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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

    Enjoy!!

  5. 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!!!

  6. 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
    Liz

  7. 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?

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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
    annasplaceofholding.com
    @FELTit on Twitter

  11. 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!!!

  12. 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!