When 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 on commercially manufactured products when it’s so easy to make your own wool dryer balls.
Yes, I could do that and so could you. But unless you have a super cheap source of 100% wool yarn, it could cost more to make them than to buy them, which would be counterintuitive.
100% wool yarn
First of all, wool dryer balls must be made from 100% wool that has not been treated with chemicals to make it “superwash” or “machine washable.” As a result, natural wool yarn will allow the dryer balls to become “felted.” Otherwise, they will just unwind and fall apart in the dryer. Take a look at these Smart Sheep 100% Wool Dryer Balls to see what beautifully felted dryer balls look like.
Felting is a process by which the tiny wool fibers are allowed to rub against one another vigorously. As a result, the fibers become hopelessly entangled creating a type of stable “fabric.”
You’ll need lots of yarn
To make one dryer ball requires one skein, about 100 yards, of 100% wool yarn. Each dryer ball needs to be weighty. This is because each one needs enough heft to bounce around in the dryer as it fluffs and separates the folds of the wet laundry. One skein per dryer ball is the absolute minimum.
You need a set of six dryer balls to be most effective in softening a typical dryer load of laundry. At anywhere from $7 to $15 per skein for feltable wool yarn—perhaps half that amount when the yarn is on sale—that pushes the cost just for materials to $42 to $90 for one set. Therefore, it makes more sense to buy them since an excellent set of solid 100% pure wool dryer balls costs less than $20.
Until recently, 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. However, I changed my thinking 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 knitted 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.
One recycled man’s sweater
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. And when it’s Sale Day at the thrift store, one might expect to find a high quality, 100% wool man’s sweater for $.99!
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 that 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. The video contains a photo tutorial.
Should you find success with making your own dryer balls from recycled 100% untreated feltable wool yarn*, you may want to make two sets—one light-colored, the other black or dark-colored. This will 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. Next, rub 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.
Orignally published 6-12-19; Updated and republished 3-22-21