DIY · Zero Waste

DIY Wool Dryer Balls

This is probably my favorite DIY, period.

Making my own dryer balls was probably one of my first zero waste switches.  My skin is very sensitive to synthetic fragrances.  Dryer sheets makes my skin very itchy, so I’ve always opted not to use them.  Also, there are some debate out there that dryer sheets might contain potential toxins.  Although most of the claims are unfounded, I like to stay away from “questionable” products until a definitive conclusion has been reached.  There are many benefits to using wool dryer balls, such as:

  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Cut down dryer time
  • Saves $$$
  • Customizable scent
  • Reduce static cling
  • Eco-friendly

Since these wool dryer balls last a very long time, you can essentially replace your dryer sheets with them.  For a while, to accommodate with my sensitive skin issues, my mom used silicone dryer balls.  However, they deteriorate quickly under the hot heat and ripped within a year.  So although they did do their job, they didn’t hold up long enough to be cost-effective.

The wool dryer balls will cut down your drying time, thus saving you money on electricity.  You can also add your own essential oils directly on the dryer balls during a dryer cycle, and your laundry will smell so good!

I’ve made this DIY 4 times now because I love it so much, I make it for friends and family. Originally, I made these dryer balls using wool yarn from my local crafts store.  You can see the finished product on my featured image for this post.  But then I realized that one skein of yarn produced only 3 dryer balls, and it was quite expensive.  A skein of wool yarn usually costs $6 without coupons or discounts.  The other downside is that wrapping thin wool yarn into a good-sized ball is time-consuming.  Although I did like the look of the felted yarn balls, I wondered if there was a better alternative.  I am happy to announce a cheaper, easier, and faster alternative to making these wool dryer balls.

Materials
– 1 wool sweater
– Acrylic or cotton yarn
– 1 pantyhose
– Fabric scissors

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A few notes on the materials:

  1. Make sure your sweater is 100% wool.  We want this wool to felt (turn it into this fuzzy texture).  A good way to see if it’ll felt is to look at the care instructions.  Typically, wool that felt will say “Dry Clean Only”.  You want to look for those.
  2. For the yarn, you want to make sure you use acrylic or cotton yarn (not wool yarn) because the wool yarn will felt around the pantyhose, making it difficult to remove.
  3. For the pantyhose, you want to make sure you use a thin nylon pantyhose that you don’t mind cutting up.

Since I knew I was going to be cutting up a wool sweater, I hit up my local Goodwill for an affordable sweater.  Since these are going to be bouncing around with your clothes, you want a neutral color that won’t bleed onto your other clothes (stay away from reds!).  I start at the L-XL section, because hey, you get more fabric!  I don’t really care about the condition of the sweater, because it’s going to be cut up anyway.  I just care that it is 100% wool.  I found a large women’s sweater from GAP for $3.99.  I ended up paying only $1.99 for it because at my local Goodwill, they offer a 50% discount on certain colored tags throughout the month.  I am lucky because this week, green tags are 50% off.

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I removed the price tag and the labels with my scissors.  Then I laid the sweater flat on the floor.  There are many ways you can do this, but I like to cut off the sleeves first.  Then I cut the side and top seams to detach the front and back.  Then you will need to cut the sweater into 1-1.5 inch strips.  Take one strip to start, make a knot at the end (this is your starter ball), then slowly and tightly wrap the rest of the strip around it.  When you come to an end, tuck the ends in.  Keep adding additional strips of fabric until you reach a good size ball (like a tennis ball).  For this sweater, I used 4 strips per ball.

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Once you have your collection of balls, you are going to put them in your pantyhose.  I typically use a really old pantyhose that has been torn or is irreparable.  Cut off one leg of the pantyhose.  Start stuffing your dryer balls in to the pantyhose.  Once all the dryer balls are in the pantyhose, cut strips of cotton or acrylic yarn about 5 inches long.  Tie a knot between each ball.  This will prevent the balls from felting to each other.  I don’t tie a dead knot because I like to reuse my pantyhose and yarn to make this project again.  When you are finished, it should look like a long yarn caterpillar.

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To felt them:  I recommend washing this first with towels or bedding, because those typically are washed in a hot cycle.  You are going to throw your wool caterpillar in with your regular load.  Set it to a hot wash cycle.  Then throw everything into the dryer and dry on high heat.  Typically, it should felt in one wash/dry cycle.  But don’t unravel your caterpillar yet!  To check: use your fingernail to gently pick at one of the balls.  If you can feel the wool strips moving, it’s not done.  You just simply have to do the wash/dry cycle again.  When you pick at it with your fingers and it’s not moving, it’s felted.  Carefully remove the yarn and release your brand new dryer balls that you made yourself!

To use:  Toss 2-4 balls for a small/medium load, or 4-6 for a large load in the dryer.  If you would like, you can drop 1-2 drops of essential oil on the dryer balls to give your clothes a nice fragrance.  I find that when I drop essential oils in, it will last several cycles, so I only do it once a month.

I did a quick search on Amazon and found that 6 of these dryer balls cost around $15.  For $2 in materials, I made 12 dryer balls total, and it only took about 30 minutes.  Totally worth it!  I hope you enjoyed this DIY tutorial.  If you tried it out, let me know in the comments below if it worked for you :)

Zero Waste

Sustainable Online Shopping

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I’ve talked in my post before about how no matter how careful we are at reducing our waste, we will inevitably be contributing to the production of waste (whether it be a little or a lot) as long as we are consuming it.  One guilty party is online shopping.  Fact: we live in the digital age.  So much of what we do is taken off the streets and onto the web.  Shopping is one of those things.  I don’t online shop often, but I do have an Amazon Prime account.  Why?  I’m a piano teacher and there is absolutely no music store near my area where I can get a wide range of piano method books for my students.  So I try to stock up on them when I attend annual conventions and conferences.  Regardless, I will run into times througout the year where I need to shop online.  That’s where Amazon or other online retailers come in.

I started thinking about how I can reduce my waste when it came to online shopping.  Most online retailers will package everything in plastic bubble wrap.  Even if you recycle all packaging materials, there will still be energy and resources spent to recycle these into new materials.

How can we shop more sustainably?  The obvious answer is to limit your online shopping.  Don’t be lazy.  Visiting a brick-and-mortar store can save that plastic bubble wrap and cardboard box your item will inevitably be shipped in.

But I understand that that’s not always the case.  Like I mentioned before with my piano method books, I turn to online retailers such as Amazon to supply my needs.  I used to just crush the cardboard boxes and toss in the recycling bin (same goes for all the plastic packaging).  But I’ve since realized that I’m skipping a few steps in the cycle to be more sustainable.  So now I’m sharing with you a few tips you can easily incorporate into your online shopping experience to be a little bit more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

  1. Before purchasing an item, make sure you make it clear to them that you want your items to be packaged in paper packaging.  They will usually throw in crumpled kraft paper in lieu of plastic bubble wrap.  I reuse the kraft paper as gift wrap or compost if it’s torn or too wrinkly.
  2. Sometimes companies will still give you plastic bubble wrap or foam peanuts.  That’s okay!  Save them up and take it to your local UPS store.  They will reuse the packing materials.
  3. If you receive packaging that is hard to recycle, such as those manila envelopes with bubble wrap, don’t fret.  I carefully cut the package open so that the packaging is still in really good shape.  I save them to reuse for my own purpose.  Those packaging are expensive at normal retailers, they usually are $1/each!
  4. Same goes for cardboard boxes.  I save them.  Except I find that I don’t use them as much.  So once I have about 10 cardboard boxes or so, I list a Craigslist ad.  Typically, people who are eBay sellers or people who are moving will love cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes.

 

DIY · Zero Waste

DIY Body Butter

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This is my all-time favorite body butter recipe.  I make big batches of this over the holidays as handmade gifts.  You can buy all of the ingredients in either minimal packaging or simply package free.  It’s so luxurious and it has improved my skin drastically.  The great thing about this is that you can customize it with essential oils to your own liking.

Body butter uses 3 components:  butter, solid oil, and liquid oil.  As you look at the ingredients, you’ll see there are more ingredients that are solid than liquid.  We do that to keep the body butter from melting once it is done and sitting in room temperature.  If you live in a warmer climate, you might want to increase the amount of the butter ingredients to ensure that it does not melt.  You can also add in a tiny bit of beeswax if you live in a warmer climate and find that the body butter is too soft.  This recipe is super easy to remember.  Just remember the ratio is 1:1:1:1.  For my personal use, I typically do 1/4 cup for everything.  The body butter will last me around 2 months.

Ingredients
– 1/4 cup shea butter
– 1/4 cup cocoa butter or mango butter
– 1/4 cup coconut oil
– 1/4 cup light oil (sweet almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil)
– Optional: essential oil of your choice

A few notes on the ingredients

  • Shea Butter: Loaded with vitamin A and minerals, shea butter is ultra-moisturizing, can even out skin tone, and help skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
  • Cocoa Butter: Full of antioxidants, cocoa butter is often used by pregnant women to heal or avoid stretch marks.  Improves skin elasticity and reduce skin dryness.
  • Coconut Oil:  Naturally antibacterial and antifungal.  Coconut oil smells amazing and its consistency will help create a soft body butter.
  • Sweet Almond Oil:  Mild and hypoallergenic, sweet almond oil is easily absorbed into the skin.
  • Avocado Oil: Full of vitamin E, avocado oil will help firm up and strengthen the skin.
  • Jojoba Oil: This oil is extremely moisturizing and helps trap in the water and moisture in the skin.
  • Olive Oil: Non-clogging and full of antioxidants.

I encourage you to try using different butters and oils when making your own homemade body butter and see which one you like better.

Method
1. Using a double-boiler, melt your oils and butters over medium heat until it’s all melted.
2. Let the mixture cool down and place the bowl in the fridge for an hour until hardened.
3. Remove from the fridge and 7-10 drops of your favorite essential oil.  (My favorite essential oils to use for this body butter is either sweet orange essential oil or a combination of lavender and lemongrass.)  Using a hand mixer, whip the body butter for about 5-10 minutes, or until light and fluffy.The consistency we are going for here is like whipped cream with stiff peaks.

*The consistency we are going for here is like whipped cream with stiff peaks.  You will probably achieve that in 2 minutes, but keep whipping to for another few minutes (this will help keep the body butter in its whipped consistency).

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Shelf life and storage:  the body butter, in theory, should have the shelf life of the ingredients (typically 1-2 years).  I typically will use mine up in 2 months, and it never goes bad on me.  Usually, in the winter, I can get away with leaving the body butter in the bathroom and it’s fine.  But during the summer, I typically leave it on the nightstand in my bedroom where it is cooler.