1640 South 600 East * Salt Lake City~ UT * 84105 * 801.668.0563

Washing Fibers 101

No matter what you have heard- it really isn't a scary venture! We have heard so many people afraid to wash their fibers for fear of creating a felted monster. Anyone who has tried felting knows that it takes hot water and soap- yes that is true- but one element that many forget...... LOTS of agitation! The 1st 2 things mentioned will not , not matter how hard you try, felt your fibers. Now lets get a few things together and well, go wash some fiber!

Whether you have a sheep's fleece, a goat, some alpaca, or maybe even dog or cat, you need to follow these instructions. While sheep and goats have a substance called lanolin, which we will discuss later, never underestimate the value of cleaning alpaca,llama or similar fibers. And no, you will not felt alpaca or the like in hot water. I was told years ago to use tepid water for these fibers. Well truth be known, the fibers never got really clean. We use very hot water all the way through the process for ALL fibers!!!!

  • Print this Information by Clicking Here - It is our Washing 101 PDF File.
  • Quick Vid's

    We made to help you "See" what it is we are talking about in this article

    The video- Dirty Fleece -Rinse Again - is hard to hear. We just wanted to let you know that we wash ALL fibers the same way, whether it be alpaca, llama , mohair or wool. Also, keep rinsing the fibers and checking the color of the water. You want it to be pretty clear.

    Form Object

    Things you will need

    OK now- do you have everything ready?

    Because so many of you ask.....
    We use Dawn for wool and Eccos for Alpaca, Llama and other none lanolin fibers.

    Ready..... set.... let's go!

    FOR MOHAIR or SURI ALPACA:

    We have found that by adding 1 cup of Isopropyl Alcohol removes the wax on the fiber. This also helps with waxy suri alpaca fiber as well.



    A word about Lanolin

    -also known as....Adeps Lanae, wool wax, wool fat, anhydrous wool fat or wool grease

    For the record, there is only one type of lanolin. It is the greasy sebum secreted by sheep's skin and it is absorbed into the fleece.

    An few interesting facts.....Crude lanolin constitutes approximately 5-25% of the weight of freshly shorn wool. Lanolin from one merino sheep can yield 8- 10 ounces !!!
    The name given to the product 'Oil of Olay' is derived from the word "lanolin," which is a key ingredient in this popular product.


    More Than Lanolin

    But a fleece can also contain more than just lanolin. It most often contains a substance we call Suint. Suint is water-soluble sweat salts. Many fleeces we purchase may also contain tags( dung),plant matter,and dirt. We often find other things in the fleece, but we will not go into that now. Needless to say, these ingredients all combine with the lanolin and make different kinds of chemical bonds that do need to be washed or processed away.

    The water-soluble bits are the easiest. Suint and dirt rinses out with cold water. But remember, cold water will not remove lanolin or for that matter, all of the dirt. You need to find a way to make the lanolin mix with the wash water and rinse away. This is the scouring process.

    Being an old soaper - we know that making soap requires saponification. The meaning of saponification is adding a alkali to warmed fat- thus making soap. Being that soap is water-soluble, the fat will rinse away in wash water and also carry dirt and oils with it. Of course there is something called emulsification, which turns the oils into little globules that are suspended in water based liquids, allowing them to be washed away with a surfactant or detergent. Putting these things into practice, I used to notice that adding soda ash to my water was a strong enough alkali to saponify lanolin. The problem I found was protein fibers could be damaged in alkali conditions. After speaking with a chemist and also trial and error, I realized that wool is coated and protected by the lanolin. The wool was not damaged by the high pH until all of the lanolin dissolved. With hot water, a higher pH and shorter washing times - I was able to avoid any damage to the wool. I find that 20 minutes is plenty of time to do this. I do not use soda ash any more, but we do use a good detergent, and LOTS OF IT in the 1st wash!!!!

    Without getting into a long and drawn out college paper, I want to tell you that a neutral pH cleaner is better than a high pH cleaner. Years ago a friend of mine gave me some Sodium Laurel Sulfate (Orvus is another word for this). I tried it to wash wool and found it does not work at all. It was originally formulated to make suds, and though most people equate suds with cleaning, it is not something I would use to wash a greasy waxy wool. I know I used to explain to customers of our soap that suds do not mean clean. It just means suds and bubbles.

    Because lanolin is a grease, it dissolves best in very hot water and generous amounts of detergent. Think of washing a butter dish. Can you use cold water to get the grease off of the dish? How about just soap? I know the best way for me is to use hot water and soap to get that grease off of my butter dish.

    If temperatures are lowered during the washing process, it can make the lanolin re congeal and make a stickier substance that is more difficult to wash out. Believe me- you do not want to battle this one. Remember - HOT HOT HOT is the solution here!!!! This is imperative throughout the entire washing process. No hot- warm and cold!!! The only time you may want to soak a fleece in cold water is before washing to remove and soften mud and dirt from the fleece. You can soak a fleece overnight in cold water before washing.

    Llama, alpaca, and some other exotic fibers do not contain lanolin and, while easier to clean than sheep wool and mohair, you should not underestimate the value of cleaning these fibers.

    We suggest you wash you fleece as soon as possible after shearing because the lanolin or wax in the fleece hardens with age. Though we have washed and processed older fleeces with no problems, not washing your fleece increases the likelihood of color changes in a white fleece, and increases the chance of the fermentation of organic matter. we have experienced a few fleeces with fermenting VM matter and pew.... it takes a long time to rid the fiber of this stick! A raw fleece is also more likely to attract moths than a clean one.

    A word about your cleaning agent

    This is a topic that everyone has an opinion on. Many tell you one brand or another. We will not tell you what brand to use, but give you some food for thought so that you might be able to make up your own mind.

    The bottom line ............

    CONTACT:

    Jim and Lynn Snell
    801.668.0563
    1640 S. 600 E
    SLC,UT 84105
    email: spinderellas523@msn.com

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