There are many reasons to ditch dryer sheets - in fact, I have a guest post coming up that goes into detail about why dryer sheets are so bad for you (not to mention the environment) - but today I'll explain how I made my own wool dryer balls. Until last year, I had never even heard of them. But at some point in the course of my crunchy reading, I stumbled upon a brief mention of them. So of course, I turned to Google for more. I ended up at Crunchy Betty's site, a place I'd visited quite a few times. In addition to explaining why you might want to use dryer balls, she had a great tutorial on making your own felted wool dryer balls. So I decided to give it a shot!
There are numerous DIY tutorials for these babies, but I liked the way Crunchy Betty's looked. See the photo above? That's my finished dryer balls. Aren't they a little pretty? Ok, maybe not pretty per se. But I did like the look of the felted wool balls, so that's what I went with.
The tutorial called for wool roving. I'd never heard of wool roving before, and I wasn't sure where to get it. Crunchy Betty recommended a couple of Etsy sellers, so I did a little Etsy searching and ordered 4 ounces of undyed Romney Roving. I'm still not quite sure what that means, but I spent less than $10 and within two days I had way more wool than I needed!
In theory, I could have made the dryer balls entirely out of the wool roving. But I loved Crunchy Betty's idea of using an old wool sweater as the inner ball and wrapping the pretty wool roving around it. So I stopped by Goodwill, found that lovely striped sweater for $2, and cut it into little pieces.
Now that I had all the necessary elements, I was ready to get started. I took several pieces of ugly sweater and wadded them up into a tight ball. I couldn't get it to tie up and stay, so I just held it tightly in my hand while I started wrapping the wool roving around it. The trick is to get the wool roving tight around the wool scraps while not pulling it so tight the wool separates much. I went around and around until the pile of wool started to resemble a ball, then kept going until it was about the size of a tennis ball. See the blurry picture below:
Once you have them the size you want, you are ready to stuff them in pantyhose. I actually used some weird knee high stocking things that I had laying around, which may have worked better than hose because two balls fit perfectly in each stocking. Now that the wool balls were encased in hosiery, I tied off the ends as best I could and began to worry that this project was going terribly wrong. They were lumpy and weird looking.
But I pressed onward, despite my concerns and washed these little things on HOT. You can do a load of laundry with them, but I don't wash any clothes on hot, so I let these wash by themselves and then threw them in the dryer (also on the high heat setting). When they came out the first time, they looked nothing like Crunchy Betty's and I just knew I'd messed up somewhere. I refused to take a picture of them at that stage because I didn't want to further document my failure. I decided to go ahead and run them through the hot wash/hot dry cycle one more time, just to see what would happen.
Imagine my excitement when they came out looking pretty perfect! They'd started to felt through the hose like CB said they would, so I excitedly cut them free from their pantyhose prison and set them up for a photo. (Why did I not use my DSLR? Who knows.)
At the end of the day, I had four wool dryer balls. I spent about an hour prepping them and less than $15 on supplies, and now I have an alternative to dryer sheets that will last three to five years! Plus I have enough leftover supplies to make at least four more, so really the total cost is less than $15.
Now I know what you are really wondering. Do they actually work?
Yes, yes they do! I've been using them exclusively for about 6 months now. To add a little scent to the laundry, I'll put a dab of lavender essential oil on one or two of the balls before tossing them in with the clothes. My husband doesn't seem to care for the lavender scent as much as I do, so I may try another scent on his clothes. (Maybe eucalyptus?) But I've been very happy with these dryer balls. I actually have a half empty box of Gain dryer sheets in a cabinet because I stopped using them as soon as I finished these. I'm going to use the dryer sheets to clean the baseboards so they don't go entirely to waste, but I don't plan on ever using them on my clothes again!
So, what do you think? Will you give these a try? And if you do, let me know how it goes!