All About Wool Dryer Balls
We get so many questions about wool dryer balls. Just what are they? How do they work? Are they really eco-friendly? We interviewed the owner of Ovella Wool, Justen Murray, who creates exclusive dryer ball lines for Ecotopia, in order to answer all of your questions and more!
Just what is a wool dryer ball? Wool dryer balls are a natural replacement for fabric softener sheets. You toss them in the dryer with your damp laundry to eliminate static, reduce drying time, and soften your clothes. So, what’s wrong with conventional dryer sheets? Murray explains, “They are loaded with chemicals! Over 29 different chemicals can be found in dryer sheets. These chemicals will build up in your clothes over time causing your towels to repel water, flame retardant clothing to lose their effectiveness, sensitive skin will react to them, and cloth diapers will lose absorbency. Some newer dryers advise against using fabric softener in them as well.”
Each dryer ball made by Ovella Wool is meticulously hand-crafted. They are felted, which means they will never fall apart. She starts with virgin wool, which she sources locally. “The sheep wool that I use comes from a local processor, which buys most of its wool right here in Michigan. The alpaca fiber comes from a small alpaca farm in Ashley, Michigan. The only fiber that I use is from Lucas the Alpaca. He is a fluffy white creature with a laid back personality.” We are proud to feature exclusive alpaca sets from Lucas! They are perfect for people with sensitive skin, as alpaca wool does not contain the natural lanolin oil that occurs in dryer balls made from sheep’s wool.
Murray is also passionate about using only natural dyes, which she creates from a variety of plant and herb sources. “These dyes range from sticks and berries found in our yard to different teas and extracts found online. Elderberries, birch bark, hibiscus, logwood, madder root, cochineal, and alkanet are a few of the different dyes that I use.” We often get questions about whether or not the dyes from wool dryer balls will bleed onto fabrics, and Murray told us, “My process is this: wool is soaked in dye bath for 24-48 hours and then removed and rinsed in the sink until the water runs clear. After that the wool is dried and stored until ready for use. Once a color is placed on a ball, the ball is felted in the washer on a warm wash cycle with natural laundry soap, followed by a cool rinse. The colors will not run onto your clothing!”
So, just how do they work? “They work in a lot of ways actually,” says Murray. “The first is that they are a natural fabric softener by rubbing on clothes. The next is that they decrease your dry time. They do this by absorbing moisture throughout your dry cycle, also helping your clothes to dry evenly. When your clothes are dry, the wool still has some moisture in it, and the balls can then release the moisture back into your clothes helping to control wrinkles. Most experience a decrease of 10-25% of dry time.”
Another concern for many first time users is the possibility that wool dryer balls can catch on fire when in use. Wool, by nature, is flame retardant. Not only will they not catch fire, but they will not cause a fire either. Wool is a favorite material used by first responders, firefighters and rescue teams due to its fire-retardant properties.
And if you love scented laundry, wool dryer balls are an excellent choice, especially if you want to create custom scents. Murray suggests, “Essential oils are not only great for our own well-being, but for our wool dryer balls as well! You can use any essential oil you would like on them. Your clothes, as well as your house, will smell amazing! Essential oils evaporate quickly, so the scent will only last a couple of cycles. This means you can change your scent as often as you would like!”
After falling in love with Ovella Wool’s creative designs and excellent craftsmanship, we knew that her dryer balls would be a perfect fit for Ecotopia. We asked her why she was inspired to start making wool dryer balls. “I made myself my first set of dryer balls,” she answered. “We use cloth diapers so I had to ditch the dryer sheets. I am frugal by nature so I try to make most things myself. I then made a set for a friend, and another friend, and another……It turned into a business when I had made a set for a friend at our local wellness store. The owner saw them and wanted to carry them in her store. Ovella Wool was born. Having made the switch from dryer sheets for a couple of years now, I will not go back. I recently went on vacation with my husband and did a load of laundry, having forgotten to bring my dryer balls, I added a dryer sheet. I could feel the difference as soon as I touched the clothes. They almost had a sticky feel to them. When I use wool dryer balls, I know that this is one small step I am making for my family to become more independent from chemicals that we relied on for so long."
Still have questions about making the switch to natural wool dryer balls? We’d love to hear from you! You can find all of Ovella Wool’s dryer ball sets here.
Photos courtesy of Ovella Wool.