Use & Care
Fear not, faithful wool virgins, wool care is simple, easy, and (dare I say it?) FUN!!!
As with any brand of wool wash, when washing dyed wool, check for colorfastness before using. Citrus oils can cause dyes, particularly those that are plant-based, to leach. After the instructions for each product you will find answers to frequently asked questions about wool, washing, and our wool care products.
First, rinse your wool with lukewarm water. You may rub the bar GENTLY on any stains before washing. Plug the drain and run tepid water over the bar into your sink, washing machine, or wash-bucket. If you like bubbles (not necessary, but FUN!), rub the bar between your hands to create a lather. The water will appear milky and will have a film on the topÖthatís the lanolin. Place your wool, turned inside-out into the wash water. Soak, swirl, or gently swish your wool cover or soaker in the water and let it rest as long as you like. Drain the water through the wool so the lanolin is neatly deposited on the fibers. Rinse in cool water.
Store the bar in a cool, dry place. (NOT in a Ziploc on top of your dryer!) We recommend using some sort of dish or rack that will allow air to circulate around the bar. When you use a bar of soap that is allowed to completely dry between uses, you prolong the life of the soap and eliminate waste. Do not leave the bar in the wash water to soak with the wool or allow it to be agitated in the washer.
First, rinse your wool with lukewarm water. You may apply the liquid wool wash directly to stains before washing. Plug the drain and run tepid water into your sink, washing machine, or wash bucket and add about a teaspoon of wool wash per quart of water/per garment. The water will appear milky and will have a film on the topÖthatís the lanolin. Place your wool, turned inside-out into the wash water. Soak, swirl, or gently swish your wool cover or soaker in the water and let it rest as long as you like. Drain the water through the wool so the lanolin is neatly deposited on the fibers. Rinse in cool water.
Store upright in a cool, dry place with the disc cap completely closed. Be sure the inside of the cap is clean. Caked up soap will prevent the cap from clicking entirely shut and may cause leaking. Lanolin, essential iols, and/or insoluble soap solids may settle or separate after periods of unuse. Shake well to redistribute before use.
When your wool needs to be lanolized, simply scoop out a pea-sized dollop of the lanolin and spread it over your palms. (Yes, I've dry-lanolized with both of these products!) Gently pat it into the inside of your dry wool and repeat on the outside of the cover or soaker. DONE! If you prefer wet-lanolizing, melt a pea-sized dollop of the balm in hot water and add it to a sink-full of luke-warm water. Let the wool soak in the water as long as it is warm. Let the water drain through the wool when you empty the sink, rather than just allowing the lanolin to be sucked down the drain.
Store upright in a cool, dry place with the lid on.
When your wool needs to be lanolized, from a distance of about 12 inches (the spray has a pretty wide swath), spray front and back, inside and outside of the cover. 2-4 puffs each side should suffice, depending on the condition and thickness of your wool and your own personal preferences. Gently pat the oils into the wool. You may use the lanolin spray on wet freshly washed wool but keep in mind that the lanolin and conditioning oils will seal in the water and add to the dry-time.
Store upright in a cool, dry place with the lid on and the spray mist cap screwed tight.
A lot of wool wash bars and liquids attempt to amaze you with claims like "contains 35% lanolin!" (I've even seen it as high as 50%) Well, I hate to burst your bubble (no pun intended) but you can't just dump a bunch of lanolin into a soap recipe and call it wool wash! We've done our research and our testing, and to tell you the truth, 35% lanolin is actually nothing to write home about. Lanolin (or any other wax, fat, or oil for that matter) can be added to soap during one of two points in the soapmaking process. Added to the lye at the beginning, the lanolin would be converted to soap, and not a very good one I might add. You can click here and play around with a respected and commonly used soaping calculator on the net...you'll see that SAPONIFIED lanolin does not make a mild soap, a hard bar, nor a particularly good cleanser. It doesn't make nice bubbles or condition either. It will bleach your wool and leave your skin feeling pinched and ashy. Added at the end of soapmaking, lanolin would be used for what is called superfatting. Since the lye has already reacted with the base oils and turned them into soap, any extra wax, fat, or oil you add is suspended in the soap and is readily available in its complete molecular state to condition, enrich, and moisturize the skin and/or wool. Any soaper worth their salt (another pun, sorry) knows that soaps need not be superfatted above 10% (that's the amount we use). They'd make ridiculously soft bars that would disappear after only a few washes and leave your skin and your wool feeling greasy and sticky. Simply put, 35% lanolin, or anything close to it, no matter when it is added to the soap is a waste of money and materials.
Another thing to consider is the lanolin content of many popular liquid wool care products. You may notice that the liquid in their bottles is a homogeneous mixture, meaning that it is the same from top to bottom and doesn't require shaking before use. (Sudz, if left to stand, will separate into layers) The reason other wool washes do not separate as ours does is because they have added a chemical dispersant to the solution. Dispersants are used in water-based cosmetic and laundering products containing water and fats to ensure that they do not separate. Incidentally, they also function to reduce the adherence of oils(lanolin) to solid surfaces. Quite useful really, if you don't want the oil(lanolin) to remain on the fibers after rinsing, or if you have oil(lanolin) on the fibers that you wish to remove! A dispersant renders the lanolin water soluble and has the interesting and unfortunate consequence of doing the very same thing to the lanolin that is already in and on your wool! In other words, less than ideal for wool soakers and covers and actually necessitating more frequent lanolizing! Another trick is to use PEG lanolins. You can read about them, and why you don't want them in your wool wash, on our ingredients page.
I'm tired of lavender and chamomile and I absolutely hate tea tree and eucalyptus...are there any other oils that I can count on to keep bugs away from my wool?
How do cedar, clove, peppermint, litsea cubeba, rosemary, lemongrass, verbena, geranium, pine, cinnamon, basil, and allspice sound?
Should I rinse? Should I soak?
RINSE, RINSE, RINSE! Before washing because it cleans off the caustic urine salts that are coating the wool which dry the fibers and make it stinky which is why you are washing in the first place! After, because the cleaning/lanolizing you just gave it will last longer without soap residue sitting there, interfering with the natural abilities of the wool or turning rancid (and smelly) from exposure to urine. Rinsing with cool (but not COLD) water is best as warm water will melt and wash away the lanolin.
DO NOT SOAK! Once the water is cool, the wool fibers are no longer "open" and receiving any benefit from either the lanolin or the soap. Furthermore, water is NOT a friend to natural fibers. Ever wonder why museums have so many cloth remnants from ancient desert cultures but none from tropical environments? Water/moisture facilitates decomposition, and if you want your wool (and your cloth diapers) to last, you should minimize their exposure to moisture.
My liquid soap separated into layers...what should I do?
Each oil used in soapmaking has its own unique properties. Some of them, when saponified, form water-soluble soaps. Some do not. The white creamy part that rises to the top consists of non-water-soluble soaps and the clear-ish stuff that sinks to the bottom is the water soluble soap. The liquid lanolin, if the wool wash is let to sit undisturbed for a while, will form a third orange-ish layer at the very top. Essential oils, because they are oil based, not solvent based like fragrance oils, will also separate. Just give the bottle a gentle shake (be sure the disc cap is firmly closed!) and enjoy.
What's the difference between the wool wash bars and the liquid wool wash? Do I need both?
The liquid wool wash and wool wash bars are equally mild and smell wonderful, but they do have different functions. The liquid is great for using on wool that just needs a little freshening. It will not strip the lanolin from your wool and, in fact, it will help replenish what is normally lost during washing and wearing. The bar, on the other hand, is essential for removing food, dirt, and poo stains. It's cleansing properties are unrivalled and it is very rich in lanolin. Regular use of the wool wash bar can significantly reduce the frequency of lanolizing treatments or even completely eliminate them.
Whatís the difference between liquid lanolin and solid lanolin?
Their source is the same, the contents different. Their purpose is the same, the effectiveness different. Both my liquid and solid lanolin are extracted from sheeps wool. Both are pesticide and detergent free. Liquid lanolin has been centrifuged to remove the wax from the woolfat/oils. It is available in bottles, or in a conditioning spray. Solid lanolin is sold as pure organic lanolin in a recycleable tin. Because it retains the waxy component, solid lanolin is a more effective water-proofer. Many people find, especially on heavily processed wool yarn or on wool fabrics, that exclusive long-term use of liquid lanolin is inadequate and that periodic lanolizing treatments with a form of solid lanolin are required to keep their wool at peak function.
How often should I lanolize?
I could write a dissertation on this one alone! I wish I could offer a straight answer on this one, but instead I'll give you a list of the many factors that can affect the frequency of lanolizing: how often you wash, what kind of wool wash you use, what kind of lanolin you use (see above), which lanolizing method you use (see below), how often you change diapers, nighttime vs. daytime use, the age of your child (urine concentration), the force of the urine stream, the number of covers in rotation or how frequently the wool is worn, how dirty or stained the covers get, whether the wool is worn as pants or is covered by clothing, how processed the wool was, how old the wool is, and of course, how sticky (or not) you prefer your wool. If you are using Sudz bar or liquid, which were designed to reduce the frequency of lanolizing treatments, you can expect to go at least twice as long as you had previously waited between lanolizing treatments. For most, this will be about every 6-8 washes (rather than 3-4).
Why does my lanolin spray have little cloudy floaties in it?
The spray contains jojoba oil, which is actually a liquid wax. Cool it off just a little and it will start to solidify! (I actually put a bottle in my fridge and it "froze"! Hard as a rock!) Just give the bottle a shake, dunk it in some warm water, or shake it or roll it in your palms to warm it up.
My spray bottle doesn't spray, it spurts. What should I do?
Make sure the spray is warm (see above discussion on "floaties") Solidified jojoba oil can clog the sprayer. Make sure the sprayer straw is properly placed in the sprayer head. Packages are often jarred, battered, or dropped during shipping (or at home) and this can loosen the straw. Please also see the use instructions for the spray lanolin. Firm, complete pumps ensure that the sprayer is fully primed with product, not air.
I have hard water. What does this mean and how will this change my wool care routine?
If you have hard water, there are minerals (calcium and magnesium) dissolved and suspended in your tap water. These minerals react with air & water to oxidize, forming what you see as hard, white, stubborn film on your dishes, pipes, and sinks. This same film will coat the fibers of your wool, sealing the cuticle and reducing or even eliminating itís urine absorbing properties. Wool that is washed in hard water may also feel rough, chalky, or dry. This doesnít necessarily mean it needs lanolizing, it might just mean you have mineral build-up. To remove build-up, rinse the wool in a mild vinegar solution before washing. To prevent build-up, you can also add vinegar to the rinse water each time you wash.
Why are the bars different sizes or colors and why are they sometimes lumpy?
With nearly two years of soap-making experience under our belts, we've learned many things about the process, and in particular, how to use the temperature of the ingredients to my advantage to produce a compact, dense bar of soap. Still, sometimes a batch will surprise us and expand (due to the heat), making the bars look significantly bigger than the ones we made the day before, yet weighing the same! Many essential oils, because of their chemical composition, cause very interesting reactions when added to the raw soap. Most of them lead to a rather dramatic increase in temperature, either immediately, or once the soap has been poured into the mold. If it gets really hot, the soap will actually "explode", oozing scalding molten soap all over the place. The vanillin content of oils like Peru Balsam will cause the bars to deepen to various shades of brown as they dry. Sweet orange oil imparts a golden hue, chamomile and lime, a greenish tone. Others cause what is called "seizing", where the soap is immediately transformed from a thick smooth liquid, to a consistency about as stirrable as frozen peanut butter. I'm sure you can imagine how much fun it is to pack THAT into a soap mold! Allspice Nutmeg is an essential oil blend that almost always seizes...it's a pain in the neck to get it into the mold, the bars look awful, but boy do they smell good!
I have washed this wool dozens of times with no problems, why did the color run this time?
My wool gets sticky spots on it when I lanolize, what ís the deal?
Wool that has been heavily processed (commercial detergents, felting, dye, etcÖ) has had most of itís natural lanolin removed, leaving it rather "thirsty". Traditional lanolizing is difficult because the lanolin, whether liquid or solid tends to float on top of the water rather than disperse evenly IN the water. Mixing your lanolin in HOT water, with a bit of baby shampoo to emulsify it, then adding it to the sinkfull of tepid water is a common solution. Lanolizing dry wool, rather than wet wool might also be helpful in this case. If you use a lanolin spray, increase the distance between the pump and the wool, using a towel to protect your counter or floor if necessary. This will ensure a fine even mist is distributed over the wool. If you use solid lanolin, warm it and spread it in your hands before patting it into your wool. Use just enough to put a thin coat on your skin, you can always repeat if you need more. The sticky spots will eventually be absorbed into the wool, onto clothing worn above, or the diaper below, but I recommend removing heavy deposits of lanolin with an mild detergent like e-cover. Overly sticky wool will attract dirt.
What about dyed wool and fragrance oils?
Fragrance oils are synthetic chemicals, suspended in a solvent base. There is no such thing as a "natural" fragrance oil. Even those that were obtained from actual fruits or flowers required the use of strong chemical extractants that cannot be completely eliminated from the fragrance and remain as toxic contaminants. While the relatively low concentration of fragrance oil found in most products may not damage your wool, it does damage the environment and we believe natural and organic is the best choice for natural babies, natural mothers, and natural wool and do not recommend their use, especially on or near babies and pregnant or nursing mothers. With a delightful abundance of naturally produced, cold-pressed, steam-distilled floral, fruit, spice, nut, and wood essential oils available to scent our products, we see no reason to buy or use artificial perfumes.
How do I know if the fragrance is a natural essential oil or a fake perfume?
Unfortunately, for laundry products, the producer is bound only by duty and ethics to disclose this information. Commonly, EO is used to refer to essential oils(natural oils pressed or distilled from plants) and FO is used to indicate a synthetic fragrance. Another way to tell is by looking at the name itself. You've never heard of a plant called "Monkey Farts" or "Sunset Margarita" have you? So those one are easy, they're perfumes. That said, many soap makers create lovely blends from their natural essential oils and give them similarly silly or romantic names like "Morning Bliss"...but chances are, they'll also tell you what's in 'em! The tricky ones are the ones containing the names of fruits or flowers, many of which do not have essential oils that can be extracted naturally. For example, lilac, orchid, honeysuckle, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, apples, banana, watermelon, and marshmallow are a guarantee that you've got a perfume. Rose, osmanthus, vanilla, and others while available as natural oils and absolutes are prohibitively expensive so they're probably synthetic too. When in doubt, ask or look it up! A good place to check is www.essentialoils.org
Why don't we wash wool after every use anyway?
Wool is a natural fiber containing natural oils (fatty acids). It has a natural pH between 5.5 and 6.5 (meaning it is slightly acidic). Urine is mostly urea and ammonia (pH 7.5-8.5...a weak base) If you remember anything at all from Chemistry 101 it's "acid + base = water + a salt". This holds true with our precious wool...the acid is the lanolin, the base is the urine. The water, however evaporates, leaving salt residue on the wool fibers. Salt is neutral, and generally does not have an odor which is why we can re-use wool once it is dry. After repeated use, the acidic lanolin is "used up" by the caustic urine and any further peeing will leave an odor because there are no fatty acids present with which it can be neutralized into a salt. You may have read somewhere that wool is self-cleansing and doesn't need to be washed with soap at all, (only rinsed) because the lanolin and the urine combine to make their own "soap". Yes, true-soaps (those made from lye but NOT melt&pour glycerin bases) are chemically defined as salts, this statement is grossly inaccurate. Your baby would have to have a serious chemical imbalance to produce urine strong enough to convert the lanolin and woolfats into a true soap and you'd have much bigger problems to worry about than saving a few bucks on woolwash! Wool soap IS necessary and it should have three properties: the ability to cleanse the wool of dirt or stains, the ability to do so GENTLY (without stripping the wool of its natural moisture and oils), and the ability to replenish the moisture and lanolin lost through processing, use, and time.