FROM WASHING, DRYING AND GREASING WOOL
Much too time-consuming! One wrong wash and it's all for the bin! The greasing sounds a bit difficult. These may be the thoughts that run through your head when you think of wool. But it's actually not that complicated. You have to pay attention to a few things. Wool products need to be cared for much less often than other products.
On this page we will show you how to clean, dry and grease wool products to protect them from moisture.
In the end, you will know exactly how to clean and care for our great products. These include our outer and inner diapers, liners, nursing pads, wetbags, lunchbags, scarves and changing mats made of or with wool. As you can see, we are very convinced of the great material.
WOOL CARE IN A NUTSHELL
These are the basic rules for washing wool:
- Avoid high temperature fluctuations.
- Avoid friction or strong movements.
- Do not use the detergent for your normal laundry, but use wool detergent, olive soap or your child's baby shampoo.
- Please wash colour-intensive wool products thoroughly before using them for the first time. Use the wool programme on your washing machine.
It is best to use the wool programme on your washing machine at 30 °C, max. 40 °C. Of course, you can also wash wool by hand if you follow the points above and use lukewarm water.
Mixing the lanolin solution
- Prepare the grease solution in a cup of boiling water. Use some ready-made wool care or pure lanolin fat with an emulsifier.
- Dose the ready-made wool care according to the instructions, or
- take about half a teaspoon of grease for one cover or two inner diapers and some olive soap solution, baby shampoo or washing-up liquid.
- The solution should be milky white and no longer have any grease eyes.
Stirring the lanolin bath
- Fill a large bowl with water from the tap that is as hot as possible (approx. 50 °C). You should still be able to reach into it.
- Carefully put the diaper in. It should just be covered with water.
- Add the grease solution and stir gently.
- Leave the diaper in the solution for at least 30 minutes. After some time, the grease may settle and stick to the diaper. This does not affect its function.
- Then dry it using the towel method (lightly press it through by rolling it in a towel).
- Now let the diaper air dry lying flat.
If you want to grease several wool products, you have to increase the amounts of water and wool grease accordingly. Light and coloured wool products should not be washed and greased together.
In the following video we show you how to grease your wool diapers so that they retain their wetness-protecting and dirt-repelling function.
BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE ABOUT WOOL
Why is wool such a good diaper cover? What's the deal with lanolin? What exactly does "greasing" do? We would like to explain this to you.
The most complicated of all fibres
That's what it says in the reference book on fibres . Wool is different from plant fibres like cotton or hemp. Wool fibre, like all animal fibres, consists mostly of protein, more precisely keratin. In plant fibres it is cellulose. That is why the entire structure is fundamentally different from the other materials.
The wool fibre consists of three layers, which in turn are divided into several components. For us, the outer layer is the most important: the cuticle layer. This in turn has an outer membrane with a wonderful property: it repels water in droplet form and allows water vapour to penetrate into the interior. The cuticle layer itself is responsible for wool felting if you rub it too much or expose it to temperature fluctuations. Then the scales get hooked together. The spindle cell layer underneath is very complex and responsible for the many properties: absorbency, stretch, crimp, air entrapment.... In the innermost part is the medullary layer. This is where moisture and odour are stored. The absolute core contains the complex keratin molecules.
In all these layers, complicated chemical processes take place when wool comes into contact with sweat, odours, urine, etc.
Core properties of wool
Wool can absorb about 30% of its own weight in moisture without feeling damp. Only water vapour enters the interior, which can slowly evaporate to the outside again in a dry environment. Wool is therefore particularly breathable.
The chemical structure of the wool fibre allows it to bind odours, which are released again by airing or washing .
Dirt is prevented from getting into the fibre by the outer layer, so you can easily brush out or shake off dried dirt.
The wool fibre itself is super-elastic. This is another reason why dirt does not stick so well. This property can be further enhanced by the processing. That's why knitwear is particularly stretchy. They adapt to every body shape. Knitted fabrics are correspondingly less elastic, but keep you warmer.
Wool allows a high degree of air trapping due to the strong crimping of the fibre. This means that it can store heat well. This property is enhanced by felting or fulling. But wool is also good at dissipating excess body heat and sweat, which is why it feels cool even when it is hot.
Finally, wool is completely biodegradable and is one of the most recycled fibres ever .
ALL INFO ABOUT WOOL CARE
If wool is stained, for example by mud or stains, you can simply hang it up to air it out. The stains will dry out and can then be easily shaken out or brushed out with a soft brush.
For chair stains, you may want to be more thorough. If you use cooked wool like the ones from WindelManufaktur, you can easily remove smaller chair stains from the smooth, greased surface under running water or with a damp cloth. As a rule, they do not stick to the fibre. Spot-cleaned areas can be treated with a lanolin solution from the last wool treatment. To do this, pour a little of the solution into a spray bottle before putting the diapers in. Shake the solution well before each use.
If this method does not work or if the stool stain has already dried, a suitable brush or a cold water bath with olive soap (e.g. from Patounis) for several hours will help. To treat the stain, you can use curd or gall soap or stain spray (follow the manufacturer's instructions). Then wash the wool as usual.
Even though you can usually get rid of odours by airing them out, you should still wash wool products regularly so that residues stored in the fibres can be removed.
Choosing the right detergent for wool
Why do you need a special detergent? This is because of the decisively different structure of the wool fibre. The keratin fibre reacts well to acid (pH < 7), but poorly to lye. A normal detergent, however, makes the wash water strongly alkaline (pH 10-11) for better stain removal. It also often contains the enzyme protease, which breaks down protein chains. Wool becomes brittle and loses its good properties.
Therefore, look for detergents with the lowest possible pH value. Wool and delicates detergents are precisely tailored to wool properties. But mild soaps with the lowest possible pH value (olive soap, curd soap, Aleppo soap), as well as baby shampoo, are also suitable.
Avoid friction and temperature fluctuations
The outer layer of the wool fibre has a scale-like structure. This makes the fibre very stretchy and elastic. However, these scales can also get caught together when there is friction. This happens even more quickly when the fibre is wet and swollen. If the ambient temperature varies greatly, the effect becomes even more pronounced. The wool felts. You cannot undo this entanglement.
For this reason, hand washing is not necessarily better than machine washing. You may not be able to control the temperature as well and you may be more prone to rubbing. Also, wringing out may do more harm than low-speed spinning in the machine.
Wash colour-intensive wool thoroughly before first use.
Please wash colour-intensive wool products thoroughly before using them for the first time in order to avoid discolouration on other laundry. Use the wool programme on your washing machine.
Dry lying flat
The stretchiness of the wool fibre increases when it is wet. This means that if you hang up a wet piece of wool, it will stretch with the weight of the wetness. The bigger the piece, the stronger the effect. That's why you should always dry your woollens lying flat.
Avoid direct sunlight and heating
Wool does not felt in direct sunlight, but the strong UV light dries out the fibre and makes it brittle. The same applies if you put them on the heating.
In the dryer
Modern tumble dryers now have special programmes for wool. However, we advise against this, as the wear and tear in the dryer is higher due to possible severe drying out.
For diapers, we generally advise against using the dryer, as they need to be soaked in lanolin after washing. Afterwards, greased diapers should not be put in the dryer to avoid damage in the machine.
The perfect emulsion for greasing
When you mix a wool care, the emulsion has to be right. What does that mean? An emulsion is a balanced mixture of oil in water (or vice versa). It does not create a new compound. The oil just spreads evenly in the water instead of floating on the surface . Our goal for the wool care is that the wool grease is distributed in the water so that it can ideally wrap around the wool fibres. For this you need an emulsifier that turns the big grease eye into millions and millions of small ones. Dish-washing liquid is a good choice. Stir a few drops into the mixture. The dish-washing liquid lowers the interfacial tension between oil and water. As if by magic, the solution looks milky-white due to the multitude of tiny grease eyes. This allows the wool grease to work perfectly into the wool. If there are still yellow grease eyes floating on top, you need more dish-washing liquid.
Miracle care lanolin: Greased like a sheep in the rain.
Why does a sheep not get wet in the rain? Exactly, because its wool is greased. It is coated with a secretion from its sebaceous glands: lanolin. Lanolin makes wool waterproof. At the same time, lanolin can absorb several times its own weight in water and slowly release it back into the environment. Raw wool alone contains up to 16% lanolin . It is also called wool fat. However, the term lanolin is misleading in the pharmacy, because according to the pharmacopoeia, this does not consist of pure wool fat, but also contains a proportion of water and paraffin . So if you ask for lanolin in the pharmacy, it is better to use the Latin term adeps lanae anhydricus.
In the production process, most of the wool fat is removed from the wool. To make your wool products water and dirt repellent, you need to give them back the natural wool wax by giving them a fat bath.
Pro tip: To make a wool grease emulsion, you can add some grated soap (e.g. Patouni's Green Olive Soap - grated soap flakes) to the lanolin solution instead of washing-up liquid or baby shampoo, so that the grease binds better with the water.
Equal temperature of wool and lanolin solution
We recommend that the temperature of the wet piece of wool and the solution in which it is to be bathed should be as equal as possible. This is because wool grease has a melting temperature of 38-44°C. It dissolves in hot water. So it will dissolve in hot water. When it cools down, the wool fat parts can become solid again. They then float on the surface of the water as white chunks. By the way, the lanolin is then white and not yellow, as it was originally, because it is enriched with water.
If you put a wet and cold piece of wool into a grease bath, you will experience a real temperature shock. The wool wax cools down immediately on the cold surface of the fibre, becomes solid and cannot act any further. If the wool is at the same temperature as the solution, the dissolved fat particles can penetrate the fabric better and wrap themselves around the fibres. So it is best to rinse your wool piece with lukewarm water beforehand.
It is sometimes recommended to use a lanolin bath that is as hot as possible. This prolongs the time it takes for the wool grease to set and allows the care to work into the wool fabric for longer. You can do it this way. However, we believe the key point is the difference in temperature between the wool piece and the care.
At least 30 minutes or longer
There are very different statements about the duration. Sometimes you should only swish the wool product once, sometimes you should bathe it in the fat solution at least overnight. Which is correct? As mentioned in the previous point, wool grease also solidifies again when it cools down. So a point is reached relatively quickly where the fat particles are simply too large to penetrate the fabric. That is why it makes no difference whether the wool piece lies in the lanolin bath for 30 minutes or 12 hours under ideal conditions.
Always damp into the wool care
Why should you put the piece of wool wet into the wool care? At least it wouldn't be cold when dry. The problem, however, is that the scales stick out more when dry. This creates a surface tension that makes it even harder for the grease solution to wrap around the fibres. Try it: Drip some water on a dry piece of wool. It will bead up. Do the same with a wet piece of wool and it will soak right in.
Frequency: Whenever it is no longer water-repellant
How often should you grease? It's very simple: Whenever the diaper is no longer water-repellent. Most of the time you will feel that the diaper feels quite dry because the wool grease has slowly been used up. At the same time, it will also smell stronger. So you get several indicators at the same time. This usually happens about every 2-4 weeks, depending on the wool product (every 2 weeks for wool diapers).
But don't forget to wash the diaper before you grease it again! Of course, you can also grease them earlier to prevent ammonia from urine from building up in the diapers. We will explain this in the next point. Then, with each new wool treatment, you will need less of it to get the diaper tight again. Because even after washing, a residual amount of wool grease remains in the fabric.
Of course, you should wash and re-grease the diaper if it is dirty. We have already written something about this above.
Wool diapers don't stink... Back to the Romans
Did you know that the Romans used stale urine to wash their woollen garments? The ammonia that forms from the decomposed urea saponifies with the wool grease. This is the reason why night diapers with wool as a wetness protector smell less like ammonia. Urine and grease have a cleansing effect!  By the way, urine was still used to wash wool until the last century.
But this also means that the grease will be used up at some point. Then it is time for a basic cleaning and renewed grease care. Otherwise the alkaline ammonia will attack the rather acid-loving wool fibres and make them brittle.
Hygienic cleaning of wool
Wool basically has a cleaning effect due to the keratin fibres. If your child has had a stubborn fungus or you have bought a second-hand wool product, you can also clean it hygienically by boiling it:
- Put a large enough saucepan on to boil with lukewarm water.
- Add the wool item.
- Bring the water to a slow boil over medium heat. Make sure that the woollen part does not move too much.
- Take the pot off the heat before the boiling water starts to bubble a lot. It should have been over 60 °C for at least 10 minutes by then.
- Let the wool part cool down completely in the pot.
Please note that you should not do this too often, as the high temperatures can stress the fibres in the long run.
Alternatively, as a basic cleaning, and especially for used products, you can also do a deep cleaning with olive seed soap. The famous Aleppo soap, for example, is a curd soap. The French Savon de Marseille is also a curd soap. There is also olive stone soap in flakes from Patounis.
- Make a solution of hot water and soap. A ratio of 3 to 1 should be sufficient.
- Put 2 teaspoons of this solution per diaper in cold water and soak the diapers overnight.
- Then wash them out and grease them as described above.
Moth protection: Store in an airy or air-locked place.
Clothes moths love wool because they feed on keratin. They also nibble on plant and synthetic fabrics, but do not digest them . They do not like paper and wood.
You can prevent a moth infestation by washing your woollen clothes thoroughly before storing them in the wardrobe. This is because dander or other organic residues attract moths even more. Here's what you can do:
- Spray wool items with neem oil.
- Store them in an airy place and shake and move them from time to time.
- Store in an airtight plastic bag or box.
- Wrap in paper.
The wool experts at Räubersachen have some great tips.
What to do in case of moth infestation?
If the moths have already been at work, you must remove them from the wool items, as well as from the wardrobe.
- Boil the wool as described in the section above. The water does not have to boil. A temperature of 60 °C is sufficient.
- Freeze the wool pieces in the freezer for at least three days.
- Wipe out the cupboard with vinegar water. Secret tip from robber clothes, use a hairdryer to get into all the cracks and corners with the help of heat.
- Spray wardrobe and clothes with neem oil.
On the road with lanolin spray treatment
If you are travelling and don't have the opportunity to grease the wool, you can pour some of the last wool treatment into a spray bottle. You can then rinse out small dirty spots under running water and spray with the lanolin-to-go. Shake the bottle well beforehand so that the wool wax is well distributed in the water.
ALTERNATIVES TO WOOL
- For moisture protection you can use PUL or PU-laminated TENCEL™ Lyocell.
- Other high-pile fabrics, such as fleece or cotton sherpa, also have warming properties.
- Fleece or our Stay Dry Mesh also feel dry on the surface.
IS IT TRUE OR IS IT NOT? ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT WOOL CARE
Wool can be washed with any soap
Soaps are always alkaline. They increase the pH value of your washing water. However, there are mild and less mild soaps. Just think about whether you would also wash your hair with the soap. Then it is also suitable for wool. These are usually superfatted soaps that do not degrease and dry out the hair or wool fibres too much. You can wash out stains with gall or curd soap. However, you should not bathe the wool in it for a long time and rinse it thoroughly.
Wool overheats the skin in summer
Wool balances temperatures. It absorbs sweat and body heat and releases it to the outside environment. However, if you put on a thick woollen pullover at 30 °C, the effect is not as effective. The heat can't be released fast enough. With a thin wool-silk shirt, however, this works better than with any other material.
You can be allergic to wool
That's true to a certain extent.
There are contact allergies to wool, but they may also be related to substances that came onto the wool during production (dyes, bleach, etc.). These allergies are extremely rare. The same applies to allergies to lanolin.
What many people understand by allergy is physical. The fine hairs of the wool feel scratchy on sensitive skin, so that it starts to itch. However, our woollen products are so fine that this feeling is practically non-existent.
FAQ - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WOOL CARE
- What material are the wool diapers made of?
- What do I need to do before using the wool diapers for the first time?
- How do I wash wool diapers?
- How do I make the wool diaper waterproof?
- Can I boil wool if my child has had an infection?
- How can I degrease wool diapers?
- How do I dispose of the wool grease after degreasing?
 Völker, U., Brückner, K. Von der Faser zum Stoff. 35. Aufl., 2014.
 McQueen, Rachell H. / Laing, Raechel M. / Brooks, Heather J.L. / Niven, Brian E. Odor intensity in apparel fabrics and the link with bacterial populations. In: Textile Research Journal, Vol. 77(7): 449-456.