DIY Wool Dryer Balls (From Wool Roving)

Wool dryer balls are easy to make and provide a green, chemical-free and safe alternative to fabric softener sheets. Add some drops of essential oils for fragrance, and you’ll never miss those chemical-laden dryer sheets again!

Wool Dryer Balls to Replace Fabric Softener Sheets

My olfactory senses have recently gone through a transformation. Ever since my journey to the dark side, or green side, rather, was made complete, I’ve begun to find synthetic fragrances nauseating. This is coming from a girl who used to bathe her clothes in fabric softener, that are loaded with synthetic fragrances, and use several dryer sheets at a time to get that so-called April fresh scent. Yep, it was all good until I discovered my pretty smelling, soft fluffy clothes were actually covered in toxic chemicals that smear all over my skin, enter into my bloodstream and brain, and get into the ground water to harm streams, wildlife and our drinking water! Ack! Sometimes I think it would be easier to go back to being like an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand, blissfully ignorant and unaware, but there’s no turning back now. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are filled with chemicals that are known carcinogens and some are even on the EPA’s Hazard Waste list (sources: Natural News, and Wise Bread.)

So, I began making my own homemade laundry detergent and have been so happy with how well it gently cleans my clothes and linens and removes the need to use fabric softener and dryer sheets. But, the clothes are definitely not as soft as before, and I do quite miss that. I was excited to stumble upon wool dryer balls, which are supposed to soften the clothes by bouncing around the dryer, allowing more air to pass through and separate the clothes to reduce wrinkles. They are also supposed to reduce drying time and, if you douse them with a natural fragrance such as an essential oil, they will give a REAL April fresh scent.

My verdict? At first, I saw no difference in the drying time. I’ve been having problems with my dryer getting the clothes dry the first time, especially with heavy winter clothes, towels and socks. I usually have to run another cycle to get them all dry. Drives me freaking crazy! I thought maybe it was because I didn’t have enough balls (hehe) or they weren’t big enough (no, just kidding, that was my inner 8th grader), so after making EIGHT of these ballers things started to change. Other nice changes are my clothes now have a faint, but lovely, lavender scent, they are a bit softer, and less wrinkly.

Wool Dryer Balls from Wool Roving

The wool roving comes in a long sheet of wool, making it super easy to form into balls. I love how the dirt and some hay was still present in the wool!

I’ve found two ways to make your own wool dryer balls at home (you can buy them on Etsy if you’d rather not do the work) – with wool yarn and wool roving. I saw a few posts on the yarn making and there is lots of tedious winding to be done. All I could picture were my cats swatting at every wind and my kids throwing the balls around, as all my hard work unwinds all over the living room. So, I went with the roving option. Roving is basically the wool as it comes straight off the sheep, the kind that yarn winders use to wind and felt crafters use to felt. I wanted to make this as green as possible and get my hands on some local organic wool (that comes from an organically-fed sheep and is not bleached or washed with chemicals, besides plain ole’ soap).

Wool Roving Package

My happy fluffy package arrived from the nice USPS man, straight from a sheep farm

The most local I could find online is three hours away – not so bad, I guess. I found this nice, Swedish farm online called Arvgarden, and talked to Hilma Cooper, the lovely proprietress. She let me know that the sheep roam chemical-free pastures and the wool is washed with a mild detergent, but they cannot say they are officially organic as the federal process for that designation is quite expensive for a small farmer. It was good enough for me, so I bought a whole dang pound of wool roving, having no idea how much I’d need since the posts I read didn’t mention anything about quantity. As you might imagine, one pound turned out to be more than enough. Do I see a giveaway in your near future?!

Anyway, I did find this post from Crunchy Betty to be quite helpful in the actual making of the balls, and got to work as soon as my happy package arrived from the USPS man.

They are so easy to make, and take just a couple of minutes each!

Materials

  • 1 oz. of wool roving makes one ball, and you need about 4-8 balls to make a difference
  • A sock or pantyhose
  • String or yarn if you use a sock
  • Your fingers
  • 5 to 10 drops of an essential oil of choice for each ball (I like Lavender the best ) (where to buy high quality essential oils)

Step #1: First, take the wool and form it into a small clump.
How to Make Your Own Wool Dryer Balls

 

Step #2: Then, begin winding it around itself. If you get wool that hasn’t been bleached or treated, it will still have the natural oils and will stick to itself!Wool Roving to Make Wool Dryer Balls Tutorial

 

Step #3: Try to make the balls as tightly wound as possible, but you don’t have to be too persnickety about it, as I wasn’t and the balls still felted just fine later on.Wool Dryer Balls from Wool Roving Tutorial

Step #4: Stuff the balls into a sock or pantyhose and tie each ball off with a piece of yarn or string.

Then, send them on a wild ride in the washer and dryer to felt the wool – I did it twice and it must be done on hot water. I washed them with my towels and sheets so I wouldn’t waste a whole load by themselves.
Wool Dryer Balls - Place inside Sock or Hose

They will come out felted and a little smaller than when they started. Shake a few drops of lavender on each one and throw them in your dryer!

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life
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Comments

  1. Awesome! I have been wondering how hard it is to make these yourself…seems pretty simple! Did you find it cheaper to make your own?

  2. Wow! The cloth diaper company I use (justsimplybaby.com) sells them for $5.50 each.

  3. You should definitely check them out on facebook- they are constantly doing giveaways! They are a very generous and very affordable company as far as I have found!

  4. That is so cool you made your own dryer balls! Thanks for teaching us how to do it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Sara! I will be trying this also. I love the dryer sheet smell, but Lavendar sounds (smells) all the better!!
    Kathy M

  6. Anonymous says:

    This may be a dumb question, but… I’ve been looking at purchasing these & ran across this great info (thx so much by the way :) ) & well my father in law has sheep on his property. (Finally the question) could I use that wool to do this or do I have to look out for certain stuff. I have a 10 month old & don’t want to end up poisoning our clothes ;) when my goal is the opposite. Thx for any info to my craziness! :)

    • Hi! Your question isn’t stupid at all! That is SO cool that you have the opportunity to use wool from your dad. That will definitley work as long as you guys know how to shear a sheep and wash the wool! Can’t be that hard, right? ;) I have no idea how it’s done, but there’s probably a blog about it, haha!

      • LaPetiteCroissant says:

        Some wool breeds felt better than others, If only roving were how wool came off the animals! I have bags of fleece in my basement awaiting washing and carding.

        It is time consuming but satisfying to wash raw wool. First skirt the fleece- take off the parts with poop and matted vegetable matter (vm). Some people use their bathtubs, others their sinks. I like to use my washing machine. I use lingerie bags- not too full. I let them soak overnight in cold water to dissolve the suint (sweat). Suint plus waster makes a soap salt. It also makes water sop nasty I almost gag.

        I wash with all kinds of soap from laundry detergent to dish soap to wool wash. No definite winner. Have not tried my home made soap yet, but will work to formulate a decent wool wash. Hot water and agitation make felt- don’t want that yet! Wash in cold and rinse a lot. I use vinegar in the final rinse to close the cuticle and restore the fiber’s pH- also to be sure the soap is gone.

        I lay out to dry on sweater racks.

        Now you have a pile of wool locks. Not lovely roving or batting, sigh. You can use a metal pet brush to open up the locks- brush each end and toss the fluff in a basket. You can use hand cards (and see why this was a kid task). You can use a drum carder ($400-$600) to make batts or hand combs ($75 minimum) to align the fibers. Then use a diz (or spice cap) to draw the fibers through to make a nice hand combed top- which is a fancy word for a kind of roving.

        It’s not hard, but it’s a lot of work. I think making a felt ball from washed wool locks would be a major pain. I personally would not pay for wool to be processed into roving or batting just to make a dryer ball from it. I am not sure how cost-effective that would be. I happen to have bags of fleece and the equipment, so I am special. (or I just bought more than I will ever spin).

  7. Use of dryer sheets are one of the causes of dryer firers, the oil from them builds up (I think on the lint screen) if not kept clean will eventially get hot enough to cause a fire, so I think this is a great idea. Thank you for sharing it. I have been using the rubber /plastic, whatever they are made from for years since I read about the dryer sheets and fires. And of course we all know the rule “never leave the house with the dryer going”. Take care.

  8. I only have cold water hook-up on my washer (old farm house!) can i just soak them in hot water in the sink then toss them in the drier or do they just need to go through the wash cycle?

    • Hmmm, I think that’s worth a try. I really don’t know if that’ll be hot enough to felt it or not. You’ll definitely need to throw them in the dryer. Wow, you really have an old house! Must be charming :).

    • Hi Deanna! You can felt them in your kitchen sink! Wrap each ball in its own pantyhose, then use some soap, HOT water (wear gloves), and scrub and rub the heck out of each ball for several minutes. Then throw them in the washer and then the dryer ;) I love to felt, so I just thought I’d throw in my $0.02 ;)

    • Thanks for your help, Britt! Good to know!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey there, I had a quick question about the last step, do you take the balls out of the sock when you’re done? Or do they stay in a nice long snake? Just trying to surprise my parents with a set!

    • I take the balls out of the sock – that way they tumble around the dryer to separate the clothes. Hope your parents like them! They make a cool present, don’t they?

  10. Do the drops of essential oils damage the clothing at all?

  11. I plant Lavendar around my clothe’s line.
    Even greener!

  12. About how many loads before they need to be replaced?

    • I have had them for 6 months and they are doing fine so far, but I’ve read they last for several years, just don’t have any personal experience with that yet.

    • LaPetiteCroissant says:

      I too, do not have years of experience yet. I am around nine months experience. I do not see why they won’t go for years.

      Someone told me her dryer ball “exploded” in the dryer. I think she had a dryer ball from yarn rather than roving. It’s easier for the fibers in roving to really interlock. Think of roving as a pony tail and yarn is a braided ponytail. Which will snarl faster? In this case, snarling is good.

  13. Where can i buy wool?

    • Well, it was hard to find for me. I wanted authentic wool that hadn’t been treated with chemicals and found a farm in a google search that was about 3 hours away. So, I would search for “wool roving” or “organic wool roving.”

  14. I’m at the same point in regards to chemical laundry smells. When I’m out in my yard I can smell the detergent from my neighbor’s house wafting through the air from 100 yards. If it bothers me at 100 yards out in the open air I can’t imagine how it must smell in their house!

    A girl who pet-sat for me brought her own store-bought laundry detergent to my house to wash the sheets and I had to wash them 3 times in my homemade unscented stuff to get the chemical smell out. Someone said this on another blog: we’ve come to associate “clean” with the fragrance of chemicals. This just isn’t right.

  15. Another thought for all of you. Don’t just think sheep wool. Many alpaca owners have lots of “seconds”, the fiber off of their legs and necks, that felts beautifully and doesn’t have the lanolin in it that sheep wool has, so you won’t have to use any chemicals to get that out. We felt with olive oil soap which also smells wonderful. We make felt hats with ours, but I think we will give the felt balls for the dryer a try.

  16. How many balls did you get out of a pound of roving. I know you mentioned eight but I do not know if that was the total pound of roving. Thanks!

  17. I think I’ll be making some of these – as I have a ton of wool to use up. We make our own laundry detergent, too. It would be fun to add some dyed wool in there, too, to give them color (There are all natural dyes available).

    Just to throw this out there – roving is not really just off the sheep. From right of the sheep to getting the wool to be roving, there is a ton of work involved. The fleece has to be washed, picked through, and then combed before it is roving. Hours and hours of work. Just so you know. :) It’s fun work, though!

  18. Hello,
    I must agree that DIY felted wool dryer balls are all-natural alternative to toxic chemicals in some commercial fabric softeners. Simply best way to dry baby clothes.
    Allure Wool recently posted..Green Allure Wool Dryer Balls – the Ultimate Drying AidMy Profile

  19. Can you use alpaca? I have a friend whos dad has alpaca and they have tons of their wool and i’d love to try this

    • Oh sure! I’m sure that’d work just fine.

    • LaPetiteCroissant says:

      Alpaca worked great for me. I used unwashed stuff at the core- too cruddy to spin and I was too lazy to get all the grit out for something that would be felted and stuck in my dryer.

      I would card it first- hucaya would work better than suri. Personally, I used a layer of wool roving on top- just to make it smooth. My alpaca roving is too nice for the dryer (it is commercially prepared). have fun!

  20. Im sorry if someone lready asked you this, but how much wuld I need to buy to make 8 – 10 wool dryer balls?
    Thank you
    T recently posted..Easy Solution to Kill Ant Piles – Club Soda!My Profile

  21. Can alpaca wool be used?What about bamboo roving?

    • I would think alpaca wool would be great, but I do not know from experience. Bamboo yarn is very soft and slick, so I don’t think that would work. I think it would come unraveled. I had no idea there was bamboo roving – if the texture is sticky and rough like wool, then it would probably be great!

  22. Just wondering why you could not just cut up an old piece of wool material or wool socks wind them tight, pot them in some boiling water to make these.

  23. Mom in High Heels says:

    How many of these do you use in a load? 1? 2? 5?

  24. Jodi Armstrong says:

    Hi
    I’ve been searching for information on wool rovings.
    I saw this The fibers are a wider diameter than our other rovings, making it the fastest fiber for wet felting. It compacts easily and quickly with soap and water and is our easiest wool to work with.
    vs this it felts well, wet or needle felting.
    I think I want one that writes “it felts well” right? or is it wet felting i’m looking for- in which case either should work?
    Thanks. i’m new to wool!

  25. Wow! Finally I got a blog from where I can actually obtain valuable information regarding my study and knowledge.
    inground pools recently posted..inground poolsMy Profile

  26. Fun project. Have used them 3 times now and they work. Being a cancer survivor, I appreciate the alternative to chemical filled dryer sheets. Thanks!

  27. Jennifer says:

    Found this thread and thought I might be of some use! I make dryer balls with our alpaca fleece. Someone asked about water temps, etc. The felting process happens because of; change in Ph (detergent), agitation (rubbing forcefully or use a washing machine with an agitator – not a front-load), and hot/cold. So you need detergent to change your pH, the agitation and the balls are first soaked in hot water, then rinsed in cold. I actually run my balls through the washer and dryer cycle twice to get a good, firm felt. You remove the balls from the stockings and then just toss in your dryer. I would recommend, however, that if you are scenting your dryer balls with essential oils after you place a drop or two of oil on one (maybe two) of the balls, place those balls in a pillowcase and tie the end. Run through the dryer for about 10 minutes to “set” your oils. This will set the oil so you don’t get residue on your clothing the first run! Essential oils can also be highly flammable, so rather than dousing one ball with oil I recommend a drop or two on two balls. You should have 4 balls for drying an average load, and 6 balls for heavy loads. Watch your drying time! You will notice your laundry dries faster but it depends on your dryer as to how much faster. If you OVERDRY with alpaca felted dryer balls the balls will actually begin to retain static! If you find your laundry static-y reduce your dry time by a few minutes. Happy felting!

    • So, even if you have a full load, washing in a front loader does not provide enough agitation? We have Icelandic sheep and I do know a few things about it: it has lower lanolin that typical wool and it felts REALLY easily…to the point it is sometimes felted on their backs come spring.

  28. Margaret says:

    I am making some dryer balls now out of my alpacas. They felt quite nicely and I have a lot of fiber left over from making rovings for spinning. The problem is that it is very hard to get them out of the stockings. They stick tightly to the nylon hose and I end up cutting them out with scissors. Is there any help for that? The rest of the process is so easy and fast and is a great way to use up the short stuff that is left over when I am cleaning, sorting , washing, carding my fleeces. I learned how to shear the animals myself after it was going to cost me $1,000 to have 17 alpacas sheared professionally here in Utah so until I get better at it, I have a lot of leftovers to make balls.

    • Wow, how cool to have your own alpacas!! I suggest coating your balls with some oil – like olive or a cheap oil like Canola – and then sticking them in the hose to prevent them from sticking. I didn’t have that problem with sheep’s wool, so I guess Alpaca is different.

  29. Once the wool is cleaned and washed does it have to be dried and carded before you can make the dryer balls? Or can you make the balls right after the wool is washed while still wet from the washing process?

  30. Sally Johnson says:

    Two things– tennis balls also work in the dryer. More importantly, if your dryer is not working well, I would be concerned that something is plugged up. Dryers cause house fires. It’s not hard to clean it out. I went to youtube and found a similar model and took the front panel off and got tons of lint out. Then of course the tube from the dryer to the wall, and any length from the wall to the outdoors. Please say you’ll do this if you haven’t done it already. And, thanks for the tutorial. I have a few pounds of washed wool on the floor.

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