Introduction: Homemade Dryer Sheet Replacement

Wool dryer balls are a simple to make, cost effective way to keep clothes soft and wrinkle/static free! They deliver the same benefits for laundry as commercial/conventional dryer sheets WITHOUT all the nasty chemicals. And due to their bounciness, they also work to create more space in between your garments during the drying process, which allows better circulation of the hot dryer air. This reduces drying time by up to 25%!! - resulting in huge time, cost, and energy savings for you!

Let's get started!

Step 1: Choosing Your Yarn

You must buy 100% wool yarn (no synthetics) that has a minimum wool content of 85%, with any additional fibers being natural. As an example, my wool was 85% wool / 15% mohair and it worked really well. Also be on the look out for roving which is a looser, more 'open fiber' yarn that felts better than standard wool yarn.

I made my balls about softball size and used 90 yards per ball. It's not absolutely necessary to make them as big as I did (baseball size will do), so feel free to use less wool per ball.

Step 2: Getting Started

The only other things you'll need other than the wool, is a nylon stocking, scissors, and about a 3 foot length of either acrylic yarn or embroidery thread.

To get a ball started, using both ends of your skein (double up!), start wrapping the yarn around your fingers. (2 or 3 fingers work)

Step 3: Grow Your Ball

Once you have 6-8 wraps of your fingers, pull your 'starter' off and wrap a couple of times around it's middle. (like pictured) Then turn it and squish it from end to end and continue to wrap your starter until you've formed a small round sphere. Keep wrapping until your ball is anywhere from baseball to softball size.

Step 4: Tucking Your Tail

Once the ball is the size you want it, cut the doubled up ear, leaving a 2" tail. Tuck the ends underneath a few yarn strands and push it down towards the center of the ball with your finger. If you don't feel like it went in deep enough, grab your scissors and use one end to push it in further.

Repeat the last few steps for however many balls you want to make.

3-4 balls for small to medium loads

5-6 balls for larger loads

Step 5: Getting Fancy

This next step is completely unnecessary, but I love a chance to add some visual fun when possible.

Inspired by Italian Bocce Ball sets, I used colored wool yarn to add some fun embellishment. Tying and tucking the ends the same way I tucked the ball ends.

You can get all kinds of creative with this one!

Step 6: Felting Your Balls

To protect your balls during the felting process, do the following:

  1. Cut four 7-8" pieces of acrylic yarn or embroidery thread.
  2. Gently stuff the first ball into the end of a panty hose leg or knee high, being careful not to move the decorative yarn patterns if you decided to try that.
  3. Use one of the acrylic yarn pieces to securely and tightly tie the fist ball in place.
  4. Repeat this for all your remaining balls, being sure to finish with a tie too!

Now your balls are ready to be felted.

Add your wooly caterpillar to a load of towels and wash in hot water, dry on high. Repeat this one more time.

NOTE: The balls will continue to felt even more over time with use.

Remove the balls from the pantyhose and...

Step 7:

Voila! You have upped your drying game for the next 1000 LOADS!! - have saved yourself time and money, and the environment energy. That's a lot of win win if you ask me.

You can also add essential oils to the balls prior to putting them in if you're used the adding scent to your clothes. Lavender works really well.

Now go forth and soften!

Comments

author
crewelgirl (author)2016-07-05

I made these & they did not work. At all. Very disappointed.
I used 100% wool; as you can see, they felted nicely, and the directions were identical. Anyone else out there that this did not work for? Any idea why it did not work?

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AllisonE4 (author)crewelgirl2016-07-06

What didn't they do? I use wool balls in my dryer (Haven't made them yet though, just bought some) and I find they help. I scent mine with oils, and they make my clothes smell pretty. I'm just curious what didn't work for you?

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viggy1121 made it! (author)2016-01-31

I made these dryer balls to give as Christmas gifts. They were a big hit and fun to make! When I gave them to the recipients I asked if they knew what they were... they had no idea. When I explained what they were, and how to use them, there were many oooohhhhhs and aaaaahhhhhhs and great feedback after use!

I have a question: Do these balls also replace fabric softener usage in the washing machine? Would I do my wash without fabric softener and then put it in the dryer with these balls?

This is such an easy, fun and very practical gift idea!! Thank you!

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stephanie.turner.798278 (author)2015-12-28

Yeah, I thought maybe you soaked the yarn balls in baking soda, but apparently this has nothing to do with baking soda...

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stephanie.turner.798278 (author)2015-12-27

Where does baking soda come in?

author

LOL I was wondering the same thing! The baking soda article was what drew my attention to this site to begin with.

author
Gadget93 (author)2015-11-12

What does the term "felting" mean. Other than not understanding that part, this is a great instructable.

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mistergreen (author)2015-09-26

I'm a dude, any way to do the felting other than with the nylon? I guess i can buy some at the dollar store, but it seems weird to buy something i don't use, only to destroy it for a DIY project. My balls turned out great. There is something oddly zen about wrapping yarn around itself for 20 minutes.

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tonybest (author)2015-08-04

awesome

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Cheese Queen (author)2014-03-03

Oh, I like these! Downtown to get some pretty wool, stat!

FYI- if you use dryer sheets, the chemicals in them will coat your lint screen to the point air can hardly get through, even though the screen looks clean.

Try this- take the lint screen out of your dryer, clean it off and hold it under slowly running water. If you use dryer sheets all the time, you will probably see the water collecting in your screen like it was a bowl, instead of running right through!

Take a soft brush and a little dish liquid, and give your lint screen a scrub to remove the coating- your dryer will thank you!

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Kniftyme (author)Cheese Queen2015-04-16

good tip.

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dropkick (author)Cheese Queen2014-03-03

Cheese Queen,

I'm not arguing about dryer sheet chemicals coating your lint screen. I have no problem believing it could happen.

However I think you might be confusing the surface tension of water for blockages. When you try to run water through a screen it will cling to the edges of the holes and itself restricting the flow. This is a natural property of water. It's what makes water bead up on surfaces.

Dish detergent works by breaking the surface tension of water so it soaks into the particles stuck on plates and loosens them. So when you put dish washing liquid on the screen it will naturally increase the water flow by breaking the surface tension.

author
dawndowd (author)2014-03-04

jbh123 asked about the static. And I didn't see an answer anywhere (though I could easily have missed it). I will add one question of my own -- do the felted wool balls create excessive lint (if I use white roving and eventually use it in the dryer with black jeans, will I have white spiderwebs of wool on the jeans)?

Sometimes I need to dry a load of nylon quick-dry clothing and the static can be really horrible. I don't necessarily need to know what property discourages the static; I simply need to know it does since the static is the only reason I would use a dryer sheet.

I do know about felting and wool and LOVE this idea! Thanks.

author
Demarion (author)dawndowd2014-03-04

I'm not sure if it'll get on your clothes, (I just made these yesterday so I have yet to try them out!) but I read that if they get too fuzzy or pilly, you can shave them with an electric razor (or those ones made for sweaters). That could cut down on anything if it does make other clothes fuzzy.

author
Paige Russell (author)Demarion2015-04-08

Hi! Due the 'knitting' of fibers from the felting process (they really stick to themselves as a result), you shouldn't get any fibers on the clothes you are drying. As for static, I've been using these for just over a year now and I find them to be very effective at eliminating static - but note that I'm drying mostly natural fibers like cotton. I'm not sure how effective they would be on a dryer full of nylon. As sconner1 said above, not over drying also helps.

author
sconner1 (author)dawndowd2014-03-06

Dry air and friction make static. Wool against synthetics/rubber are particularly good at creating it.

I think if static is excessive, then you left the dryer on longer than the clothes needed to dry. The low humidity and friction built up a good charge.

Try using the automatic setting on your dryer if it has one instead of the timer setting. They use a sensor and shuts the dryer off when the exhaust air reaches a low enough humidity (the clothes are dry) instead of "overdrying" which wastes energy.

author
vonronge (author)2015-04-08

I lile this instructible. Balls in the drier will help, particularly when drying large items like jackets or pillows. This will not prevent static without chemical help thoigh. Do be careful with essential oils in your drier, some can dissolve many polymers, and will make clothes made from them look old faster. It is also best to be careful with them because most people will develop rashes if exposed for long periods in cold climates.

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lsutton3 (author)2015-04-08

Win win totally

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lsutton3 (author)2015-04-08

Love it

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Jack Corsair (author)2015-02-24

I have seen a fix for static...

here is the link:
http://creeklinehouse.com/2013/07/you-can-use-what...

author
Ricardo Furioso (author)2014-03-04

Thank you for this wonderful Instructable.

Your mention of baseballs made me look up what's inside them.

Wool yarn!.

Perhaps just removing the leather cover from a baseball would work for this use as well.

I'm not sure.

Thank you again.

author
PACW (author)2014-03-04

I do a bit of decorative felting and have been seeing more and more of these balls (yours are the first Bocce inspired ones!) but I haven't made any yet because I have a difficult time believing they could help decrease static. All of the static electricity demos you see in grade school science classes call for wool!

If these really do inhibit static do you by any chance know why/how????

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veruca_salt890 (author)2014-03-04

Goodness gracious I love this idea. Time to hit up the clearance yarn bin at the store. Thank you!

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blackweb (author)2014-03-04

I use a small dry hand towel in the dryer.dries clothes quickly

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debby57 (author)2014-03-03

Great tutorial. Gotta try this!

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jbh123 (author)2014-03-03

Would you say this does a comparable job of softening the clothes as, say, a commercial dryer sheet?

And how about for static? If so, is it some chemical/physical property of the wool that does it?

author
DragonDon (author)2014-03-03

love the idea. wish I had seen it when I had a dryer :( Just one thing, I would highly suggest adding some sorry of explanation or link to what "felting" was. I had no idea, had to look up what that meant.

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ejohnson9 (author)2014-03-03

I have a few of these I made specifically for use in a commercial dryer by adding a wooden bead in the center.

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smmcquilt (author)2014-03-03

Very neat idea - I will try this!

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criggie (author)2014-03-03

Round here we hang clothes out in the sun to dry. I haven't used my dryer for over over three years.

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Ahaa (author)2014-03-03

how many balls do you use in the dryer at a time?

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Paige Russell (author)Ahaa2014-03-03

I use 3-4 for small loads and 5-6 for large.

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Ahaa (author)Paige Russell2014-03-03

I'm sorry I went back and saw you posted that in Step 4.

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iskaggs1 (author)2014-03-03

Please correct me if I'm wrong. After the initial wasing to felt the balls, it's not necessary to put the balls in the washing machine with each load; just the dryer.

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Paige Russell (author)iskaggs12014-03-03

That is correct! They only need to accompany the laundry in the dryer cycles.

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bwhipp (author)2014-03-02

are these quieter than tennis balls?

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Paige Russell (author)bwhipp2014-03-03

Not much quieter! They actually get quite dense from the felting and quantity of wool, so they make their presence known just like the tennis balls! : ) But they are much healthier, as they don't have all the synthetic compounds that tennis balls do that can off gas from the contact with heat and leave chemical residue on your clothes.

author
GeorgeArt (author)2014-02-27

For we "laundry challenged" folk, how do I use these balls? One or all at a time? Do I need to dry them in-between loads? If I tie a wool sock(s) in a large knot, will it work the same and save all the work and maybe expense (I have no yarn so would have to purchase some). Thanks

author
Paige Russell (author)GeorgeArt2014-03-03

Hi GeorgeArt,

In answer to your questions:

  • You use the balls in the dryer only
  • 3-6 at a time depending on load size (3-4 for small load, 5-6 for big load)
  • I don't think tying a wool sock into a knot would work the same way as it's the weight of the ball that helps create space between garments (which speeds drying time) and ensures that every piece comes in contact with the wool.

Hope this helps!

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socalcovey (author)GeorgeArt2014-02-27

If you take the time, youll do away with all the grime.

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rcrosbie1 (author)2014-03-03

As well as being a wool yarn, make sure it's not machine washable or superwash as they've been treated to make sure they don't felt.

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pittiesmom10 (author)2014-02-27

these are extremely popular in the cloth diapering world because commercial dryer sheets leave behind residues that damage cloth diapers. I am going to try to make my own tomorrow! I think I even have some essential oils I can use on them.

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tmoney438 (author)2014-02-27

Looks good! One question. After "felting" do you take the pantyhose off? Looks like you do from the picture just checking.

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Paige Russell (author)tmoney4382014-02-27

Thanks for pointing out that missed step! Yes, you do take the pantyhose off. I've added that into the instructions. Thanks!

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socalcovey (author)Paige Russell2014-02-27

Thank you so much. This morning my clothes were all static and I was out of dryer sheets. No more commercial sheets. This is exactly what I needed.

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zikzak1 (author)2014-02-27

These actually look very nice, and look very safe to use. Some of the commercial balls available I have seen damage the plastic tumblers inside the dryer drum. (Causing customers a healthy chunk of change to replace the parts as well). And for customers that used shoes, they should have just plain known better. We are going to give youre idea a tumble! Thank you!

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tmoney438 (author)2014-02-27

Awesome, I figured so. I wonder if adding some essential oils might add some sent as well.

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Mielameri (author)2014-02-27

Simple and brilliant :)

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Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
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