Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wool Dryer Balls

I became aware of wool dryer balls sometime last year while browsing different green blogs.  The purpose of using wool dryer balls is to elminate the need of a dryer softener sheet when you dry clothes.  The sheets contain chemicals and cost money.  By using wool dryer balls you not only save money but you also keep chemicals from getting on your clothes.  Win-win.

I had looked into purchasing some but then found a tutorial on how to make some using wool yarn. I saved that and then never did it.  I happened to run across another blog article late last year that gave a tutorial on how to make them using wool sweaters.  This seemed more my style as I could pick up some wool sweaters pretty cheap from Goodwill.

I found the tutorial at Eco Friendly Homemaking and it seemed easy enough. Buy some wool sweaters (at least 85% wool), wash them in hot water, dry them, cut them into strips, sew the strips into balls (roughly the size of a tennis ball). That's it!  Ok, I can do this.  

I got the sweaters and then sat on my lazy bum and did nothing with them for awhile. I finally realized I was almost out of dryer sheets so I needed to get my arse in gear and make these so I could test them out and see how they worked.  Would they work as promised? Would I like them? Or would I have to find an eco-friendly dryer sheet to use. 

In the tutorial the poster says she made about 11 in an hour. I must be really slow because it took me a lot longer than that.  It wasn't that it was hard, it was just more time consuming than I expected.  However she also states the dryer balls should last 2 years.  The first handful I made I didn't sew at the beginning of the strip and the end, I only did at the end. I soon found this was a problem as they started to unravel in the dryer.  I think by not sewing them at both ends I wasn't wrapping them tight enough.  The second batch I sewed I sewed at the beginning and end of each strip and pulled tighter.  These have stayed together, for the most part. I've noticed the last trip coming loose on some.   This hasn't been hard to fix though, I just put it back together and sew the sides.   I made about 15 dryer balls and have all in the dryer for each use. 

How do I like them?  I can't say that I've noticed the dry time speeding up, that's one thing mentioned in the tutorial..that the dry time is faster.   However I don't have any static on my clothes.  Well, there is on exception. I"ve noticed my workout clothes can have static.  I do all my workout clothes in the same load and most of them say not to use dryer softners/sheets.  I don't notice the clothes being staticky when I wear them, just when I take them out of the dryer sometimes.  I pretty much wear all the tech clothes too, so I'm sure it's whatever material is used that causes the static. 

Other than than noticing those two issues, neither of which bothers me and I actually consider an issue, I love using these.  They were super easy to make, I just made them while sitting in front of the tv, and they'll last about 2 weeks. Sure I'll have to fix some of mine, but I imagine as I make more and get better at it and find a process that works for me I won't have this issue.

Now, you might be saying that this is too much trouble when dryer sheets aren't expensive.  So let's take a look at it.   I looked online and Walmart (ugh I hate that store and rarely shop there) has a 160 ct box of Bounce for $6.84. This comes to roughly $0.042 per sheet.   I don't know how many loads an average household does with kids, but for a household of 2 we do 4-5 per week.   So it would be $.21 per week or $10.92 per year. Still not a lot.  Ok, so let's go further. I'll be using cloth diapers and we decided against a diaper service. I'll be washing them every other day.  So let's just say I'll be doing at least 10 loads of laundry a week, no idea how many loads I'll do of baby girls clothing.  Now I just doubled my cost, at least. It's going to cost me $20.92 a year.   However I wouldn't be using Bounce. I would be using a brand such as 7th Generation because I feel more comfortable with it.   I looked online and a dryer sheet by that brand would run me about $0.062 per sheet, $0.62 per week or $32.24 per year.  The dryer balls will last me two years, it cost me about $7 to buy the sweaters.   So for two years I've spent $7.  If I used dryer sheets I would be spending at least $64.48. 

You might look at that and say your time is worth the $65.  You're right, time is important.  However I'm going to stick with the wool dryer balls.  We watch money pretty closely in our household and I spend more on products from eco-friendly companies and products are better for me and the environment. So I already have some areas where I spend more. This means I look for areas where I can save.  This is one of those areas where I can save a little bit of money. It's a small amount but it adds up in time.

Let's also factor into this that when you purchase dryer sheets the environment is effected.  Chemicals, utilities, etc were used to create those dryer sheets, to ship those dryer sheets etc.  Not to mention the waste that was created to make them and package/ship them.  For the environmentally concious person making your own wool dryer balls from used sweaters is a very easy way to lesson your carbon footprint.

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