I did:


100% wool yarn

herbs (optional)

small crochet hook

old panty hose

non-wool string or yarn (small quantity)

1. Loop the yarn around 2 fingers. Loop it around several times.

2. Slide it off your fingers and grasp the loops firmly on one _MG_7870side. Here’s where you can add herbs if you like. I tried adding lavender and roses, and had kind of limited luck with it. It’s tricky but possible to accomplish,even with something as small and loose as lavender buds. Still, it’s a temporary scent, and you can always leave it out.

3. Pinch the loops and start wrapping yarn crosswise to make a stick shape. Fold the stick into a U shape and keep wrapping. It should be starting to look like a ball.

4. Keep wrapping the yarn around and around, turning the ball _MG_7872as you go to get even coverage all the way around.

5. When the ball is the size you’d like, use the crochet hook to pull the ends into the ball.

6. Place the balls in a cut-off old pair of panty hose and tie it off with the non-wool string.

7. Place the panty-hose-wrapped balls into the washing machine without other laundry and wash in HOT water. This will “felt” the balls and make them fuzzy._MG_7887

Here’s where I ran in to some trouble. I’ve never felted anything before, so this part was new to me. According to the felting info I found online, sometimes you have to repeat the hot water wash several times. I felt like I was doing this FOREVER. I found one article that said adding baking soda would help, and it seemed to, a bit. But after a half dozen washings they still seemed sadly un-fuzzy. My partner suggested that I may have tied them too tightly in the hose, so I washed them a few more times outside the hose since they were already holding their shape pretty well. This tactic also seemed to help, a bit, but they _MG_7892still weren’t as fuzzy as I would like. I put them in the dryer, hoping they’d fuzz up some more in there. Which brings me to step 8. . .

8. Take them out of the hose and put them in the dryer to continue the felting process.

After several dryer cycles, I still would have liked them to be fuzzier, but I gave up and decided they were “good enough.”

* * * * *

And there you have it! If you’re a knitter or crocheter, this would be a great project to use up little bits and pieces from your stash, so long as you only use 100% wool. If you don’t have scraps of yarn, you can buy wool and make them in any color you like. I still have the ones from the photo shoot, and they’re a cheerful spot of color in my otherwise fairly bleak laundry cupboard! —Melyssa Holik


Photos taken by Melyssa Holik, Mothering‘s intrepid investigator on the DIY scene


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13 thoughts on “Wool Dryer Balls”

  1. I actually find it helpful to wash it in a load with clothes. More things for it to hit up against and cause to felt up. It also helps to do it in two sections. Make a small core. Felt that (wash and dry cyle). Then wrap again and felt that. As long as it is partially felted, it shouldn’t come apart. If you want it to be felted more, just throw it (without the hose) into your wash a few times and then you can leave them in the dryer constantly. Easy peasy!

  2. Danielle: Thanks for the comments! Some tutorials said I shouldn’t put it in with other clothes, but next attempt I’m definitely going to wash with other stuff. It would be GREAT if that makes it go faster. Plus it would be more efficient, I could get some laundry done in the meantime!

  3. Beth, I think they work using the same principle as dryer sheets (something about interrupting the streams of charged particles caused by friction? I’m afraid I don’t remember my elementary school science!), with an added benefit: the weight of the balls makes them move in and out of the laundry as it tumbles to help it dry faster.

  4. i am definitely going to make some of these. i keep going on to buy some and can’t get myself to pay the money. it would be fine if 2 were enough but they say at least 6 ay a time and some mamas use 12-15 balls. so, i am going to start making my own…this is just what i needed:) thanks!

    beht- they do help with static (i used some that a friend had made)but if you have synthetic fabrics in the dryer…there will still be static. i’ve been taking out my fleece type materials and it’s made a tone of difference. plus, they air dry pretty fast.

  5. If you don’t want to spend a bunch of $$ on wool remember to keep an eye out at the thrift stores – you can often find remnants in their craft sections. Also, washing them with jeans works well – something about the heaviness of the fabric helps felt them faster. Going from scalding hot to cold water back and forth helps too – basically the more abuse the better the felting!

  6. If you accidentally got “washable” or “Superwash” wool yarn, it wouldn’t felt very well, as it’s treated to not shrink and felt during washing. A good yarn for a project like this would be Lion Fisherman’s Wool, as it felts well and is inexpensive.

  7. Misty: I’m not sure how much it took for each ball. It partly depends on how big you make them. The ones I made were just under 2″ across. I made 4 or 5 of each color and only used about half a package (155 yd package) So… now for some math… so I think 15-20 yards per ball? That’s a very rough estimate, but hopefully it helps!

    Other details: I used full o’ sheep yarn from Debbie Stoller. It’s a lovely yarn that comes in beautiful colors. (And it was on sale, yay!) It says it’ll felt, I think I must not have given it enough abuse. Next time, those balls are in for it!

  8. Hmm. I made mine a while ago using this method, and I too could never get them to felt “enough”. However, the website I used did not say to take them out of the pantyhose in the dryer! Maybe that was my problem. I will take the suggestion to run them through the washer again and see if they felt some more.

  9. I have coveted these – they are expensive!!! And being a knitter (and felter) I’m a bit sad I didn’t think of this before!!

    When I felt, I use a tiny bit of detergent, the lowest and hottest water possible, and put my items to be felted in a mesh zip up laundry bag (especially used for felting as some wool makes a huge mess). An old pair of jeans or runners are needed for extra agitation.

    I’m so making these tonight!

    PS: They are supposed to cut drying time by half as well…That’s what the advert. says!

  10. I have been wanting to try this! I think it would help if you tied off each ball seperately and cut the hose so that there were each an individual ball. Or after they have felted a little bit in the wash take them out of the hose and wash again. Wool felts by friction and having something else rub against it. I’m not sure if they would lose their shape, though. Maybe I’ll try and get back to you!

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