You can find a variety of dryer balls on the market from PVC dryer balls that look like a little hedgehog to wool felted balls. Some people even swear by adding some used tennis balls to each dryer load. Dryer balls are an alternative to adding fabric softeners to laundry as a way to keep clothes soft and static free. If you choose a 100 percent natural wool ball, you can avoid chemical substances and fragrances that can be harmful to sensitive skin.
Making your own wool dryer balls is simple and a great way to use up leftover 100 percent wool yarn. You can even recycle wool sweaters that are no longer wearable. Homemade dryer balls are also much less expensive to make than to purchase.
Here's what you need to get started:
Washer and Dryer
The fabric and yarn must be wool or other animal hair (cashmere, alpaca) that will shrink or felt when exposed to hot water. This will provide the density you need for the ball to hold its shape. The natural fibers also help to control static much better than synthetic fibers. If you are going to use old woven or knit fabrics, cut the garment into thin strips or ribbons to begin the construction process.
Wind the wool yarn or fabric strips into a ball. Start by wrapping around your fingers and be sure to switch directions often to get a ball that is equally round. Wrap tightly and in an orderly fashion until you have a ball about the size of a tennis ball - around 2.5 inches in diameter. It is best to make several balls before proceeding to the next step. Be sure to secure the end of your yarn by running it under several strands of yarn. This can be done with a large needle or a crochet hook.
When the balls are the correct size, put them into the old sock or panty hose, using the cotton string to tie off between each one.
Add the filled sock or panty hose to the washer when washing a load with HOT water. The hot water will cause the wool to shrink and felt. If you don't usually wash with hot water, just add the sock of balls to a pan of hot water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat but allow the balls to soak until the water is cool. If you are using anything other than white or natural colored wool, you should use the stovetop technique to prevent dye transfer in your load of laundry. Some dyed wool yarn or fabric is not colorfast.
Next, put the sock of balls in the dryer and dry on high heat. When dry, cut the strings between the balls and remove them from the sock or panty hose. The balls will be smaller (due to felting) and should look fuzzy and you should be unable to unwind them. These balls become the core of your final dryer balls.
Using the ball cores, begin the wrapping process again with the wool yarn or fabric strips. Keep wrapping until the ball is around 3.5 inches in diameter. This is slightly bigger than the final product.
Repeat Steps 2 through 5 and you are finished!
Some sites suggest using a tennis ball as the core of your dryer ball and adding wool yarn or fabric around the ball as a quick way to make a ball. These balls will not last as long as a solid wool ball and you still have the potential release of chemical elements.
Wool dryer balls help to keep clothes separated in the dryer allowing the air to circulate better and dry items more quickly. The wool balls also capture static and make your clothes more static free. You will see pilling on the surface of the balls. This is not attractive but will not reduce the effectiveness of the dryer balls.