Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Savings Tip: Dryer Woolie Balls

I've enjoyed my time off the last week but its time to get back to work! I've got so many projects to finish up. And if I didn't have to post them to you fine (five) readers, I wouldn't have nearly so much incentive to get going! Let's talk about this week's topic:

      Dryer Woolie Balls!!

What's a woolie??
Several weeks ago, when I was researching recipes for dishwasher detergent, I saw a post from a green mama blogger ( about her green laundry routine. One of the things she talked about was dryer woolie balls. I was very intrigued. What is a woolie?? It is a simple ball of wool yarn (felted) and thrown in the dryer to help speed drying, fluff clothes and reduce static.

Why use woolies??

1) Less waste
       I have a love/hate relationship with my dryer sheets . I love the light scent and static reduction but I loathe chasing these things around the house. I fold laundry in our bedroom and it seems like everytime I go in there, I find another one of those suckers to throw away. And, as I always throw them out when I find them during folding, I'm not exactly sure where these "extra" ones are coming from. Perhaps they are reproducing under the bed?? All I know is that I'd be super happy to never have to pick up another one of those things off the carpet again!

2) Reduce static
       The biggest hurdle to not using dryer sheets is that most of the laundry I have (especially for us adults) is what I call mixed media. Typically we have lots of different fabrics-- casual clothes are mainly cotton, my undies have a lot of elastic, nylon etc. and Hubby's work pants are a glorious 100% polyester. Drying up a load of darks without any static reducers pretty much insures one large ball of static cling.
       I had tried, in the past, a set of blue plastic dryer balls I got at some "as seen on TV" store many, many years ago. I found them to be fairly ineffective in reducing static and never really used them much for anything except cloth diaper laundry. I wanted to know why these woolies would be any different--- after investigating and reading around, I found that I was not using nearly enough. I had just two and the blogger above typically uses up to a dozen!

3) Personalize amount/type of fragrance
       One thing I also missed when using the blue plastic dryer balls was the scent. I love the soft "clean" scent of dryer sheets or detergent after laundry comes out of the dryer. Its a thing, I know. I don't like overpowering perfumes, just a light, simple, clean smell. In our traditional laundry routine, we like Tide detergent and Bounce dryer sheets which both impart a slight, pleasant, clean scent. In working to cut back on the chemicals, we've switched to a "free and clear" detergent. And if I give up dryer sheets, then there's no scents, nothing. That's just too much to give up! I found out though, that one of the advantages of using the woolie balls instead of plastic ones is that you can scent them! By adding a few drops of an essential oil, they will softly release the scent in the dryer, giving the clothes a slight fragrance (of your choosing) with no added knarly chemicals! Yay!

Getting woolies for yourself

 1) Buy
You can buy them online chiefly through homemade sites like Etsy. I saw them commonly as 4 for $20 (+ shipping). I thought that was a little expensive for my tastes, especially if I'm likely to need 2 (or more) sets.

2) Make them yourself!!
I followed the tutorial from the above referenced blog: homemade wool dryer balls. Here are the highlights:
  • Get some 100% wool yarn. (this was the hardest part of the project!) It cannot be a blend or acrylic (as most yarns are). I got 2 1/2 balls per 3.5 oz of yarn. I used 2 packages of yarn and made 5 balls total.

  • Wrap the yarn tightly in a round ball until its about tennis ball sized. Tie off/tuck under loose ends.

  • Put into a old nylon or stocking (I used an old pilly trouser sock) to keep them secured until fully felted.
  • Run through the washer & dryer a few times (I just ran it with the loads of laundry I was already doing....) until the wool is felted -- it will get kind of fuzzy and all the strands will be firmly adhered together.

  • Add 3 or 4 drops of an essential oil of your choosing. Many people like lavender or tea tree. I really wanted a "laundry" type of smell so I found a "downy april fresh" mixed essential oil on Etsy. Don't know if it really smells like downy since I never used that but it does have a nice light "clean laundry" type of smell.
  • Drop into dryer with wet laundry, proceed as usual!

How's it working??
       So far, so good!  I only made 5 yarn balls, so I threw in the 2 plastic ones to go with them, so 7 balls total. As far as usage, I'm finding its not any harder to sort out the balls from the laundry than it is to remove the used dryer sheets. The static reduction is pretty good-- about the same or slightly better than I had from dryer sheets. The scent is nice-- light but pleasant-- even the Hubby likes it. I'm not sure how often I'll need to refill the scent on the balls. I set them up last week and was having a hard time smelling the scent in the laundry in the garage (although for some reason I can smell it perfectly fine in the living room where I'm sorting...) so I refilled it. I expect that I may need to refresh the scent maybe every 2 or 3 weeks?

I really love projects like these. Once everything is all set up, you are DONE!! I don't have anything else to buy (unless I need new fragrance, although this is supposed to last me about a year). If I use these and don't buy any new dryer sheets, I'll probably recoup my basic costs (about $14 in yarn-- should have remembered my coupon, darn it!) in the next 4-6 months. I know if you are a savvy shopper and have time to search out sales or good prices AND remember use your coupons (still kicking myself here), you can definitely do better. Unfortunately, I was only kicked in the butt inspired to complete this project when I realized I only had about 5 dryer sheets left. So a bit of a time crunch!

Comment below and let me know if you've used these before, or are gonna give it a try!

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  1. Just dont forget the step where you put the balls in a sock before you put them in the laundry. Oops :)

  2. You can always re-wrap and rewash. I found it took a good 3-4 washes to really fuzz up nicely.