sudsing your duds

Posted on Posted in lace/shawls, projects, spinning and fiber

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!

23 thoughts on “sudsing your duds

  1. Excellent! I tend to prefer rinsing my stuff out, even if the wash is “no-rinse”. I’m with you on the herbal scent, too – the stuff I use right now is Kookaburra, which has a tea tree/eucalyptus scent, and I LOVE it.

  2. Anne,
    Just wanted to let you know that I sent an email to JoAnn requesting a Fibre wash sample and she replied already!
    Thanks for the great review.
    I can’t wait to try it on my spinning samples!

    See you Sunday,

  3. great review! the only problem? after seeing the meadows wool wash scented with patchouli (my absolute favourite scent!) i went hunting on the web… & can’t find anyone in the UK who sells it! boo… oh well! 🙂

  4. I always rinse out the soap. I can’t remember what mine says to do, but I feel funny leaving it in too. It seems to me also that the Soak wash doesn’t get my things clean enough. Maybe I’m just not adding enough, but I’d love to try the Unicorn Wash to see if it works better. Thanks for the review and information!

  5. I called, and will be receiving samples. She seemed disappointed when I said I wasn’t affiliated with a yarn shop, but perked up some when I said I’d let them know how I felt about it.
    Perhaps she has no idea of the power of Ravelry…

  6. Personally, I swear by Eucalan (a non-rinse product) and have never had an issue with residue, stickiness, or irritation against skin. I’ve washed garments as well as hand-spun skeins with it, and I like the fact that I can save water and time by not having to rinse, plus I don’t have to worry about matching temperature of rinse to temperature of wash. The suds seem to break down as the items soak, which I suspect is why no rinsing is called for. I assume you would have tried it as it’s widely available; it also is supposed to have moth-deterring qualities from its eucalyptus component. (I’m also a bit gung-ho on it as it’s a Canadian product, as is Soak – like to support my country’s innovations.) Any opinions?

  7. I suspect Anna does not realize what she has unleashed upon herself letting your readers know they can ask for samples.

    Thanks for the review – that’s all fantastic information!

  8. I’m with you on the Soak scents, they definitely have a common element. I kinda like them so have been using them but I do rinse out usually. I must add this to my list of things to try soon though.

  9. I just posted on my blog about my adventures in cleaning mohair by hand. What a beast!! I wished I had this stuff on hand when I decided to clean it.

  10. My all time favorite was patchouli. I didn’t know
    they made a soak out of it. Now I have chemical
    sensitivities so I don’t think that I can use
    that. Most of my knitting is gifts for other
    people and I’m finding that I can steam them and
    block them. Washing them will be their responsibility. The only things that I make for
    myself are socks and I throw them in the washer
    in a sock bag and that seems to work for me. I
    would love to try the patchouli.

  11. I just spoke with the gal at Unicorn, and she is sending me a small bunch of samples so I can share with my LYS. I told her to get ready for a landslide of calls – she was surprised that she had 10 responses already! Thank you so much for your work in putting this post together.

  12. As a still-somewhat-beginning knitter (only 3 years, and not a lot of washing of garments), I’ve always been confused as to how to wash everything. I recently bought some Eucalan (I think? one of the no-rinse ones), because I didn’t like using my normal laundry detergent on my knitting, but I don’t really know what else you’re supposed to use. So, thank you for the comparison, and the reasoning behind your own preferences. It’s good to know that there might not be a right way or a wrong way but there are real differences between the products on the market. Now to debate whether or not to ask for the sample…

  13. I have been using a tiny amount of shampoo and have been pleased with the results. My thinking: Shampoo smells good and is mild enough to be safe for skin and, to some extent, eyes. My guess is that I’ll learn from one of you nifty fiber folks that what I’m doing isn’t such a good idea. . .Do tell!

  14. Terrific review. Unicorn is a must try. I’ve been using Eucalan for years; but, instead of not rinsing (which I just cannot forego!), I wash it a second time with a second capful. I’m looking forward to my own comparison. Thanks for the lead.

  15. Well, glad you found a good replacement and hoard the rest of your fav for your shawls after all is said and done 😉

  16. I really appreciate your review! I wonder if the Unicorn lady knows how many samples she’s going to need!!!

  17. Thank you; this review is so helpful. I’ve always preferred Meadows with the lavender scent, and now I use Kookaburra, but I’m having a hard time finding that, too. I’ll look for this product at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in a few weeks.

  18. I have had the same experience this summer with Unicorn. My favorite wash for washing dirty fleece was Meadows Scour.
    I found the Unicorn Power Scour and it takes less washes to get a fabulously clean fleece.

    I have been using the Unicorn rinse in my dyeing and it makes a big difference in my fiber for spinning.

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