When it comes to washing fleece, there are many different opinions on which detergent is best to use. At Living Felt, our MC-1 Felting Batts are washed with an eco-friendly soap, then dyed and carded on a large scale here in the USA. The volume is too large for our facility, but our premium mohair and curly wool locks are processed in house with great care to bring you shiny beautiful locks that are clean and lustrous.
Before and after we started washing our locks, we researched what others were doing and what detergents they were using to wash their wool. We first started using Kookaburra, which is a great product, but decided to try a less expensive laundry detergent to see if there was much of a difference…and there was. Since we wanted to wash our wool and mohair for the whitest whites, and truest natural hues and luster, while still keeping health and the environment in mind, we decided to conduct our own test of different detergents. We chose our long and dreamy Teeswater locks for this particular wool washing test.
People commonly say to wash wool with “Dawn” original blue — avoiding the new stuff due to enzymes which break down protein fibers = not good for your wool, mohair, etc. Dawn was not considered an option for us for the following reasons:
1) We like only environmentally friendly solutions
2) We require a product that is unscented
3) We require a product that cleans lanolin and dirt without stripping the fibers of their natural luster.
Some people say to use any household detergent to wash raw fleeces, so we tested two eco-friendly household laundry detergents and two “wool wash” products. What prompted this test was a bit of experimentation that was not so scientific, but revealing nonetheless. I first washed with one detergent and thought the fleece looked clean, but when I tried another, I noticed it had a different “hue”, one looked more golden and yellowish and the other looked a little less golden, tips looked more brownish.
A= ALL Laundry Detergent, Free and Clear. Available at grocery stores
B= Kookaburra SCOUR, Environmentally Friendly. Available at Kookaburra Scour
C= ECOS Laundry Detergent, Eco friendly. Available at Whole Foods and Costco
D= BEYOND CLEAN, by Unicorn. Environmentally friendly. Available at Unicorn Fibre
LONG TEESWATER LOCKS, RINSED BUT NOT WASHED
The photo above is our what we started with … fabulously long Teeswater locks that have been rinsed until the water runs clear, but not washed with any detergent at all. *Notice the locks have a beige hue but are not yellow-ish
The picture above of “Z” shows locks from the same source as those used in our wool washing test…but notice the brownish tips, and how dry they look. We found that locks we washed looked better than ones washed at the farm, but since most are even further treated with hot water and dye, we wanted them to look and feel their absolute best and to maintain as much luster as possible before being dyed.
To keep the tests fair, we separated out 4oz batches of the Teeswater locks and washed each in individual tubs using the same amount of detergent for each product tested. All locks came from the same batch and were treated the same with the same number of washes.
A: These locks were washed with ALL Laundry Detergent. They look nice, but up close you would see they have a bit of a golden hue which is concentrated at the tips.
B: Teeswater locks washed with Kookaburra Scour. This is an environmentally friendly product, there is a bit of a scent, but it scours well. Notice the goldish/brown tint on the locks and especially the tips.
C: Teeswater locks washed with ECOS laundry soap. Up close these are brighter than previous samples and any tints in the tips seem softened.
D: Washed with UNICORN Beyond Clean … this is the unscented version of their SCOUR
These locks are not only the brightest white, they are also the softest.
From the photos it may be difficult to see the difference…so look at them up close…
click on any picture for a larger photo.
C is notably brighter and less brown/gold than B. They also seem less dry.
Notice how much whiter/brighter D looks to C. In this photo, you can see that C has a golden hue whereas D is more of a platinum white and looks noticeably brighter. CLICK ON PHOTO FOR CLOSEUP.
For some readers, these may all seem equally clean, in person we could see the color/brightness shift of the various batches. We wanted the whitest whites, not only for our teeswater, but for all of our locks including Cotswold, Wensleydale, Lincoln, Mohair, etc.
Keep in mind that when it comes to getting a raw fleece white, the detergent may not always be the issue — sometimes a fleece may be “stained” with no hope of getting it white. Look at these two fleeces, one Wensleydale and one Cotswold. Raw and in the grease, they almost look identical.
(notice these locks are sorted, and faced with “tips in” to keep them from entangling during the wash. More on washing to preserve lock structure in a later post.)
After equal washes, it is obvious the Cotswold is stained. I took this “get my fleece white” challenge to hand spinners who wash a lot of their own wool…and again many heralded “Dawn” to be the answer…so I bit the bullet and bought some. It had been years since I purchased any. I used to felt with it because that is what so many people said to do…but it literally peeled the skin off my fingers (not good) and the smell is horrible.
No, the stuff does not work miracles. This fleece is stained. It was destined to dye 🙂
Here are some dreamy mohair locks washed with Unicorn Beyond Clean;
Before they are gray and very heavy with dirt, but soon all is revealed – and look, no golden hue! Just bright beautiful white.
Watch for an upcoming post demonstrating a few ways we wash locks to preserve lock structure and get the locks as clean as possible.
Earlier this year we received a call from a rancher who asked us to try her mohair locks. She sent us washed samples of Kid and Yearling Mohair locks. They were horribly dry, she was using a laundry detergent. We encouraged her to try Beyond Clean – she ordered a sample and was so impressed. So were we — when she sent us new samples, they were much nicer, more lustrous and less dry. We still prefer to wash our own mohair though, there is a great satisfaction in processing a fleece from start to finish and revealing the beauty of the locks.
We now use UNICORN Beyond Clean to was all of our locks. We love that the product is eco-friendly and bio-degradable; the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) will show you there are no Hazardous Decomposition Products, you can ask for the MSDS from any supplier. Beyond Clean is also unscented, and low-sudsing which is good for sewer systems, and of course the bottle is #2 PET recyclable. Beyond Clean also scours at lower temps — and while this is considered an environmentally friendly trait because less energy is required, it also means you can use hot water from your tap and let it soak a bit longer as the temperature drops.
We also love the great customer service at UNICORN. By now of course you might think they sponsor us, but the only thing we have received free is the same sample you can get just by making a request on their website. We have paid for every bottle, and are happy to. PLUS, we are thinking to offer it to our customers … and of course, what we sell in our shop are only products we use and will stand behind 100%.
This test is certainly not exhaustive, but from my experience I love Unicorn Beyond Clean and it continues to perform time and again.
I hope you will visit the good folks at Unicorn, and tell them Marie sent you :O)