Wool Washing Instructions By Diane Troutman
3 plastic containers (that can fit in your sink)
Borax Powder Detergent
Dawn Liquid Dish Soap
Several Bath Size Towels
Rubber Gloves (optional but recommended when using the Borax Detergent)
Washing wool doesn't have to be a dreaded process. Actually it is quite easy all you need is a little time.
I wash wool in my kitchen sink - using three plastic containers. I have a double sink so one container fits in each side and one on the counter with a towel underneath. You can also easily do this in a bathtub.
One container is my wash container and the other two are used to rinse. I rotate between the three so I can continue to wash wool while some is rinsing.
The amount of wool you wash at one time depends on the size of your containers. I typically grab two large handfuls, carefully separating it from the rest of the fleece. I don't separate it into locks at this time, but I am careful to make sure the wool is all in the same direction, it makes it easier to use when it is dry.
Fill one container with hot water - the hottest that comes out of your tap (the hotter the better). While the water is filling your container add 1/8 cup Borax Powdered Detergent per 1 gallon of water - I typically wash in about 1 gallon of water - make sure that the Borax dissolves but you don't want to create suds - a few bubbles are OK but you don't want sudsy water. Turn off the faucet and add liquid Dawn. Just the regular blue Dawn will do - if you buy the concentrated you won't needs as much. I add 2 good squirts per gallon of water. Gently mix in the Dawn with your hands - again don't create suds - your water should have a slight blue tint to it. Wearing gloves is a good idea, especially if you have sensitive hands or if you are going to wash large amounts of wool and the Borax can be harsh on your hands.
Gently place the wool into the water. You can use a mesh bag like the one you would use for delicates - but I prefer to just place the wool in the water - it allows any debris and dirt to float away. Gently push the wool into the water until it is submerged. At this point you want to be sure not to disturb the wool in the water to avoid felting. Resist the urge to swish the wool in the water - the soap will clean the wool without having to move the wool around. Set a timer for 15 minutes - it is important to leave the wool in long enough for the Dawn and Borax to do it's job but you don't want the water to cool. If your wool is particularly dirty you might need two wash baths or you can add 1/2 cup of clear ammonia per gallon of wash water. It is better to wash is two times keeping the water hot than to leave it for a longer period of time and letting the water cool. Most of the time coated sheep only need one wash and you probably won't need the ammonia.When the 15 minutes is up - fill a second container with hot water. Gently remove the wool from the wash container and place it in the container with the clean hot water. Again, resist the urge to move the wool around in the clean water - just gently submerge it and let it soak for another 15 minutes.
While the first batch of wool is soaking - I start another batch of wool in the wash container. When dumping the wash water, you want to be sure no wool goes down your drain - to avoid this you can dump our water outside or use a strainer or nylon net over your drain.
After soaking for 15 minutes in the rinse container - I fill a third container with hot water - and rinse for another 15 minutes - at this point, when removing the wool from the third container the water should be clean without suds. If the wool still looks dirty you will need to do another wash and then rinse again.
Remove the wool from the rinse water and gently squeeze out excess water, then place the wool between bath towels and press on it to remove more water.
Carefully spread the wool out on a sweater drying screen or clean towels to dry. At this point your wool might not look as curly as it did before your washed it, but don't worry as it starts to dry the curl will come back. Drying time will be quicker if you put the wool out in the sun on the sweater drying screen. This will allow air to get to the top and bottom of the wool. If you are drying on towels be sure to turn the wool over periodically so that it dries completely.
I choose to use Dawn Liquid Dish Detergent and Borax Power Detergent because they are both detergents that will break the grease (lanolin). You can try it with just the Dawn, but I have found that the combination of the two has worked best. Keep in mind many soaps are an alkaline and can cause your wool to felt, so if you choose to use something else be sure you are using a detergent.
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