The days are getting shorter and the air a little crisper (even in Southern California), so that means it's almost wool weather! I have a small fortune invested in wool clothing. I have about 6 or 7 wool jerseys, various base layers, tights, caps and gloves all made from wool that I have collected over the last three years.
Wool, as many may know, is a great fabric for touring. It keeps you warm in the winter and has natural wicking properties that are great for the summer. One of its greatest properties is that it keeps the funk at bay. You know what I mean. Wear a synthetic jersey for more than a few days in a row and you'll be riper than a fallen apple. With wool, however, you can stretch the time between washes and it still won't get as funky.
That said, there will come a time when you'll have to wash your wool.
I've tried two things to wash wool, Ivory Snow and Kookaburra Wash. I used Ivory Snow and thought it was great until I got the Kookaburra Wash, which I feel is the better option. Ivory Snow is your run of the mill detergent that is suppose to be milder so it should in theory work great with wool. It does work and leaves a light but pleasant smell. However, you do have to rinse it out a bit to get the soapy residue out. That means more water, more time and more stress on the fabric.
Wool is rather delicate and it fares better when it's not wrung out or excessively pulled (I've torn a few early wool pieces this way). The best way, for me atleast, to wash it is to sort of squeeze and massage it, kneading it like pizza dough.
Kookaburra Wash (formerly known as Wool Wash), contains tea tree oil and lanolin. The tea tree oil gives it a menthol smell (I've grown to love it) and "removes all dust mite allergens." Tea tree oil is also said to have great anti-fungal properties. K Wash contains lanolin and some conditioning agents that are said to return the luster of your wool garments. Another great thing about K Wash is that it is "rinsing optional", you don't have to get it all out of the fabric so no more excessive wringing.
From my experience, the K Wash works well. It doesn't get too slippery and soapy like Ivory Snow does so there's no real need to rinse it all out. Also, the wool comes out with a softer slicker hand than with Ivory Snow. I can only assume this is a product of the lanolin and conditioning agents. K Wash is also super concentrated so it doesn't take a whole lot to do a load. On tours when I have to do laundry I'll bring a small bottle with me and wash clothes in a sink, much easier and compact than a plastic baggie of detergent flakes.
In short, if you have a lot of wool and want to give it a good wash, try Kookaburra Wash out. I highly recommend it. My only wish is that it were more readily available.
You can order a bottle from Rivendell and Bicycle Fixation.
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