washing and maintenance of wool

6:03 p.m. on February 15, 2012 (EST)
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This is what I know:

wool is made up of scales, and shrinkage is caused when those scales come together and become smooth (a form of compression, if I understand it correctly)

more water during the wash is better than less water.  to keep the fibers from scrubbing and going smooth.  keeps the garment in free fluidity.

luke warm water is better than cold water.  opens the fibers to be cleaned, but doesn't release the natural oils.

I know Nikwax has a wool wash, and I'm aware of Woolite and this other thing next to Woolite at WalMart (forget the name now).

I've heard that baby shampoo is a smart soap to use on wool and other hand-washables.  Anyone else use this or heard similar?

any home remedies and practices?

6:53 p.m. on February 15, 2012 (EST)
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6:57 p.m. on February 15, 2012 (EST)
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This is all great info Zeno. I wasn't aware that baby shampoo was the best was to clean wool, I've always just used woolite.

I'm interested in hearing any others suggestions for wool care. Great thread topic...

7:54 p.m. on February 15, 2012 (EST)
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Jake W said:

Great thread topic...

 There has to already be a thread like this.  I looked and looked and could not find one.

Just so we're clear:  I've read that baby shampoo is a good, safe, and gentle wool cleaner.  It's probably not the best, but everything about how it is formulated makes a lot of sense to use on wool as well.  Low suds.  Easily rinsed.  Gentle on oils.  I like that it is a cheaper alternative to specialty detergents.  I've also read that Woolite is not a good choice for wool, which if true is absurd.

10:15 a.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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I've been using Woolite or generic woolite for years with no problems.  I use the handwash cycle on our front loading machine, I believe this cycle uses cold water.  I give the load an extra spin cycle to get more water out of the garments.  I then hang the garments on a drying rack in my basement to air dry them.  I never dry wool or fleece in the dryer.

Also, I use about half the recommended amount of detergent.  I've read in several places that most washing machines and dishwashers call for more detergent than you really need.

I wear merino layers daily in the winter as I have a cold office and do not like to sit at my desk and freeze.  I do at least one large load of laundry per week all fall and winter in this manner.

I don't know if another detergent or soap product would be better, but I have had zero problems with my method and I've done this for several years.  I am not certain a Nikwax product is worth the money in this case, though I do use their products for gore tex and goose down washings.

6:53 p.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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I have followed most of the advice here but still I am shrinking my merino stuff now and again (latest: Teko socks).

I can only think that drying it too quickly by the wall heater is doing it. I know that tumble dryers are the cause of a lot of cotton shrinkage, so maybe merino cannot tolerate being dried too fast?

PS: this is different, to say the least: Eucalan

7:07 p.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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Socks I just wash with regular clothes and have not noticed a problem.

8:37 p.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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I find the more complex the garment, the more likely you'll get shrinkage or mis-shaping.  Meaning, the more seams and threading, the more likely it will get cattywampus.  I haven't had problems with socks, Korean War surplus merino wool boxers, and simple undergarments in a normal cold washer cycle.  It gets sketchy with jackets and button-down shirts, for instance.  I picked up a beat Pendleton button-down last year for cheap, and I was too lazy to give it a lot of thought or effort.  Threw it in the normal cold cycle with a couple other things and line-dried it in the shade.  It both shrunk and got all wonky on both sides of the button down seams and in the arm pits.  I've seen similar results with other high-quality, 100% wool coats.  A lot of patterning going on there.  One thing getting off causes it all to get askew.

3:09 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, yes, YES !!

Try this stuff:


(Go to www.eucalan.com).

From Ontario, Canada ... and, available at some Target Stores.

I have a couple vintage (1970s) very heavy wool, "old school",  "Norwegian Fisherman's Sweaters".    Amazingly warm, repel water, and can keep you warm when worn if you do go "overboard".   Tough as nails, too.   I wear one with a very high collar, and 1/4 chest-zipper,  instead of a soft-shell.  Breathes wonderfully, while providing "just right warmth". 

The "secret" is to NOT wash sweaters of this ilk in conventional fashion.   Hand-wash only, and as you can read in the product description --  DO NOT RINSE.   The product refreshes the natural lanolins in the undyed, unprocessed wool.   

I use the one with the eucalyptus oil scent.   It also enhances the bug and moth repelling properties.

Great stuff !

                     pax vobiscum 

                         ~ r2 ~

5:50 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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BTW --   I have used my "Norwegian Fisherman's Sweaters" while working in construction, in Southern New England in the Winter.   Have it in one size larger than my 'normal' size, to go over any necessary insulating mid-layer.

Saw dust shakes right out -- very easily.  

Inspired several guys in the construction crews to acquire them.   They love 'em, too

                       pax vobiscum

                           ~ r2 ~

1:59 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for the Eucalan tip.

4:10 p.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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"One more thing .... "

This works:

Look for Dreft laundry POWDER (not the more readily seen liquid).   It comes in a pink box, and is generally used to launder baby diapers (the cotton ones).    It is very, very mild.  Not cheap.

Then -- Get 20 Mule Team BORAX.   A powder that comes in a white 4-lb box, and is listed as a "Natural Laundry Booster".

Dissolve equal amounts of both above washing powders ... about 2 tablespoons each ... into about 12 to 16 oz of warm water.   Can microwave, if desired.   THEN, pour dissolved mixture into a 2 to 5 gallon plastic bucket (like a spackle bucket).    Fill to about 2/3 with COLD water.

Toss in the wool item needing cleaning, and let soak for a couple hours (or, overnight).   Agitate by hand.   Rinse in clean, cold water in another bucket ... and hang to drip-dry.

I do this in the shower.   Sometimes add (to rinse water)  the aromatic ""Essential Oils", such as Frankincense, Lemongrass, Patchouli, Eucalyptus, Aspen, etc.   Keeps the wool soft and smelling wonderfully.   When using these "Essential Oils" on 1st layer (undergarment) Merino wool ... your perspiration will smell like the applied "Essential Oil".   NOT, your normal B.O.   No need to use underarm deodorant after showering.

Imagine that!   PLUS -- I think it will repel the dreaded BUGS.

                    pax vobiscum

                         ~ r2 ~

10:09 a.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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I have to admit the idea of formulating my own gear washes has long appealed to me.  I've seen various mixtures of washing soda, borax, baking soda, Castile soap, scents, etc...All appear to cost a fraction of the commercial preparations.

6:33 p.m. on February 24, 2012 (EST)
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Right you are, Seth.

Here's another "tip":

Enquire of all the females in your life -- girl-friends, wives, aunts, sisters, daughters, mothers ... and-so-on ... about any left-over / used shampoo.

Most go through "shampoo safaris", trying scads of them in a quest to fine "THE ONE".

Hence; many, many partially used bottles of never-to-be used again shampoo, under their vanities.

Ask for them.   They will likely be amused, but pleased that someone will use them.

It's O.K. to mix them all together, and thusly reduce the number of bottles, filled to the brim.

Use as you would a mild liquid detergent ... for wool, technical-fabrics, etc.   "Spike" it with Boraxo, if tough stains are an issue. 

The after-scent will be slightly noticeable, but not objectionable.

BINGO !    You have re-cycled something that might likely be discarded, AND you have laundered lots of your clothes, bedding, outdoor gear, etc., for NOTHING.

                           pax vobiscum

                                ~ r2 ~

                            a frugal dude

10:14 a.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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R2 said:

BTW --   I have used my "Norwegian Fisherman's Sweaters" while working in construction, in Southern New England in the Winter.   Have it in one size larger than my 'normal' size, to go over any necessary insulating mid-layer.

Robert, where can you get the Norwegian fishermens sweater?

11:44 p.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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Do a Google-seach of "Norwegian Fisherman's Sweater".

You will see various websites, including L.L. Bean, that offer them.

Go to the one "Images for Norwegian Fisherman's Sweater".   You'll see Ernest Hemingway, for example (although, he is wearing a turtleneck version, which I would not recommend).

Authentic Norwegian Fisherman's Sweaters should not have much ornamentation in the weave, although some pictured do have that.

The best ones, are from a Japanese company, oddly enough:  wwwglaobal.rakutan.com.    Their's is about $250, but they may presently be out-of-stock.

Mine is a chest-zip iteration ... probably more than just 1/4, as I  posted above.   More like 1/3 to 1/2 chest-zip.  And, it has a very high collar -- up to middle of my ears, and across my nose.   VERY nice in extreme cold and wind.

You'll spend at least $100.   Look for a burly knit, heavy wool.  High collar with chest-zipper.

If you get one, you will be smiling, come cold temps and wind ... and dampness / precipitation.

More readily available for cheap, in New England thrift stores.   I see you are not close to that region.   Maybe (?) try eBay, too.

Hope you 'score' one !

                        pax vobiscum

                              ~ r2 ~

9:17 a.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks! I'll be on the hunt.

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