I'm a bit backlogged on fleeces so I'm going to try something different: fermented suint method of washing wool.
Since I couldn't find my Fall '08 Spin Off, I Googled. This is a simple, yet stinky method of cleaning wool with less water. Natural yeasts eat all the offending things and the vm naturally breaks down.
You may want to buy a 6-pack of a favorite beverage for your neighbors or husband as compensation for the smell. My husband brews beer so we're even on smells.
I'll keep people updated on my progress. I'm starting with 1/2 a Columbia fleece.
I am very interested in the outcome. Are you just using water? Using only the yeasts that occur naturally like some winemakers will use to make wine?
This I have to hear about!
I'm using soft water from my tap. I filled the 18 gallon tub about 1/2 way with hot, soft water and took it outside to cool. I then filled it the rest of the way with a smaller bucket. I'm just letting the natural yeasts come and colonize, just like my grandmother did with her dandelion wine. I guess the same can be said for sourdough bread as well.
It will stink (pungent is the nice way of saying it), but fermentation just does. I've heard that a few people can't get the stink out; most do. I'm not sure what they did or didn't do. I have no idea if hard or soft water makes a difference, but most successes cited using rain or soft water. When my husband brews beer he uses filtered or spring water: use what you want to drink.
So far, this is pretty user stupid. Fill it up. Dump it in. Let it sit. Don't breath deep. Use gloves. Rinse it out. Let it dry.Process as usual.
This is only day 2.
I will be very interested in how this turns out. I hate to think of how much electricity I use to heat the water for the multiple washes required for washing a fleece.
This is Day 5. It smells funky now, more than sheep funky. I cut up some fiberglass screen material and used stones to weight the edges of the square to hold it down over the bucket. I did this for 2 reasons.
Obviously, the smell has changed enough to be "pretty" to flies. A friend told me that a quick cold rinse in a soapy Dawn bath would take care of the remaining smell, if there were any.
Two more days...
The fleece is out and drying. It was mostly successful. I did feel the lanolin in the water as I rinsed. Warmer weather probably would help.
I learned a few things.
I took the dirtier half and put it through a cold soapy bath and rinsed well. There is no smell here, only Dawn (left). The other half I just rinsed (right). The right does have a slight odor of "fermented sheep dip", but it should dissipate. If not, I'll re-rinse with a vinegar bath. They are both on the back deck drying.
have you looked at Author: J.N. Liles ISBN: 0870496700 book on dyes. the vat you have created is similar to the one he creates to dye indigo (same method - real slow but lazy way to do it)
your wool looks like my first batches that I did using this system. I added a little dawn to mine, because the water here is hard, and the fleece I experamented with was very full of dung tags. I spit the filthy fleece up and stuck it in buckets and left it sitting out. It seemed like the cleaning action didnt really start until day 4, and I should have probably left the worst one in a couple more days. I hosed it down with a hard jet of water on a screen when I took it out, and poured some dawn over the dirtiest spots. This was wool I would have thrown away other wise. One of the batches is still dirty and will need 2 washes in hot water., the others I will wash once in hot water. My wool was Deboullett, greasy, full of manure, and vm. It came out pretty good considering what I started with. Its usable, and will turn into a blanket or a shaw. im doing another fleece which is rambollet, churro, very nice wool, very greasy, and not as filthy. I started over with a new bath because of the manure content of the first bath. I think this system saves on energy for heating the water, and probably saves water as well.
What you're saying is that adding Dawn to the FSM soak works for the dung tags and some of the more stubborn dirty spots?
How long can I leave wool in the bath before it damages the wool? Does anyone know?
I ended up washing it up in hot water and Dawn. There were still quite a few dung tags on nice fleece - not worth throwing out. The ammonia smell got to me. A nice vinegar bath cured that right up. It smells like sheep again rather than a hair salon.
More work? Hard to say. There was definitely less lanolin on the fiber than before. There were fewer VM than before as well. The sticks and harder straw were soft, but not gone. In the single, hot bath things disintegrated and washed easily. The fiber came out pretty well. I now have 7-1/2# of Columbia fleece that needs to be combed.
Would I use this again? With a greasy, VM fleece I would. (I hate getting VM splinters.) It took less overall washing.
I tried this in late spring, just to see what would happen. I left some dirty wool soaking on the porch for several days, and it began to have an odor that reminded me of photographic chemicals. It was soaking in a large galvanized tub. I decided to change the water (like you, I could not find the article to consult), after 5 or 6 days. For years I've used wool-washing water (from regular, all-in-an-afternoon washing) on plants with good results, so I poured the water on some potted plants on my porch. BIG mistake. I killed a couple of large lantanas I've had for years, a lemon verbena, I won't go on. (Oh! The humanity!) When I saw them beginning to wilt, I began flushing them with lots of water over the next several days, but it didn't help. I consulted several experienced gardeners, including a county agent and one spinner, and they were mystified. I'd be interested in what goes on chemically in the bath.
I did soak the wool for several more days. I did not love the smell, and thought I could smell traces of it even after washing the wool again in Orvus and adding vinegar to the final rinse. I think if I had really dirty wool, I'd soak it overnight, maybe for a couple of days, but change the water each day.
When I read the part of your note where you said you thought it might work better in warmer weather, I almost fell over. We're having days in the 90's here in N.C.
We were having cool weather in the 60's with cool nights in the 40-50's. Our weather has been atypical for summer. It still stank like a bad perm.
I've read that Orvus is not really a great cleaner for fleece. It is a good emulsifier; it needs foam (like shampoo) to clean. Not the best thing to clean lanolin out of fleece. Great on dirt, but not grease. www.spin-list.com/scouring.htm had some good information on cleaning wool. Some we may not agree with, some that may change our minds.
IF I lived in an area that rationed water... IF I had a really greasy, dirty fleece...THEN I would consider using this again. This is a tool to put in my arsenal of knowledge.
How do you know if your water from the tap is sufficiently "soft"? I haven't had much luck collecting rain water. My dog drinks it before I have enough to use.
It looks like the FSM cleaned the wool nicely, and there doesn't appear to be any felting. Thats my biggest problem with the hot water method. I get the fiber nice and clean, but sometimes end up with felting. I have some amazing fiber I'm scared silly to clean because I'm afraid to felt it. I bought an award winning Cormo fleece that has fiber as fine as silk, and is absolutely solid. Like a block of fiber. Its quite clean, but VERY greasy. Would it be a good candidate?
Unless your fleece is really dirty and stinky, I wouldn't. It will end up smelling.
What I'd recommend is the following:
I washed my fine Targhee fleece (really greasy) like I mentioned in 2oz of Kookaburra Woolscour (www.sweetgrasswool.com/store_woolcare.html) (www.kookaburraco.com) per 1# of raw wool. I rinsed, but it's not necessary.
While I was skeptical, it is really clean and free of lanolin. I can comb the wool easily.
Hello all, coming in late on this discussion (as usual) I am still trying to get the smell out of my fleece after this method.
I used spring water, left the fleece in a generous amount of water in a large plastic tote for 7 days and we had warm, sunny weather. I then rinsed, and rinsed again, then used dish soap to try and get the smell out. The fleece is clean, and soft, but still lots of vm, which does not appear to have softened or "released" any. BUT it Still Smells. It is not a "funky" smell, but a chemical smell, a 'burn your nose" sort of smell.
It smells very much like the solution we used as teens to give yourself a "perm". (Anyone remember the "Tony uncurly permanent"?) So I researched what's in perm's and found this
"Permanent solutionsThese are used to fix the hair
in a waved style. They are based on glycolic acid and its derivatives,
which break the bonds within the hair and allow them to be set in a
different shape. The rebonding agents include hydrogen peroxide, and
setting ingredients such as carbomer are also added."
Glycolic acid may be what killed the plants, and it does sound like something that would be a result of fermentation?But alas, I am not a chemist, and am grasping for straws (though there is still plenty of vm in the fleece, btw) I should have tested the ph of the solution after the week was up, but dumped it in the graveldriveway before I thought of it. I may soak a small amount more for the sake of expermentation, but doubt if I will use this method again.
Anyway, this got me to thinking that maybe hydrogen peroxide would remove the smell (this is a jacob fleece, would hate to bleach the brown, but with the lingering smell, it might be a loss, anyway) because it does remove skunk odor from dogs, so am off to try that, will report any success.