Saturday, November 08, 2014

More on Lanolin III

Yes, Virginia, there is a "soap-like" suint in sheep fleece.  It can be removed with cold water, including rain, so there is less of it in wet places and wet years.

However, I live in a dry place, and last year was a dry year.

I have some fine, local, Rambouillet fleece.  (They wore their little sheep suits all year, so the fleece are very clean). I can take a steamer basket, and fill it with the fleece (more than a pound), put it in a pot of cold water with a weighted screen over the top to keep the wool under water.  The result is a pot full of wool, but with space for water to circulate on every side of the wool. I do not add any "soap", detergent, or other chemical cleaning aids.  It is a pot of  raw fleece and water.

I put that on the stove and gently heat it to ~ 130F.  At that point there is a thin layer of white foam across the top of the pot.  Then  I let it sit for 10 minutes.  I lift the basket out, and I have ~6 oz of the cleanest, nicest wool.  Yes the dirty, soapy water needs to be drained and the wool needs to be rinsed, but this is a way to get wool very clean with minimum water, minimum effort,  and minimum agitation (potential for felting).  Every so often, I have to say this, "It is like magic!"

It turns out that  the price of the fleece includes all the ingredients for a potassium/lanolin soap - just the thing to gently clean fine wool fibers and leave them soft and perfectly conditioned.  All I need to do is add some soft water and heat.  And  this is a very good demonstration that there is more than just lanolin, VM, and grit in fleece.

Heating much above 140F may damage the wool!  I use a thermometer. I am not going to advocate this system of cleaning fleece until I have done some more testing.  For example, there is a real potential for some parts of the pot to get too hot and some of the wool being damaged.

Will it work in wet years in wet places?  I doubt it,  but I find it the easiest way to scour the fleece that I have on hand.  This is perhaps the only advantage to the great California Drought.  The conventional wisdom on scouring wool is in Alden Amos, pg 57 et seq. It works very well but uses more water, and requires more movement of the fiber.  However, the AA method is more predictable.

It also tells me that it was very easy to scour fleece by putting them in a big (iron) pot, covering them with water, and gently warming it.  In wet, years or wet places, a small amount of lye from leaching wood ash could have been added to the pot to help make the lanolin soap.

And if the lanolin was needed, then the fleece could be rinsed in cold water first to remove the potassium salts, and the lanolin could be skimmed off as the pot warmed.  This would leave more lanolin on the wool unless another cleaning agent was used


Anonymous said...

Your blog is the best performance art project ever. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

You've got a long way to go in understanding wool and it's properties. You say wool will felt in water hotter than 140F. Hot water alone will not cause wool to felt and if you had actually dyed fleece or yarn you would know that the temp has to be at least 180F. All wool and wool yarn can be washed. If your fleece or yarn or knitting is felting while washing don't blame the processing. You're mishandling it.

Anonymous said...

Um, who the hell is Virginia?

Are you making blog posts rather than leave relevant comments? Or have you named the voices in your head?

Anonymous said...

I know you're getting comments on your blog, is there a reason why they're not getting published? Or are you waiting to publish a 5th post about lanolin?

Anonymous said...

Over 300 replies to your blog being rubbernecked: goes to show that so many people DISAGREE with what you write. It's really less about making fun of your blog, but rather how laughable that you are trying to convince your audience that your 'facts' are facts.

Aaron said...

I did not say high temps "felt" I said high temps damage.

And yes, I am well aware of the tradition of a boiled laundry to kill little critters.

Aaron said...

Everyone should read the newspapaer, for example:,_Virginia,_there_is_a_Santa_Claus

Anonymous said...

Um, Wikipedia is not the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

We got the reference, honey. That was sarcasm.