I use Green Virgin Products Soap Nuts for most of my laundry (read my review), so I don't absolutely need fabric softener, but there are times when the loads coming out of the dryer aren't as soft and nice-smelling as I might like (soap nuts have no scent, so although you don't need to use fabric softener, you don't get any fresh-from-the-dryer scent either). And I do still use a commercial brand laundry detergent for some heavy duty loads, which necessitates fabric softener (although I'd like to get away from that eventually).
So to make your own dryer balls, you'll need a skein of 100% wool yarn and some essential oil (if you want a little scent). I consulted this pin and this one for my inspiration, but I'll tell you the steps I went through to get a finished product too.
So here's what you need:
- a skein of 100% wool yarn
- trouser sock or pantyhose
- essential oil (optional for scent)
One of the specifications I had trouble finding was how much wool I'd need, so I'll tell you what I did. I bought this 8 oz skein of medium yarn at Jo-Ann, and it was more than enough to make 6 dryer balls. I chose a natural color because I was worried something with a saturated dye might get onto wet clothes. I don't really know enough about yarn to know if this fear is founded.
I made six, and this is how much I had left over.
The most time-consuming part was actually wrapping the wool into the balls and keeping them secured. First, I made several symmetrical loops and then wrapped the yard around the middle.
Then I folded those at the wrap and did the same thing again.
Then I just started wrapping the yarn over and over, turning it a little each time so I wasn't wrapping the yarn in the same place every time.
And a ball began to form.
Once I'd made six balls of about equal size, I put them in an old trouser sock, tying each ball off from the previous with thread, and then washed them and dried them with a load of towels to start the felting process. I wish I'd done this twice now to get them more felty.
Then I added a little essential oil blend (I didn't use my more costly essential oils because I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but I have since then, and they retain the scent longer with the pure essential oils). I waited for the oil to dry too because I didn't want it to stain any of my laundry.
I didn't wrap some of the balls securely enough, as I had a couple that came undone when I put them in the dryer with laundry. You can see the ball in the lower right has a kind of cap that came off from the rest of the ball. I ended up having to cut that off when the whole ball came apart. If I were doing this again, I might consult this pin about wet felting or at least put them through the washer several more times. After three months of use, every ball had come unraveled in the dryer at least once, and I had to start all over again. And then this happened:
I used 3-4 balls per dryer load, depending on size. I liked having the extra though because sometimes one or two got lost in the previous load, and I wanted to start drying another to take advantage of the residual heat before fishing through the load I just took out. As far as fabric softener goes, I love the balls for reducing static, softening clothes, and adding a little natural scent. I've seen several claims that using dryer balls will reduce drying time, but I haven't seen that effect at all. If anything, I think my loads were taking a little longer to dry, but that may just be because it was wintertime