Adding Lanolin Back Into the Wool

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

You’ll need:

  • 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.

Melt lanolin…

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.

22 comments on “Adding Lanolin Back Into the Wool”

  1. gbr Reply

    This bigger question is, how can we crispr our dna to produce anti microbiology sebum like a sheep? As history has shown, interbreeding is not the way.

    • Stuart Fraser Reply

      Human sebum is almost chemically identical to raw sheep lanolin. The trick is to figure out how to wash the dirt and salt away and leave the good stuff on your body.

  2. Daphne Reply

    I have a wool rug that I mistakenly watched with dish soap. Not a lot but enough to make it slip all over the floor now. It’s too big to soak in anything. I washed it outside on the driveway cement. How would you advise I re “lanolinize” my rug? Thx!

    • luthvarian Reply

      I’m not sure lanolizing your rug would help keep it from slipping. Most wool rugs require a rug pad beneath to keep them from slipping around. Good luck!

  3. Colette Reply

    I have a rather large sheepskin blanket on our bed. I am interested in putting the lanolin mixture in it but it is too large for a basin. How would I safely do this in a washing machine?I have a front loading washing machine that does have a soak cycle so I am guessing I can use that to put the lanolin mixture in. The larger question is, how do I remove excess water? It is way too big to blot excess water

    • luthvarian Reply

      If possible, I would use a bath tub instead of putting it in a front loading machine. Lanolin is a grease and could gunk up the machine. It would be much easier to clean a tub afterward. As for removing excess water, lay it flat on a solid surface and press it with towels. You want to minimize agitation to the fiber. Get it as dry as you can this way and then allow it to air dry over several days, up to a week.

  4. Sam Fusco Reply

    What texture will the 1/2tsp lanolin to 1 lb fabric give a light Marino sweater. Will it feel waxy?

  5. Michelle Reply

    Hi thanks for this great post. I bought a couple used vintage wool blankets I want to repurpose for crib mattress covers. I’d like to wash them because I don’t know their history, and then determine if they need to be lanolized. What’s your opinion on machine washing them (top load) gentle with eucalan or woolite then following your steps to lanolize? Is the wash step overkill? Also any tricks to determine amount of lanolin to use on fabric that may not be fully stripped? (Similar to sweater question above). Thank you VERY MUCH in advance

    • luthvarian Reply

      Hi Michelle. I just posted a video response to an earlier post that may help as well:

      The important thing to remember is that wool will felt when agitated, so if the blankets aren’t already felted, there’s a good chance they’ll felt in the washing machine. If that’s not a concern, then go for it! I’m a fan of giving things a good wash. If you’re afraid of felting it, you can always do an overnight soak with eucalan.

      I’d try about 1% by weight of lanolin if you think there’s still lanolin in it. The good news is that this is a very forgiving process. If it’s too much, you can always wash it again.

  6. Laura Reply

    I have a double wool pelt that was super soft when I got it but now the fibers are getting wiry and scratchy. Will lanolin help soften the fibers and how should I lanolize such a large object?

    • luthvarian Reply

      If the object has had a lot of use and abrasion, for example, if it has been walked on for some time, the fibers will begin to felt. Lanolin won’t solve this. You can try brushing the rug to help untangle the fibers, but if it is badly felted, it won’t be reparable.

  7. Y Kennedy Reply


    Thanks for this post. I am wondering if there it matters if I use raw lanolin or EP grade lanolin to do this. I just realised I purchased raw lanolin which seems to be thicker and smaller than EP grade.


    • luthvarian Reply

      I prefer raw lanolin, though it usually has more sheepy smell than processed lanolin. Lanolin also changes, chemical property-wise, depending on how much it is heated and treated.

  8. Sean Logan Reply

    I tried it and I like the results! Here’s what I did:
    I have an old, red plaid “Western Trails” wool coat my friend gave me. It has sentimental value 🙂 It has seen me through many winters. I washed it in a creek this summer. I figured, if I’m going to rub Obenauf’s on my boots before the rains come, perhaps I should also put some lanolin into my coat.
    I soaked my coat in a bucket of water on the porch over nite. In the morning, I boiled some water for tea. I put 70 grams of solid lanolin into a paper coffee cup, poured hot water on it, and stirred it around until it dissolved, which did not take long at all. Then I added a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s soap, and the solution instantly turned milky white. I pulled my coat out of the bucket, poured in the milky lanolin solution, swished it around, and put my coat back in. I let it soak for about half an hour. Then I pulled it out, and laid it on some old lumber to dry.
    I had previously taken my coat to the grocery store, and weighed it on the produce scale. It weighed about 3 pounds, (1.3 kg). So I figured 5% lanolin by weight would be about 65 grams.
    Now that it’s dry and I’m wearing it, I like the way it feels. It feels softer and nicer. Not so rough and scratchy. It does not feel oily or waxy at all. Just soft. I feel like I could have used more lanolin. My original intention was to make it more water-proof. I did get caught out in the rain the other day, and it did not seem like the water was beading off. Next time I will try using more lanolin, perhaps closer to 10%.

  9. Pingback: Fleece Vs Wool Vs Down: Pros and Cons - Where The Road Forks

  10. Liz C. Reply

    I recently bought several skeins of 100% wool that had been dyed lavender color. I had knitted with yarn from the same company years ago, but the yarn then was un-dyed and rich with its own lanolin. I found this new yarn seems to have been stripped of the original lanolin and is unpleasant to knit with. Could I use your process to make the yarn more pleasant to work with before I knit it? I am quite familiar with the dangers of felting. Any hints you have for me would be most appreciated! Thank you.

  11. Anne Reply

    So this did not work for me. I now have a sweater w a sticky waxy substance covering it. I love this 1963 sweater that had never been worn until three years ago when I bought it unworn from a vintage seller. The wool was dry and I was hoping to make it look new again. Is there anyway to salvage the sweater? By all accounts it appears to be ruined. I only used 1 Tblsp of lanolin.

    • luthvarian Reply

      To remove the lanolin, soak the sweater in water above 120-140F with some added detergent. If it feels sticky, you may not have gotten your water hot enough.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *