Scouring lots of wool this week.
With all the new fleeces I have I am scouring many of them so I can offer clean wool for people who prefer to skip the cleaning and get right into spinning.
Here is an excellent book on scouring fleece: (click photo to see it in Amazon)
I have always enjoyed scouring wool.
There is something about taking a raw, dirty fleece and revealing bright, clean, soft fiber. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
My favorite way to scour is to soak the fleece to soften the heavy dirt and rinse it prior to scouring. A lot depends on the breed of wool or fiber I am cleaning as to how I approach the fleeces.
Some breeds, like Teeswater, have long curly locks which I want to keep intact so I separate the locks and put them in tulle netting for washing. That way the locks don't get tangled together and they keep their structure. Other breeds, like Shetland I wash in 1 lb. chunks of fleece because I don't need to be as fussy with the lock structure.
Most of the time I wash a handful of the wool to determine how many scours it will need to clean or if I need to do more to clean the dirty tips. At this point I test the locks for any breaks and how strong the tips are.
After a rinse, I fill my sink with HOT water. To melt the lanolin your water needs to be 110-140 degrees Farenheight. My tap water is about 130F so it is perfect. I have used many different detergents and I really like Unicorn Power Scour. I carry it in my store because I believe it is the best wool wash and you should try it. I know many people use Dawn Dish Detergent and I have used it also but, there are several reasons I use Power Scour instead.
People believe that Dawn is less expensive but, I disagree.
Just watch the videos of people squirting Dawn in their sink. Count how many seconds they squirt. Now, take a measuring cup and squirt Dawn for that many seconds. I have found that people are using at least 1/4 cup of Dawn. That is a lot of soap! Power Scour requires 1 Tablespoon for 1 pound of wool so, it is very economical.
Another thing about Dawn, it creates suds which are hard to rinse from the wool. Dawn is also rough on fine breeds like Merino and can leave the scales of the wool open causing a rough feeling that can not be fixed.
Once my sink is full of hot water I add the Power Scour and swish it around.
Then I add the wool and submerge it. Move it around gently so the scour gets into all areas of the wool. Now, leave it alone for 20 minutes and let the Power Scour and hot water work.
I come back after 20 minutes, move it around a little more than drain the dirty water from the sink. If I washed a small sample, I will know if the wool needs a second scour to remove all the lanolin. If it does, I refill the sink with hot water and add 1/2 Tablespoon of Power Scour and let it sit another 20 minutes.
The reason for 20 minute scours is that you do not want the temperature of the water to drop and have the lanolin re-attach to the wool. This is long enough for the scour to do its job.
Time for rinse.
Rinse in hot water the same temperature as the scour water that it just came out of. Do not use colder water or the wool may felt. You can use hotter water with no problems. I also use Unicorn Fiber Rinse after the wool is clean. I use 1 1/2 Tablespoons in a gallon of water. I put enough of the mixture to cover the fleece and let it sit a few minutes. It helps to stop static electricity and makes the wool soft. If you will be dying the wool skip this step.
Next I use my salad spinner to remove as much water as possible. If you don't have a salad spinner, put the wet wool in a towel, roll it up and press the water out. Ideally, put the wool outside on something that the air can circulate around the wool to dry it quickly and completely.
When the wool is wet it may still look a little dirty. Once it dries it will look brighter and cleaner. Now it is time to comb or card it to prepare it for spinning.
Unicorn Power Scour has a light Lavender scent which I enjoy and leaves the fleece clean and soft.