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How to Make Felted Dryer Balls

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Due to some unforeseen job issues in the last month, our house has been thrown into Slim Budget mode. I’ve used the phrase, “budget cuts” like, 4,000 times in the last three weeks. I’m getting tired of hearing me say it. But it’s the easiest way to answer the many money demands that I hear in a given day. When we’re on our way home from an out-of-town track meet, one of my little sprinters will ask if we can get an ice cream cone from McDonalds. I say, “No, sorry: budget cuts” and then we all sigh and suck it up until we get home. Or at the grocery store, when one of my preschoolers wants the little Yoplaits with the shiny lids instead of the generic tub of strawberry yogurt, I say, “Nope. Budget cuts.” and I frown an extra-sad sympathetic frown. For solidarity.

Some of our budget cuts haven’t been so painful. Going way back to our newlywed years, I’ve reinstituted Potato Night, a night where dinner is a huge pan of baked potato wedges, to dip in barbecue sauce or sour cream. Pretty delish, and an 10lb. bag of potatoes makes it for two dinners. And as much as I love to eating out occasionally, I’ve found that cutting that expense out has reduced my gluttony guilt, and I’m doing just fine.

I’m also reevaluating everyday life, trying to cut out extra bucks. These dumb expenses are like mushrooms, cropping up in the dark places of our budget due to lax neglect and Money Rot. Like using up food in the fridge instead of throwing it out as waste, or reusing an envelope instead of just recycling it. As some of you may remember, I’ve mentioned the huge amount of laundry that I do every week. Seven active people = one disgusting Jabba the Hut sack of laundry. Between the soap and water and heating bill, this large chore costs a lot of money every week.

And I began to think that it was costing more than it needed to.

So I started using a wash cycle that uses less hot water. I’ve kept my ear perked in case anyone complains that the laundry isn’t as clean, but so far, so good. (And dear reader, you must know that the true brilliance in this change is that I didn’t announce it to my family, so they don’t know there’s anything to complain about.) And when some pieces are still a little damp after the dryer cycle is done, I don’t tumble them for five minutes for convenience-sake, I hang them up to dry.

And I took a hard look at the hour-long dryer cycle that comes with every load I do.

Now in the summer, I hang up my laundry on a clothesline in the back yard. But in the long, dark winters of Illinois, I dry my clothes in a dryer. But I had heard that there are ways to cut down on dryer times. So I googled “save money dryer” like a G and I stumbled on . . . dryer balls.

I had never really thought much about dryer balls, those felted balls that you toss in the dryer, because I had just heard that they reduced static electricity. Of all the things I can worry about, “static electricity” is not one of them, so I didn’t really care about dryer ball hype. But as I followed my Google search to gather information, I read more and more about how dryer balls cut down on drying time. As the balls tumble around in the dryer with laundry, they “fluff up the clothes,” allowing more air to circulate, drying clothes faster. A lot of people claimed that throwing several dryer balls into a dryer cycle can cut drying times by 30% or more.

Alright-y then!

So I quickly read up on how to make dryer balls, made some that day, and have been using dryer balls in every load since.

Now I’m not going to lie: these dryer balls are not Jesus Coming Back Again, but they are a no-brainer for your econo-laundry cycle. Make five or six and you’ll take a nice bite out of your electric bill. I’m including the really easy directions for making your own dryers balls. They’re quick, they’re easy, and they’ll cut minutes off each dryer cycle.

And we all know what that means: one more “OK, Fine” item in your weekly grocery cart.

MATERIALS

50g. undyed wool yarn for each dryer ball

Rubber gloves

dish soap

tapestry needle (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Wind yarn as if you’re winding the yarn for a center-pull skein, but VERY TIGHTLY. Around and around, changing directions until you’re left with a dense, tennis ball-sized ball of yarn. Tuck the yarn end under several wraps to secure (or thread end on needle and bury the end that way).

2. Felt. There are a few different ways to felt a ball of wool yarn. One way is to rubber band your ball in some old pantyhose and run them through a hot wash and dry cycle. I prefer to felt them by hand in the sink, because I think it agitates them properly. To do this: fill your sink with HOT water and a little dish soap. With rubber gloves on, roll your yarn ball around vigorously until it felts into a dense ball.

3. Now throw these bad boys into your next dryer cycle and melt dollars off of every electric bill.

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