Homemade Wool Dryer Balls (Natural Alternative to Dryer Sheets)

dryer balls

It’s that time of year when my daycare children want to make holiday gifts for special people in their lives.  This year I suggested we make felted wool balls for the clothes dryer.   These wool balls are a great natural alternative to dryer sheets. They are made from 100% wool roving.  That’s it! One ingredient.

I’ve read wool dryer balls will help decrease the amount of time it takes for laundry to dry by absorbing moisture and separating the clothes as they tumble around. They also bounce about in the dryer helping your clothes come out with fewer wrinkles and less static.  I was eager to give them a try and help my daycare children make an organic gift for their parents.

We used natural wool roving from a knitting store in our area to make these dryer balls. My children have made several other crafts with this wool roving in years gone by because it is an easy natural material to shape.

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We started with plain carded wool in the natural white colour and rolled it into a tight ball.

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Then the children chose smaller pieces of wool roving in different colours to wind around the middle white ball. You don’t need to add coloured wool but we did because it was fun for the children.

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This is a great experience for little ones who love any sort of texture activity. The wool is soft and squishy.

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I rerolled some of their balls so the wool would stay together in a bunch but it didn’t really matter if they were falling apart.  The children had fun playing with the wool and trying to roll a ball that stayed together. The wool roving will eventually stick itself together in a sphere shape once it goes into the washing machine.  Putting it in the washing machine on a hot cycle with soap acts to bind the wool roving together into a ball.  Then we’ll put it in the dryer to dry the wool to further set it’s shape.

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This next step is optional.  My group likes to play with water and soap suds so I had them work the wool and felt it by hand for fun. The washing machine and dryer will do the real work of creating a ball shape, this step was for the kids. Dunk your ball of wool into warm water.

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Add a few drops of dish soap to your wet wool ball.

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Squish it and pat it until it is covered in soap suds.

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The extra pieces of wool will be falling off by now so you can have the children rub the wet soapy ball on some bubble wrap or I use a bamboo sushi mat. Anything that is a bit bumpy will work.

They can also just use their hands to swish and pat and press the wool together. When the wool is worked for about ten minutes in hot soapy water the fibers will bind together.  My children’s attention span didn’t last for a consistent ten minutes but that doesn’t matter because the next step will transform the wool into firm dryer balls.

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Once the children were done playing with the soggy wool balls I helped each one place their wool ball into an old sock.

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We tied a knot so the sock held the wool tightly in a ball shape.

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Some children skipped the wet soapy step so they had more time to add layers and layers of wool.  Here is a large fluffy wool ball.  The wool balls ranged in size from a tennis ball to a soft baseball.

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I used elastics to secure some of the socks.
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I’ve heard that one load of laundry needs several dryer balls for them to work effectively.  So we made a bunch of them.

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The children loaded up the washing machine with the wool balls in their socks.  I threw in a load of towels as well.  Make sure you choose the hot setting and use the regular amount of soap for the laundry you are also washing.

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Put the dryer balls in the dryer with your laundry and choose the hot setting again.  Once the laundry was done we untied the socks and took out our wool dryer balls. They had felted together into firm balls of wool with interesting colour patterns.

Some sections of wool were not firmly felted together (these were done by the younger kids who couldn’t make tightly rolled balls at the beginning). NO PROBLEM. I put them back into the socks and tied them up again. I did a second load of laundry (dirty laundry is something we have at my house in abundance) and gave the balls a chance to felt together a second time.

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They came out beautifully!  The kids enjoyed taking them out of their socks and seeing how the colours meshed together. I added a few drops of essential oil once they were completed so they would also have natural disinfectant properties and smell lovely.  The children like smelling my essential oils and chose their favourite scent for their dryer ball.

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I hope the daycare parents enjoy their homemade gift.  Happy gift giving everyone!

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