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!
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.
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).
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!
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!