Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How to Care for Wool Diaper Covers and Longies

This week's Tutorial is my all time most requested how to. The washing instructions apply to any wool object. So those of you who don't cloth diaper or have small children can still apply these basic principles to your delicate knits (store bought and hand knit). 

Originally Posted on November 22, 2011

I recently got a custom order request for some wool longies. Wool is a great alternative for a cloth diaper cover up because it wicks away moisture, it's breathable and it has an incredible ability to absorb wetness and still feel NOT feel damp (up to 30% of it's weight).  Wool covers have been used for centuries by cloth diapering mommas.

Many people use them simply as wool pants because they are quite warm and so cute.  Here's one of the pairs I made.  Looks just like Little Elf pants, huh?

The question I most often get though is "How do I care for them?  Are they hard to wash?"  So I'll attempt to explain how I wash them and then lanolize them.  Lanolin is a natural substance that makes wool waterproof.  When wool is processed and dyed, this lanolin is stripped away and so in order to have those waterproof properties, you have to add it back to the wool.

This is a relatively simple process that takes just a few minutes of time.  Yes wool covers are hand-washed, but you don't need to wash them that often.  Most of the time, you can simply allow them to dry and air out after being soiled and reuse them.  As long as they aren't soiled with poo or smell like urine, you'll only need to wash them once a week or so.  (This depends on how many you have in rotation as well.  If you use them more often, they'll need washing more often.)

Washing Wool
Wool should only be washed in a wool wash of some sort.  Woolite is NOT to be used with your delicate hand-knits or covers.  Woolite is primarily a water softener and contains several chemicals that can cause HARM to your knits. Save that for your delicate lingerie. You can use baby shampoo or wash in a pinch, but those need to be rinsed out.   Soak is my favorite wool wash, not only because I love the scents available, but because it doesn't have to be rinsed out. Other popular wool washes are Eucalan and Kookaburra and can be found online or at your local yarn store.

Step by Step:

1.  Drop a few drops of wool wash into a basin or in your sink.  Fill the sink with warm water.  You don't want your water boiling hot or lukewarm, somewhere in between is nice.

2.  Remove any solid waste and place your woolies into the water.  Gently press them under the water.  Don't vigorously agitate them around.  Wool is quite delicate when wet and you don't want to permanently felt your woolies.  Be kind to them and allow them to soak up the water and wash.  Allow your woolies to sit in the water for about 15 minutes.

At this point, you can tell whether you need lanolize them or not.  If you notice that water is standing in a lot of little puddles on your woolies and/or the woolies are floating above the water, then you don't need to lanolize yet. If there's just a few little puddles or none at all, then it's time to lanolize them.

One unique tidbit to add....Wool has a very distinct smell while wet.  Some people say it smells like a wet dog.  The smell goes away entirely once its dry so don't be alarmed.  Your finished product will smell like the wool wash you washed it in.  It's something you get used to quickly. I'd just advise not taking a big whiff after getting your wool out of the water.  :-)

3.  When you come to check on your woolies, you can swish them around in the water a bit more.  I like to leave my woolies in the water until the water has returned to close to room temperature, but you can take them out at this point if you'd like.  I'd leave them in longer if they were heavily soiled.

4. Pull the drain from your sink or start pouring the water out of your basin.  Hold onto your knits so they don't go down the drain or out of your basin.  Gently fold your woolies together into a small little square in your hand.  Gently press with the opposite hand to push out excess water.  DON'T wring your woolies or aggressively squish them.  Remember that wool is delicate when wet.

5.  Grab a towel and lay them out like this.

6. Now we're going to make a jelly roll with the towel. Once you get it all rolled up, use both hands to press down and squeeze out excess water.  You'll be shocked at how much water actually comes out of the wool at this point.
7. If you're woolies are still super wet, you can repeat step 5 and 6 with a dry towel.  Most of the time one roll in a towel will do.  Now find a sweater dryer rack to lay them out flat to dry or place them on a dry towel and rotate sides often.  DO NOT machine dry these or your child will no longer be able to wear them because they'll be a shrunken felted mess. 

Here's the sweater dryer I made out of some PVC pipes, elbows, some mesh fabric that I sewed into a cover and some elastic cord to hold the cover on.  I made mine large enough to hold a plus size adult sweater.  It's around 3 feet square and cost around $5-$6 to make.  At some point I'd love to find some way to add some legs to it, but for now drying over the tub works well for me.

How to Lanolize Your Covers
As stated above in the washing instructions, when you're cover is no longer water resistant it's time to lanolize.  You should be able to wash your cover several times before needing to lanolize.  You'll need 4 things to lanolize: a small bottle with a lid (mine is a pump, but I don't use the pump), lanolin (mine is Lansinoh, the one breast feeding mothers use), a drop of baby shampoo and warm water.

Step 1:  Take your small bottle, remove the lid , place a pea sized squirt of lanolin in the bottle and a drop of baby shampoo. Fill the bottle with the hottest tap water you can. 

Step 2:  Put the lid on your little bottle and shake for a few minutes.  You are trying to melt the lanolin.  Once the lanolin has melted you'll have a creamy frothy mixture.

Step 3:  Empty your mixture into the sink or basin that you plan to use. Fill your sink or basin with warm water.  Swirl the water and make sure the mixture is well incorporated.  

Step 4:  Gently push the woolies into the water and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Step 5:  Now repeat #4-7 from the washing instructions.

So there you have it. All the care instructions you'll need to wash and lanolize your wool diaper covers and longies.  As a side note, its quite natural for your woolies to become a bit felted in the spots that your child rubs often, like knees for your crawling ones and bottoms if you've got a scooter. This won't affect the performance at all

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