DIY wool dryer balls: natural fabric softener

Every once in a while – when I actually take my laundry out of the dryer just as it is finished rather than lazily leaving it for, oh you know, a couple of days or so – I throw it on my bed, dig my way underneath the heaping pile, and lie there enjoying the warmth until it dies out.

It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pleasures I have ever known.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I love fresh and clean, soft and lovely-smelling laundry. Ooh, do I love it!! (Folding? Eh, not so much.)

These DIY wool dryer balls act as a natural fabric softener, without the chemicals of liquid fabric softener. They are a better choice than the plastic dryer balls that you can purchase as these can release harmful plasticisers while in the laundry. Any while there are pre-made wool dryer balls available for purchase, they cost a pretty penny (these are over $30!). To boot, they help you decrease your environmental footprint by decreasing dry time by an estimated 25 minutes for large loads and 30 minutes for small loads!

Best yet, they are super cheap and easy to make!

What you will need:

  • A roll of 100% wool yarn (between $5-$10 on average)
  • An old pair of tights (or at least one leg of an old pair of tights)

Yep, that’s it!

How to make ’em:

Start by wrapping the end of the yarn around two of your fingers 50 times. Then slide it off and wrap the yarn around the bunch to secure it. Keep wrapping the yarn, slowly forming a ball, and then building on the ball until it is about 3 inches in diameter. Tie off the end and tuck it under one of the loops to secure it and prevent it from unraveling.

DIY wool dryer balls 2

Make 4-6 balls.

After your yarn balls are complete, slip them into the leg of an old pair of tights as pictured below: knot one end, put a ball in, pull the tights tightly, tie a knot, and continue with all of the balls.

diy wool dryer balls 5

After you have this string of yarn balls, you will need to throw it into 2 wash and dry cycles to felt them. This will make the balls compact and prevent them from unraveling.

After they have been through 2 complete wash and dry cycles, remove the balls from the tights.

And now you have wool dryer balls!

After they are felted, there is no need to include the balls in your wash cycle. Just keep them in the dryer, where they will help naturally soften your laundry and decrease your total dry time.

diy wool dryer balls 3

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Share Your Thoughts

  1. Anne

    What if someone was allergic to wool?

    October 1, 2013 • 2:04 pm •
  2. Nadia

    Great question! I can’t guarantee anything, but I just did a search and everything I came by said that those with wool allergies are fine using wool dryer balls since the wool never comes into direct contact with your skin. I definitely recommend doing your own research, and possibly repeating the felting process more than 2 times to ensure the balls to do shed any wool. I’m sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer!

    October 1, 2013 • 2:18 pm •
  3. April

    Made & love these!! I’d also like to put in my two cents about wool & allergies. I’ve sold wool-based apparel for many years & it’s more likely that a person is irritated by wool then truly allergic. Wool is comprised of the same protein as human hair, keratin. If there is a true allergy, it’s most likely due to any remaining lanolin in the wool. I personally cannot tollerate any kind of wool besides merino, a long soft fiber compared to ragg wool (short & pokey). I use 4 of these dryer balls every load & haven’t had a problem.

    I hope my info can help! Happy felting!!!

    October 1, 2013 • 9:35 pm •
  4. Kim

    How many do you use when drying one load of laundry?

    October 1, 2013 • 10:54 pm •
  5. Nadia

    Hi, Kim. I use 5. This has decreased the dry time for a large load to 25 minutes!!

    October 1, 2013 • 11:15 pm •
  6. Good thing I have a husband who isn’t allergic to wool! Maybe I can convince him to make some of these for me!

    October 2, 2013 • 8:45 am •
  7. Miss Anna

    If you’re concerned about wool irritations/allergies, you could make these with alpaca fibers, and avoid the issue altogether. The alpaca should behave just as well as the wool does-it felts beautifully!

    Anna W
    @FELTit on Twitter

    October 9, 2013 • 7:30 pm •
  8. Vivian

    It looks as though it is one continuous string of balls. Do you cut them at the ends?

    October 10, 2013 • 8:40 am •
  9. Nadia

    Do you mean when they are in the pair of old tights? You only keep them in the tights during the felting process (2 wash and dry cycles). After that you can just cut the tights to remove the balls.

    October 10, 2013 • 9:17 am •
  10. Elizabeth

    How long do the balls last before they need to be replaced?

    October 10, 2013 • 10:59 am •
  11. Nadia

    Hi, Elizabeth! Since they keep getting more compact/better with time, unless they unravel they should last for years!

    October 10, 2013 • 11:19 am •
  12. Christina M

    When you are washing and drying the balls to felt them, I assume it is fine to throw them in with an actual load of laundry and not alone, right?

    October 13, 2013 • 2:24 pm •
  13. Nadia

    Yes, definitely!

    October 14, 2013 • 10:15 am •
  14. Liz Daw-Ryder

    I raise sheep for their wool to spin and wear but my husband was certain he was alllergic to wool as a child. What insight I have gleaned from other wool breeders is that some people are allergic to the “grease”aka lanolin so that once the fleece is washed, carded and combed most of the grease is gone. At fifty my husband is thrilled with his wool hats (unlined) which breath well, and are warm enough for our harsh winters, and he is without any remote indicators of allergy or sensitivity to the fibres

    October 14, 2013 • 8:21 pm •
  15. Cinnamon

    Just a couple Q’s….

    How long do these last before you need to make new ones?
    Could some essential oils be added for scents?
    How many balls per dryer load do you need?

    Thanks, love this idea to finally get rid of my dryer sheets!!!

    October 15, 2013 • 9:59 am •
  16. Nadia

    Hi, Cinnamon!

    They keep getting more compact/better with time. Unless they unravel they should last for years.
    Yes definitely! You can add a few drops directly to the balls before throwing them in.
    I use five and find this ideal. For a large load, my dry time is now only 25 minutes 🙂


    October 15, 2013 • 10:13 am •
  17. Sharon

    How long does it take to dry the balls during the felting process?? Seems like it would take longer to dry than just a normal drying cycle.

    October 29, 2013 • 1:00 am •
  18. Nadia

    Hi, Sharon, Good question – not any longer than the normal drying cycle if I remember correctly.

    November 9, 2013 • 8:54 am •
  19. I have been making these for years, and love them. Question: in the last two years (I only make them about once a year b/c they last for so long), my wool balls seem to be unraveling at an alarming rate. They used to last for at least a year or more, but now it’s not unusual for one to unravel within a month or so after I make it. I’ve tried making them in stages–felting a small ball, then adding more wool and felting again. I’ve tried running through the wash/dry cycle many times (in a sock) before using them.

    The only things I can think of are:
    1. I do lots more laundry now that our family continues to grow (before, it was just the two of us).
    2. Perhaps the quality of the wool has decreased? I use Fisherman’s/Lion’s Brand.
    3. I’ve been washing/drying them in a long sock instead of panty hose.

    I’d love your opinion–what am I doing wrong?
    I’m thinking of switching to wool roving for my next batch.

    November 12, 2013 • 3:52 pm •
  20. Kate B

    Crazy question but what water temp am I using during the wash cycle while in the felting stage?

    March 14, 2014 • 6:24 am •
  21. Nadia

    That is totally NOT crazy! I shouldn’t matter. I think they just need to get saturated and then the heat from the dryer will bind them together.

    March 14, 2014 • 7:37 pm •
  22. barbara

    How many balls will one skein of wool yarn make….or how many skeins do I need to buy to get 5 balls?

    March 25, 2014 • 10:20 am •
  23. Nadia

    Hi, Barbara! You will probably need 2 to make 5 balls.

    March 25, 2014 • 10:24 am •
  24. Becca

    Do you put them through two wash cycles, then two dry cycles? Or wash-dry-wash-dry?

    April 1, 2014 • 12:37 pm •
  25. Nadia

    Was-dry, wash-dry!

    April 1, 2014 • 1:53 pm •
  26. famousetaylor

    Can I use an old tube sock instead of stocking? All of my stockings are still nice and I don’t want to throw away a pair.

    April 7, 2014 • 7:42 pm •
  27. Nadia

    Ohh I don’t know if it would have the same effect. You can try and report back!

    April 7, 2014 • 8:17 pm •
  28. Amy

    Do these BANG around in the dryer, like the plastic ones?

    May 4, 2014 • 7:27 am •
  29. Nadia

    A little I suppose but to me it’s no louder than my dryer is already.

    May 4, 2014 • 10:36 am •
  30. Amy

    Thank you!! I think it’s WELL worth it to try them!!!

    May 4, 2014 • 11:33 am •
  31. Mary Richardson

    Have you ever tried cutting a 100% wool sweater cut into strips and wound together? I got a 100% cashmere sweater at a discount shop and wondered if it would work. I would sew some thread back and forth through it to keep it together

    June 4, 2014 • 8:41 pm •
  32. Nadia

    I haven’t but if you give it a try, please report back to let us know if it worked!

    June 5, 2014 • 8:54 pm •
  33. really cool idea, i must try it..

    July 17, 2014 • 2:01 pm •
  34. Rhyan

    Would it work if I put a few drops of essential oils on the balls before using them sometimes to make my laundry smell good?

    September 7, 2014 • 10:04 am •
  35. Leigh

    Not exactly Mary’s question, but I decided to make these tonight but didn’t have 100% wool on hand, did have an old wool sweater which was harder to unwravel than I’d anticipated. I ended up cutting strips from the turtle neck/sleeves and wrapping about 1/2 the beginning section of the balls and following that with the yard that I’d fully unwraveled. Turned out great!!! One size small, medium weight turtle neck long sleeve sweater made 6 dryer balls!

    November 30, 2014 • 1:03 am •
  36. […] made a few sets of these DIY wool dryer balls for very different people in my life… and they’ve always been met with awe and […]

    December 18, 2014 • 3:05 pm •
  37. Carrie

    Do the dryer balls help with static?

    March 6, 2015 • 12:35 pm •
  38. Nadia

    I think a little bit! But I sometimes still have a little static.

    March 6, 2015 • 2:28 pm •
  39. Carla

    HI, a bit late on the subject, but…my husband loves using fabric softener when doing our laundry but I know they’re not cheap and I’d love to save a little while being environmentally friendly! So my question is, does it really work and do you put the balls in the washer and dries with your laundry? As I write this it sounds like a stupid question but if you don’t ask you’ll never know!

    April 3, 2015 • 9:35 am •
  40. Nadia

    Hi, Carla. Yes, it works quite well for me! I give instructions in the post above 🙂

    April 3, 2015 • 10:52 am •
  41. Julie

    What a great way to do this! Going to be trying some DIY for 2016. This will for sure be one of them! Can you put any (E0) essential oil on these to make clothes smell good? Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Lavender? If so do you do it before you start the dryer or in the middle or towards the end? And do you have to do this with each drying cycle? Also how many drops?

    December 23, 2015 • 8:47 pm •
  42. Nadia

    I add 2 drops at the beginning of every drying cycle!

    February 18, 2016 • 1:52 pm •