Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Got some sheep's wool to wash?

Oh..I didn't mean a whole  Merino sheep . 

 I'm thinking... more like this.
This is a raw Merino Fleece...but, it might be called a
 "spinner's" fleece.  It's not quite as dirty as a fleece
would be sheared right from a free roaming sheep.

The raw Merino fleece came off of a sheep that wore
 a jacket for the year while it's "fur" was growing out
after the previous shearing.
Jackets worn by sheep (like the one above)...keep the
fleece clean of vegetable matter, dirt and weather elements.

Also a spinner likes to buy a fleece that has been
"well skirted".
Nope...not this kind of skirted...

Skirting a Fleece is the process of trimming off
wool fleece
...the less desirable parts of the fleece.  If you look at
the above picture (used from the Spinderella website)
 you can see the orange colored areas is the higher quality
part of the fleece. 

It's really nice to start with a raw fleece that is
jacketed and well skirted.  The cleaner and higher quality
the fleece is...usually the more expensive it is.  The trick is
to find a good raw fleeces for the best price.

I've washed fleeces before.  But, most recently, I've washed
a couple of fleeces and they have come out REALLY dry.
One of the fleeces actually became really mushy/weak/brittle.
All of the fleeces started out as high quality soft, fine fibers.
I couldn't figure out what I was doing.  I was using DAWN
dishwashing soap and another "suggested" laundry soap. DAWN
has long been touted as one of the best soaps for washing a fleece
that is high in grease (lanolin).  Merino sheep fleeces are VERY high
in lanolin content.  So...I thought...I was using the best soap for the job.
Maybe the water was too hot?  But, I checked websites with washing
instructions for high grease content...and the water I was using wasn't
too hot.  What, on earth...happened then?

Yep...Enzymes happened...!  I started reading dishwashing
liquids and laundry detergent labels.  In the last several years,
Commercial soap makers have started creating ULTRA 
grease cutters and STAIN BOOSTERS...
Most of the "ultra" and super-duper words used for adding
extra strength to the soaps...are ENZYMES...
Well...enzymes break down proteins and guess what???

OOOPS....and UH-OH...
ya, know... I shudda...

Wool fibers are MADE of protein. 
This means that....
any dishsoap or laundry detergent could have enzymes
and you might not know it.  They don't have to actually list
any or all of the ingredients they use to make a soap that is not
used on humans.  Sometimes the bottle will advertise that
there are added enzymes (do not use on protein fibers).
You can find a partial list of some laundry detergents HERE 
But, also if ingredient lists aren't fairly recent, enzymes
could've been added after list was made and the product could
have the same name.

With all this "lab-chemistry" info, I was feeling a wee bit
over my head.  So, it was time for some simple kitchen-type
experiments, not too overly controlled.  I just wanted to try
a few different soaps with similar methods and see what

I tried 5 different soaps... with various results...from bad...
to (imho) GREAT! 

I wish you could feel feels like
a baby's soft, silky hair. 

This post has gotten...looooong.  So, I will
share my experiment process in the next couple
of days...
Meantime...I would like to ask YOU...
Have you ever washed a fleece(s)?  If so, what
soap(s) have YOU used?  Which ones did you like or not?

If you haven't washed a fleece, are there certain hand
dishwashing liquids that YOU might find to be nice
to your hands...or some that you've thought are really harsh?