When working with a fresh fleece, we often scour the wool to remove the lanolin. Lanolin, sometimes called grease or wool wax, is a sticky substance sheep produce that is akin to human sebum. It keeps the sheep’s skin moisturized, helps to waterproof the fleece so that it doesn’t mold in the rain and humidity, and is anti-microbial. There are times when you might want to add lanolin back into your textiles.
Why you might add lanolin back into a textile…
- Lanolin is a great moisturizer and is fantastic for the skin
- Can help make outerwear rain resistant
- Can reduce fiber shedding and extend the life of a garment
- Can smooth down the microscopic wool scales and make coarser wools feel softer
- After washing you lanolized wool several times, you may need to reapply lanolin
- Wool wash or laundry soap
- Lanolin ( I use Now brand)
- Wool fiber, fabric, or yarn
Fill a basin…
Begin by filling a basin with warm water and an appropriate amount of wool wash or soap for the amount of wool you have. The use of a wool wash or soap helps open the cuticle of the fiber. Wool alone can be somewhat hydrophobic, and soap helps to break the water tension.
In a separate mixing cup, mix about 1/2 tablespoon of lanolin per pound of wool with a cup of hot water. Mix until the lanolin fully melts.
Add your lanolin mixture to your basin and give it a good swish to distribute it. Then submerge your wool in the basin. Do not agitate the wool, as agitation leads to felting and shrinking. Soak your wool for 15-20 minutes. If the water fully clears, you may wish to repeat the lanolizing process, as the wool has fully absorbed the lanolin in the basin.
Remove excess water and dry…
Pat excess water out of the wool (never wring) and lay your wool flat to dry.
Lanolize vs Waterproofing
We talked in another blog post about water-proofing using beeswax and linseed oil. While both lanolizing and waterproofing provide water resistance, there are some differences which may be more appropriate for one project over another.
- Waterproofing with oil creates a more permanent finish to the fabric.
- Oil will also create a stiffer fabric.
- Lanolin provides benefits to the skin which linseed oil does not.
- Lanolin provides less water resistance than oil.