Whenever I write about the benefits of using wool dryer balls in place of laundry softeners, I get a few responses gently raking me over the coals for suggesting we should spend money for commercially manufactured wool dryer balls when it’s so easy to make them ourselves.
Yes, I could do that and so could you. But unless you have a super cheap source of 100% wool yarn, it’s going to cost more to make them than to buy, which would be counterintuitive.
Wool dryer balls must be made from 100% wool that has not been treated with chemicals to make it “superwash” or “machine washable.” Natural wool yarn will allow the dryer balls to become “felted.” Otherwise, they would just unwind and fall apart in the dryer.
Felting is a process by which the tiny wool fibers are allowed to rub against one another vigorously so that they become hopelessly entangled so they become a type of stable “fabric.”
To make one dryer ball requires one skein of 100% wool yarn because to be effective each dryer ball needs to be weighty. It needs enough heft to bounce around in the dryer as it fluffs and separate the folds of the wet laundry. One skein per dryer ball is the absolute minimum.
What’s more, you need a set of six dryer balls to be effective in softening a dryer load of laundry. At anywhere from $7 to $15 per skein for wool yarn that can be felted, that pushes the cost just for materials to $42 to $90 for one set. That doesn’t make sense to me when an excellent set of solid 100% pure wool dryer balls costs less than $20!
All that to say, I’d never found the idea of making my own dryer balls from 100% wool yarn to be a reasonable activity given the reasons above, until just recently when I watched an online video, The Man Who Knits. He doesn’t get his wool yarn from his local yarn shop—he recycles wool sweaters from thrift shops.
By unraveling a quality wool garment, he ends up with enough beautiful yarn to knit new garments. And what a craftsman he is. As a knitter myself, I stand in awe of his work. But I digress.
Typically, a man’s sweater requires 6 to 8 skeins of yarn. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Bingo! Wool dryer balls, right? All right there in one sweater.
Now, there is a process and steps one must follow for do-it-yourself dryer balls. They must be wrapped very tightly. And they must go through a specific process which forces them to become properly felted and ready to go to work in the clothes dryer. You can follow the directions and steps clearly described HERE, which also includes a photo tutorial.
Should you find success with making your own dryer balls from recycled 100% untreated* wool yarn, you may want to make two sets—one light colored, the other black or dark colored to head off that problem of transferring white lint to your dark clothes and vice versa!
*You can quite easily test yarn to see if it will felt by cutting two small lengths, then rubbing them together, vigorously between your hands for a few minutes. Look closely to see if they are becoming connected as the tiny fibers become hopelessly intertwined; if not, you can assume the yarn is either not 100% wool or other suitable natural fiber, or it has been chemically treated.