I have been concocting my own wool wash for years. It’s easy to do, and not very expensive to collect the few ingredients you need. In fact, nearly all households will have at least one of the three necessary ingredients already. This is my secret recipe, which I’ve used as the final soak on all Yarn Love yarns for years. Here’s how to make your very own wool wash in under 5 minutes.
* Liquid Lanolin – you’ll want pure, liquid lanolin. I’ve used this brand & several others. I buy what’s least expensive at the time. (Usually in a 3 pack. I wash a lot of yarn!)
* Mild, dye-free soap – I use an environmentally friendly dish soap from Costco which is dye & fragrance free. Other options include mild shampoo, baby shampoo or other natural soaps that are skin-friendly. Liquid form is easiest.
* Fragrance oil / essential oil – this is optional. If you’re sensitive to fragrances, skip it. If not, it can be super-fun to pick out & mix your own! Essential oils such as tea tree & lavender will add helpful properties of their own.
* Measuring spoons
* Sink, basin or bucket for soaking – I like my 4 gallon Way Clean mop bucket. It’s just right for several skeins or a sweater!
Make Your Wool Wash:
1.) Get your stuff together. It won’t take long.
2.) Start filling your bucket with warm water. It’s better if it’s warm to slightly hot as this will help disperse the lanolin.
3.) Add 1/2 teaspoon of soap.
4.) Add 1/4 teaspoon liquid lanolin.
5.) Add a scant 1/8 teaspoon fragrance oil.
Note: If you are using an essential oil, for the love of dessert, do NOT add an 1/8 t.! It’s far more concentrated than a fragrance oil. Get yourself a dropper and add one to two drops. If in doubt, consult the instructions from the store.
When using a new fragrance, err on the side of less. Add a little at a time until you’re happy. We don’t want our wool reeking of fragrance now, do we?
6.) Fill the bucket/sink/basin about 2/3 full. Use your hands to mix up your water. Double check that you don’t have beads of lanolin or fragrance on the surface. Once you’ve added the lanolin and fragrance, the bubbles are going to disappear. That’s a good thing. Bubbles help promote felting and we don’t want that. Since this is a final rinse, we don’t want a lot of soap in the water.
7.) Carefully lay in your yarn or finished objects and gently push your wool under the surface.
8.) Let it soak for at least 30 minutes. Remove from water, and proceed to blocking or hang drying as usual!
If the idea of leaving soap in your wool bothers you, then give your wool a final water soak. I don’t do this, but some of you with sensitive skin may consider it.
This recipe can be scaled back in case you use a smaller sink. I use a half recipe when washing my woolens in my bathroom sink:
* 1/4 t. soap
* 1/8 t. liquid lanolin
* 3-6 drops fragrance
* 2 gallons of water.
Though it may take a bit of cash upfront to buy your lanolin and fragrance oils, a single bottle of lanolin and fragrance are going to last a long time. Yarn Love in full production mode goes through about 12 oz in 6 months. By rough estimate I’d say I use about two 1/2 oz bottles of fragrance oil per 4 oz bottle of lanolin. So let’s look at costs:
1 bottle liquid lanolin, shipped – $7
2 bottles fragrance, shipped – $10
1 bottle soap – $3 (I estimated this as I buy it by the gallon!)
So for a total of $20 you’ll get at least a year’s worth of washing….and likely more. That’s a pretty good deal in my book! Plus, you’ll know exactly what goes into your wash which can be hugely important if you’re troubled by allergies or sensitive skin. If you have a need for more than 2 bottles of fragrance oil, you can cut that per-bottle price considerably.
Have fun washing your woolens!