How to care for wool, Washing & Lanolizing.

I love wool diaper covers, they are cute and functional. But when I first started to use them I was scared to ruin them. You hear things like hand washing, lanolizing and felting. These words make you want to run for the hills. But after using wool for about a year and a half I learned one important thing. It is not as scary as you think. So I am going to go over how I take care of my wool. Showing some of the products I use and the choices you have in wool care. 

 When you wash something of course you need some kind of soap. For wool you need to make sure you have a soap that is safe for natural fibers. My top choices are Unicorn Fiber Wash and Soak wash. I love soak because it comes in different scents, it is also a no rinse formula, but I do still recommend rinsing the wool if you are going to lanolize it. Unicorn Fiber Wash is the power house of wool wash, its good old faithful. It really knocks out dirty, stained and played in wool messes.

Dirty wool water
I wash my wool in my bathroom sink, Just because I can control the water temperature better. This is where you hear the dreaded word. FELTING! If you take wool from cold to hot to quick or add to much friction, the natural fibers can catch on each other, shrink and make your wool stiff and tight. 
So to avoid that you want to wash and rinse in lukewarm water. When I first started with wool I had no idea how warm or cold that was. The best way to describe it is baby bath warm. If you wouldn't put your baby in the water don't put your wool in it.
I am a lazy washer. I put my wool in my water with a squirt of soap and leave it. At this time I go and get my lano mix ready. Then a have a snack, tidy the house, kill time for 20-30 minutes. I go back to my wool and slowly bring the water back up to lukewarm. You can have temperature changes but you want to make them slowly. I drain the water and rinse the wool under running water, making sure to turn it inside out and get both sides. Remember you not only have a mess on the outside, the inside is touching a wet diaper. If the wool is extra messy I may have to watch it a second time. The water will be clear when it is clean. 

clean wool before final rinse
Now lets talk about felting for a second. Ideally you do not want to felt your wool but there are some cases where felted wool is desired. You will often hear a felted wool cover called bullet proof. What people mean by this is that nothing is getting out. So some people felt their wool to have a great nighttime solution. When wool is felted the amount of stretch is limited so it can be harder to get on and off and they can be stiff. I have seen photos of wool shorties standing up on their on. But it's your wool you do what you need for your diapering solution. Please remember that if you are going to felt your wool it will shrink, so make sure you get a size that once shrunk down will still fit your child.

The magic of wool making a great waterproof cover solution is when you lanolize it. This when solid lanolin is melted mixed with water and a soap to emulsify. Don't freak out, its not as complicated as it sounds. I will be showing photos because it's easier to see then explain some things.

Solid lanolin comes in a jar, or you can use the lanolin you get for your nipples after breastfeeding. (its not your best choice because it doesn't always mix well but it is still lanolin.) It is very sticky, and has a yellow tint.

You want to use about a tea spoon of lanolin for each item of wool you are washing. You may need more lano for longer or larger items. I take my glass kitchen measuring cup and put in very hot tap water, and add my lano. Then it goes in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. The goal is to have all the lano melt.
You can see the yellowish blob that looks like oil floating on the water. That is your melted lano.

Next is where you have choices of how to emulsify the lano. You are trying to mix and oil and a water, so you need something you aid in this. A squirt of baby shampoo, Lanolin emulsifying cubes, or a Sloomb Cube.
BeeGreen Naturals Emulsifying cubes come pre cut and you just drop them in your hot water, melted lano mix. These cubes do no have any lano in them.

A Sloomb cube is a large cube you cut off the amount you need. They are a soap and lano mix. So you can use just a Sloomb cube mixed in hot water if you only want a light lano on your cover.

Both come in tons on scents. They are also companies that like to work together so you can get  Bee Green cubes in Sloomb signature scents.

When using a Sloomb Cube you slice off a small amount. This is added to the hot water and melted lano and you mix, mix, mix.  I use a kitchen whisk to make it easier.

This is what you do not want, The yellow floaters are lanolin that have not mixed in yet. Keep going.

Looking better but their is still yellow floaters. If you have mixed for a bit and still have this problem you may need to add more Sloomb Cube, Bee Green Cube or baby soap. 

Almost there... but it still has a yellow tint.

You did it! When it looks like pure white milk you are mixed enough. It is important to make sure your lano is all mixed in so you do not have large greasy spots on your wool.

Now we get into the part that is tricky for me. You want your water temperature to match the lano mix temperature. You want your water hot to mix the lano in but then the lano mix is too hot to add the wool without fear of felting. 

Some people add ice cubes to cool the lano mix down quickly, slowly add cooler water to bring the lano mixes temperature down. I have found the only way I get a good lano bath is to let it cool naturally. This is why I make my lano mix before I wash my wool. It is cooling off as my wool is being washed. You will have to experiment and find what works for you and your water type. 

I always lano my wool inside out. It makes the side touching the baby more waterproof and it makes their skin extra soft from the lanolin.

What happens if you cool your lano bath off too fast? It can clump up. Yes you can still use the lano mix, but you get chucks of it on the wool. It can be pushed down but it will feel sticky, more in some spots then others. 

You can see here that there are chunky parts to the water. I added cold water to my hot lano mix so you could see what happens. This bath can still be used. 

As the water cools more the lano mix separates from the added water more.

This is what your wool will look like. No its not ruined, I call this a learning bath. You can take your fingers and gently push the white clumps into the wool. But don't stress too much it will just moisturize your babies skin.

When your water and lano mix are the same temperature your bath will look like this.

What I do is put my lano mix in a plastic tub , slowly add water making sure it mixes well. Next I add my clean wool. (make sure you do like colors, or colors you know are not bleeding anymore) If the bath does not cover the wool all the way I add more water. I put a lid on the tub and come back in the morning. 

Next I flip the wool right side out (this keeps the stickier side in), put them in the spin only cycle of my washer and lay flat to try. Turning inside out a few hours later to make sure it is fully dry. Wool can take a day to two to dry depending on your climate. 

If you do not have a spin only cycle on your machine you can lay the wool on a towel and roll it up, trying to press out and soak up as much water as you can. 

Now you are left with a tub full of yummy smelling lano water. You can use it as a foot soak for extra soft feet. The one thing you do not want to do is dump it down the drain. This is concern with repeated dumping of lano water down the drain that it can cause build up in your pipes. I personally have never met anyone that has experienced this problem. But I don't want to risk it and my trees love the extra water. 


Fiddlin' Dandi said…
I've never used wool before, so this is helpful to know.
Sandra Watts said…
Very helpful tips. Thanks a lot for sharing. It will come in handy.
john hutchens said…
thanks for sharing your wonderful tips on wool care.

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