Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tell-it Tuesday: How to wash and lanolize wool

Christine from Knoodle Knits. (Remember her? She was last week's Featured Owner) and I put our heads together to come up with a step-by-step tutorial for washing and lanolizing wool.

I'll admit, I avoided wool when we first started to cloth diaper because I didn't understand how in the world it could work and didn't want to take the extra time and energy (hahah-what a joke) to care for it. Come to find out washing and lanolizing wool is easy-the hardest part is waiting for the wool to dry. Now, I look at wool as a great alternative to PUL covers, especially if your little one is more prone to yeast infections like our daughter is. Today, I will be washing and lanolizing my Wooltopia Ladybug shorties. As I discuss below I use Eucalan No Rinse Wash to clean and Lanisnoh Lanolin to lanolize.

A wool garment can be worn for a long time, through several pee diaper changes, before it has to be washed. I've read some people say you can go a couple weeks before washing, unless there's poop. The antimicrobial and hygroscopic properties of wool allow for this flexibility.

When a wool garment does need to be washed, there are a few basic guidelines to follow:

Step 1- Use a wool friendly soap.
Woolite, is NOT considered wool friendly for our purposes. You can get two types of wool wash, one with lanolin and one without. It doesn't matter which you use. If you go lanolin free, you'll have to re-lanolinize your garment after washing it in order to restore it's waterproofing qualities. I personally use Eucalan. You can get a sample of it HERE. I use the Grapefruit No Rinse Delicate Wash.

Step 2- To wash your (lightly soiled) woolies, simply fill a basin (I use my downstairs bathroom sink) with lukewarm water-do not use hot or cold as this can shock the garment and cause it to felt or shrink- add the recommended amount of soap, and submerge your garment-I turn my shorties inside out before I submerge, but you don't have to. Allow the garment to soak for about thirty minutes. Soaking ensures that all of the urine and dirt that has accumulated in the wool is able to be extracted from the fiber. Be careful not to agitate the garment. Agitation can cause the wool fibers to felt. You may also want to check your garment for colorfastness. It is not unusual for hand dyed wools to bleed, especially if the dyer or knitter did not rinse out all of the dye prior to knitting the garment.

Step 3-After the garment has soaked remove it from the basin, and rinse it under lukewarm water. Do not wring the garment, simply run it under the water. Then, to remove excess water, squeeze it, without twisting. I use the No Rinse wash so I skip rinsing after washing altogether.  *If you need to lanolize go to step 4 now, if not, continue... To dry it further, lay it on top of a clean, dry towel, and roll the towel up, with the garment inside. You can then block the item (reshape it) and allow it to air dry. It helps to turn the garment inside out after a day or so, to speed up the drying process. If it's sunny out you can lay your woolies in the sun. Sunning will help them dry faster as well as to  help kill bacteria and remove any staining.

*Step 4- Lanolize! For re-lanolinizing your garment the process is pretty similar. Lanolin is the grease that is naturally produced by sheep. During the process of harvesting the wool, the lanolin is stripped from the fiber. Before it can be used as a diaper cover, the lanolin must be reintroduced to the fiber in order to waterproof it. You can do this right after washing your garment, before drying it, or without washing the garment. I like to do it right after washing.
It is important to thoroughly melt the lanolin in the water, so that as much of the product gets into the wool fibers. To do this you can heat a small amount of lanolin. I use Lansinoh brand Lanolin because I'm a breastfeeding mom and happen to have a tube laying around but there are other options available. You only need a small amount, like have the length of your pinkie finger. I heat a small pot of water and put a squirt of the Lanolin in the pot. When it melts (and it happens quickly) I take it and pour the entire pot in the sink and add some water to make it lukewarm. This picture was taken about 10 minutes into the lanolizing soak, you can see the water looks almost like it has a haze on it, that's the lanolin.
Turn your garment inside out (so that the lanolin gets onto the inside of the item), submerge, and let it soak for up to 30 minutes, I've read some sites say you can do an overnight soak but I've never done that. You can then squeeze out the excess water, no need to rinse, and roll in a towel, lay flat to dry. You can also use a lanolin spray. Christine prefers to do a lanolin soak, and use the lanolin spray for touch-ups, and then spot coat the areas that are most heavily wet.
That's all there is to it!
Check back on Thursday for a very thorough post all about wool-everything you ever wanted to know and the things you never thought to ask Christine and I will answer.

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