Close Up of Wool Dryer Ball Tucked Next To Blanket and Basket of Blankets

How To Make Wool Dryer Balls From Old Sweaters

Learn how to make wool dryer balls using old sweaters to breathe new life into cast-off clothing. These dryer balls are an incredible fabric softener substitute that saves both time and money. This all-natural option is also chemical-free and eco-friendly. With a multitude of practical and environmental benefits, wool dryer balls are a great addition to any laundry room.

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Benefits of Using Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls are no one-trick pony. They do all of the same things that traditional fabric softener and dryer sheets do and then some. Check out some of the benefits below:

1. Wool Dryer Balls Reduce Drying Time

Unlike dryer sheets, wool dryer balls actually assist in the drying process making dryer balls good for the planet and your pocketbook. In some cases, they have even been shown to reduce drying times by as much as 25 percent.  

They do this in two ways.

When tumbling through the dryer, they create pockets between wet laundry allowing better airflow between the various articles of clothing. This allows the laundry to dry faster and more efficiently. 

Ever notice that some items are dry while others are still damp after a drying cycle? Wool dryer balls remedy that frustrating situation.

Wool is also a naturally absorbent fabric. So when added to a load of wet laundry, the wool balls wick away and absorb moisture from the wet clothes allowing them to dry faster.

2. Wool Dryer Balls Are All-Natural and Chemical Free

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are both produced with synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances. According to an article published by Scientific American, prolonged exposure to these chemicals is shown to be toxic to humans and harmful to the environment.

Wool is a chemical-free textile that even boasts the ability to improve air quality by naturally filtering and absorbing emitted chemicals without re-releasing them back into the environment. So you don’t have to worry about transferring harmful toxins to your clothing – or the air – when drying laundry.

Close Up of Wool Dryer Ball On Table With Blanket and Other Dryer Balls in Background

3. Wool Dryer Balls Naturally Soften Laundry, Reduce Wrinkles and Prevent Static Build-Up

Wool dryer balls naturally soften laundry by gently agitating the items continuously. This gentle friction and constant movement smooth and soften the fabric without the use of harmful chemicals.

Additionally, because wool is such an absorbent fabric, these dryer balls pull moisture out of your laundry early on in the dryer cycle and naturally disperse this moisture toward the end of the cycle. This redistribution of moisture creates a higher humidity in your machine and reduces wrinkles in your clothing. 

The humidity created by the dryer balls also helps to prevent static cling.

4. Wool Dryer Balls Won’t Affect The Absorbency of Towels

Liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets both leave a residue on your laundry that builds up over time, even after washing. This build-up reduces the absorbency of your towels, linens and workout clothes.

Since wool dryer balls don’t contain any harmful chemicals or additives, your laundry will retain the ability to absorb moisture as intended.

5. Wool Dryer Balls Save You Money!

If for no other reason, consider using wool dryer balls for the sheer savings. For very little initial investment (especially if you make your own!), you can save yourself a notable amount of money each year for the next 2-5 years. 

According to nps.gov, the average American household does about 300 loads of laundry per year. 

When you take into consideration that a set of wool dryer balls have a lifespan of roughly 1,000 drying cycles, you can easily save yourself several years’ worth of purchasing dryer sheets and/or liquid fabric softener. 

Couple that with the savings on your energy bill each month due to the reduced drying times, and the savings add up to a significant amount per year.

And every little bit helps. Especially with the rising costs of everyday items affecting household budgets.

Want Even More Eco-Friendly Options?

How to Make Wool Dryer Balls From Old Sweaters Pinterest Image

How To Use Wool Dryer Balls

Using wool dryer balls is super easy. 

You simply toss your wool dryer balls in with your wet laundry and dry as you normally would. 

For small to regular-sized loads, I use 3 dryer balls. For larger loads, you can use up to 6 balls. 

You can even add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the wool balls before adding them to your dryer for a subtle, pleasant scent.

Caring For Wool Dryer Balls

If cared for properly, a set of wool dryer balls remain very effective for 2-5 years or about 1,000 dryer cycles. 

Fortunately, wool dryer balls are very low maintenance!

In order to ensure that your wool dryer balls maintain their ability to absorb moisture in the dryer, they occasionally need to be recharged. 

To recharge your wool balls, simply send them through a gentle washing cycle on the hottest setting. Then send them through the dryer on the highest heat setting. 

Voila! They are fully recharged and ready to use!

Now if only it were that easy for me…

I generally recharge my dryer balls twice a year, but a good general rule is to do this every 100 cycles or so. 

Even better still – Since wool is biodegradable, once the dryer balls reach the end of their life cycle, you can throw them into the compost.

Overhead View of Wool Dryer Balls In Basket Sitting On Top of and Next to Blankets.

Supplies For Making Wool Dryer Balls

  • 100% wool sweater – I picked up a couple of wool sweaters from my local thrift shop for a couple of bucks apiece. Any second-hand piece of clothing works fine, but it MUST be 100% wool. Steer clear of merino wool. Because of the superfine fibers, it is not suitable for felting.
  • Scissors – There’s a significant amount of cutting involved, so a quality pair of scissors is ideal.
  • Pantyhose – Despite the fact that I almost never wear pantyhose, I always seem to have a pair lying around with a run in them. Damaged pantyhose are perfect for this! Don’t use the only pair you have without a run.
  • Yarn needle or crochet hook
  • Pot for boiling water
  • 100% wool yarn (Optional)– If you can’t find wool clothing (or don’t want to cut it up), you can also use wool yarn. Just make sure it is 100% wool. Making dryer balls with yarn is actually a bit easier, but there is more of an upfront investment involved. 
Close Up of Someone Holding Tag of Sweater Showing That It Is Made of 100% Wool.

How To Make Wool Dryer Balls

Create Wool Yarn

Begin by cutting the cuffs off of the sleeves and around the bottom of your sweater if needed. These sections don’t typically felt very well, but they work great for the center of the balls. 

Cut down the center of all of the seams. You should end up with multiple sections of your garment. 

Next, cut around the perimeter of the first section working in a circular pattern creating a long strand of wool fabric yarn. Depending on the construction of the specific garment, you’ll want your strip to be ½” – 1” wide. I find that the smaller strips felt better. However, some garments are woven in such a way that they are difficult to work with if the strip is too narrow. This doesn’t have to be perfect or even all that straight or even, so play with it to see what works well for you. 

Repeat this with the remaining sections until all of your pieces are in strips. 

100% Wool Sweater Purchased From Local Thrift Shop
Someone Cutting Around the Perimeter of a 100% Wool Sweater to Make Wool Dryer Balls
Someone Cutting Section of Wool Sweater Into Long Strips
Strands of Wool Sweater In Large Pile On Table

Form The Wool Balls

Create a small ball with a saved piece of cuff. 

Begin wrapping a strand of your newly created wool yarn around the cuff ball. Continue rotating and wrapping until you achieve a ball roughly the size of a tennis ball. 

Using a yarn needle or crochet hook, sew in the end of your wool strand and secure. 

Repeat this process with your remaining wool yarn. 

The number of balls you end up with will vary depending on how big the balls are and the size of the wool garment you use. I got 6 balls slightly larger than tennis balls from an extra-large wool sweater.

Someone Holding Cuff of Wool Sweater That Has Been Rolled Up To Form The Center of a Wool Dryer Ball
Someone Rolling Strands Of Wool Sweater Into a Ball. Scissors and Other Strips of Wool in Background
Someone Holding Dryer Ball and Yarn Needle to Sew In End of Wool Dryer Ball Before Felting

Felt The Wool Balls

Once all of your wool balls have been shaped, insert into a leg of your pantyhose, tying a knot after the addition of each ball. Make sure that each wool ball is snuggly knotted into the pantyhose. You don’t want the balls to have a lot of wiggle room in the pantyhose. (There’s a sentence I didn’t expect to see today…)

To a pot of boiling water, add your pantyhose stuffed with wool balls. Keep completely submerged and allow to boil for 10-15 minutes. 

After the wool balls complete their boiling bath, transfer to your washing machine, water and all. Wash on a gentle cycle in hot water with the laundry soap of your choice. You can wash alone or add to a load of laundry. I generally do this with a load of laundry so I can kill two birds with one stone 😉  

Once the wash cycle has finished, transfer to your dryer (again, this can be done with laundry) and dry on the highest heat setting. 

Repeat this process 2-3 times to ensure proper felting. 

Your wool dryer balls are now ready to use!

Six Dryer Balls Tied Into Pantyhose Next to Scissors and Yarn Needle
Wool Dryer Balls That Have Been Tied Into Pantyhose In Pot of Boiling Water

Even if you’re not inclined to tackle this DIY, you can purchase a set of wool dryer balls such as these and still reap all of the rewards that come with homemade dryer balls. You will not be disappointed.

Close Up of Dryer Balls In Basket With Basket of Towels In Background

Tips and Tricks

  • To ensure that you don’t experience excessive static cling when drying laundry with wool balls, be careful not to over dry your clothing. Over-drying laundry is a major culprit behind static build-up.
  • If you do experience static cling, dampen your wool balls with water and add them back to the dryer with the affected laundry. Adding some moisture back to the mix will help reduce any static.
  • Don’t overcrowd your washer and dryer. While it’s ideal to make sure you have a full load each time, resist the urge to make your loads too large. Overly large loads are hard on your machines and don’t clean and dry as effectively or as efficiently.
  • Rather than just compost your spent wool balls, you can also try repurposing them. They make great pincushions and toys for kids. It’s not unheard of for my girls to set up laundry baskets at various distances and make a game out of throwing wool dryer balls into them. They would also make great bases for holiday ornaments or planets for a solar system mobile!
Three Wool Dryer Balls In a Row With Window And Plants In Background.

Have you tried using wool dryer balls yet? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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