way back in june, at TNNA, i had a chance to talk to anna blangiforti, producer of unicorn fibre wash. i had previously noticed her product at a recent fiber show, and wanted to know more about it—i’ve been searching for a wool wash to replace the now-discontinued meadows wool wash i used for years and loved so much (previously available through louet north america).
anna offers a small line of wool wash products for knitters, spinners and manufacturers, and was happy to fill me in on the details of the products, complete with microscopic images of how it works on the fiber surface.
you might be seeing more of these in yarn shops and at fiber shows; the product line, which has been used at the industrial level for some time, is becoming more widely available to retail customers.
i promised anna (and you) that i would test the products at home and write about them here. so i proceeded over the summer to wash and rinse several projects with them, as well as some spun fiber. i did not test the power wash product since i don’t have any really dirty fiber or knits, but i will assume that it performs similarly to the fibre wash and rinse.
the following review represents my opinion only, based on my own taste and experiences of the products used in the comparisons. much of what follows is the result of subjective observations of fiber and soap behavior; i did not do actual lab testing or record measurable data. in other words, i pretty much replicated the washing situation you would have at home.
i compared the results of washing with unicorn products to projects that i washed with the meadows i have on hand and also the product louet now sells in place of meadows, called soak.
i was lucky enough to have several projects in the same yarn and small skeins of the same spun fiber to do a real comparison.
the unicorn wash is a little heavier in consistency than the meadows; i assume because it might have more glycerin content. it sudses up similarly well, producing lots of fluffy foam to squeeze through the fabric (this isn’t a necessity in a wool wash i don’t think, but i like it when i get good suds). the soak products don’t produce foam like that, but in and of itself, this is not a deal-breaker for me.
one thing i pay attention to is the amount of soap needed to wash an item. generally, you just need to add enough that the water begins to feel a little slippery. with meadows and unicorn, this amounts to less than a teaspoon (or half capful) to a 3 or 4 gallon basin. the soak products seem to require more; the water and suds did not seem nearly soapy enough to really clean anything with a half-teaspoon of soap added.
another thing that is very important to me is the way the soap smells. i am not adverse to scent in wool washing products; some scents are actually supposed to be moth deterrents (most of these are natural herbals, like lavender, cedar, and patchouli). i always had an affinity for the patchouli scent that was one offering in meadows wool wash line, as well as most other natural, herbal scents. i tend not to like actual perfumes; these seem to be more irritating to my nose. it is one aspect of the soak line that i don’t care for—the perfumes in those soaps are a little heavy-handed, and seem to have an underlying similarity i don’t care for. of course, they DO offer an unscented version, which is a nice option for those who are sensitive.
the unicorn fibre wash comes in one scent which smells more or less like fresh air; it’s not too heavy, and i don’t find it unpleasant (though i do miss having an herbal note). the fiber rinse, if you choose to use it, has a hint of lavender added.
lastly, i prefer a soap that i need to rinse out of the fabric. leaving soap (along with particles of dirt that cling to it) on the fiber seems like a bad idea to me. my humble instinct tells me that anything which coats the fiber and stays there would be dulling, possibly creating a sticky attractant for dirt and dust. though i really don’t know for sure, it also seems like anything that stays on the fiber would weigh it down and prevent it from blooming nicely. plus, if you have sensitive skin, it’s probably best to rinse all garments free of soapy residue.
the unicorn wash and rinse product performs very well. i like it a lot as a replacement for my old favorite. i washed and blocked several pieces and large swatches knit in the same yarn in all three washes. i actually had the opportunity to repeat this process a couple of times over the last two months, with merino lace yarns, alpaca yarn, and some bamboo an tencel blends.
a side-by side comparison reveals the unicorn soap to be nearly-identical to the meadows, both of which i felt performed better than soak. the yarn washed in meadows seem to retain a slight bit more loftiness and softness, especially in blocked pieces, possibly due to having less glycerin (?). but really, this is not even measurable, and it could work against the blocking. the pieces washed and blocked in the unicorn product may be ever-so-slightly stiffer, but might hold their blocked shape a little better. both soaps produced a light, clean-feeling fabric when dry, with clean color reflection and nice bloom, especially the alpaca.
the alpaca piece i passed around in class washed with the unicorn products got rave reviews for the smell and the feel of the fabric, especially when compared to its prewashed state (they got to see an feel the piece before soaking). the merino pieces—there were many this summer—got similar reviews; none of my students could feel the difference between unicorn and meadows, but they did not like the fabric washed in soak quite as much (in all these instances, i knew which piece was which, but participants did not).
one note—i did use the unicorn rinse on a couple of items, but decided that one washing step is enough for me, and that i prefer to rinse out the soap and be done with it. if i do have something particularly prickly or itchy that i need to soften, i might try to do it with the fibre rinse.
i also tested some spun fiber, and plan to do more thorough comparisons in the near future (i’ll soon have a large-ish amount of alpaca yarn to wash i hope)
for the fiber, i just tested the unicorn and the meadows, not including the soak this time. i washed a couple of small skeins in each soap, rinsed well and hung them to dry. both soaps produced a nice, soft yarn with plenty of loft. when i passed them around in spinning class, we could not identify any difference between the two.
overall, i think the unicorn wash is a great replacement for the product i always liked best. i will continue to buy it in the future . . . it will be great for our weekly wool laundry, especially (which makes it possible then to hoard my remaining meadows to use on my shawls, MWAH-ha-ha-ha).
anna will be happy to send a sample of her wool wash products to anyone who calls to ask! please visit the company’s web site (click here); the number is right on that page in the sidebar to the left. tell her i told you to ask . . . she’s been anxiously awaiting a review over the summer.
happy washing and have a good weekend!