Interesting way to clean wool

One of the reasons I have wearable outfits that are older than many re enactors is that I never wash my wools and silks.

You pay for the finish with decent wool – washing destroys that. It also ruins the shine on good silk.

Washing is also the quickest way known to man to obliterate any embroidery on costume, especially if you’re dumb enough to throw it in the washing machine, as I’ve seen so many people do.

And no, I don’t smell. I wear a linen shift and I wash it. I air my wool when it needs it.

But I have had a problem with the royal surcotes. The pale yellow of the appliqued lions shows every stain, and because most men tend to oil thier chain mail (and we had several suits of riveted mail that came out from India heavily oiled) and the coif is worn over the surcote, there has been staining from the oil around the neck of the surcotes.

One surcote was getting so bad that I thought sod it, it was ruined anyway, so I threw in a gentle wash with woolite…

…aaand it made absolutely no difference whatsoever.

Gareth found a better, more efficient solution.

Dyson Zorb.

He’d been using it on his persian rug. So he brushed it into the surcotes, left it for half an hour, as per the instructions, and hoovered them.

It hasn’t removed all of the staining, but its done a damn sight better job than washing, it looks better, smells better – quite frankly it was brilliant. I wish I’d taken some before and after photos. It’s going to be my dry cleaning agent of choice for wool costume from now on.

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~ by opusanglicanum on November 4, 2012.

8 Responses to “Interesting way to clean wool”

  1. I respectfully disagree with you about laundering wool and silk in general. They’re both protein fibers, like human hair, and won’t be harmed by occasional, proper cleaning. Woolite, however, is NOT proper under any circumstances. Despite its very misleading name it should never be used on wool or silk. Woolite was designed and intended for synthetics and is actually quite harsh on protein fibers. A better alternative would be Dawn dish soap (I use this regularly for cleaning fresh and stored fleeces), or a good-quality shampoo (I prefer Neutrogena or 7th Generation). Any potential harshness can be smoothed away with an addition of 1/2 tsp or so of conditioner in the final rinse. I use this treatment to wash fleece, handspun yarn and wool or silk fabric. Wools are soft and appropriately fluffy or smooth (depending on the yarn/fabric) and silks retain their “crunch” feeling and shimmer.

    • i Do occaisionally use shampoo on certain wools in extreme circumstance(tweeds and unfullered wools can wash tolerably) for handwash only, and obviously fleece and threads when dyeing etc, but never on a good english melton. I’m not going to get into the argument cos I’ve had it before and am extremely bored with it, but basically good quality english melton is not meant to be washed, ever, full stop (just ask the manufacturers). the reason you pay £40+ per metre for it is that its been finished to a high standard (as it would have been in the middle ages), and that finish is meant to be partiallywater/weather proof – even a careful handwash using shampoo will erode some of this finish. It also stretches the costume out of shape due to the sheer wieght of the thing when its wet

      You mention dawn, so you must be american, and I have got the impression in the past that americans cant get decent wool, so I doubt it matters if you wash it anyway.(Its very much my finding that americans are evangelical about washing everything and we english think its just wierd)

  2. With embroidery and canvaswork, a gentle hoovering with a stocking over the end of the hoover will often make all the difference even without an additive, anyway.
    I’d have thought that getting a length of heavyweight English melton wet was merely a recipe for strained muscles!

    • the zorb really sucked out a lot of the grease from the chainmail though, which hoovering wouldn’t have.

      I think getting decent melton properly wet if quite difficult anyway, as it repels surface water, but yes, far too heavy once you do get it wet, and fitted garments then stretch out of shape

  3. I know you’ve got better things to worry about, but do you think it would work on natural fibre carpets – nightmare to clean those.

  4. Thats interesting. I might get some of it for my carpet.
    Annoyingly I can’t find out anything online about how it works, but it seems to have a smell, therefore some sort of soap/ solvent mix, and claims to use lots of little sponges to absorb the dirt. These would likely be zeolites of some sort, which are usually silicate cages that have a high internal surface area, so absorb liquids or gases very easily.

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