How to Wash long locks

Often there are beautiful, long locks displayed on web pages and for sale on sites like Etsy.  Ever wondered what the trick is to washing those beautiful long locks specific to rare breeds.  Raylene Regan of Inverleigh Farms has provided a tutorial for us. 

Step 1 - Choosing A Fleece

Step 1  - Choose a long-stapled, strong fleece and process in small batches of 50-100g.

Step 1 - Choose a long-stapled, strong fleece and process in small batches of 50-100g.

For beginners, a long stapled, stronger fleece type is recommended. For this page, a naturally gray coloured Perendale yearling fleece (staple length of 18cm and about 28 microns) has been used. Wash the locks in 50-100 gram lots.  Otherwise you will end up with a wet, tangled fleecy mess.










Step 2 - Tying fiber bundles

Step 2 - Tie small bundles with sewing thread

Step 2 - Tie small bundles with sewing thread

Use approximately 20-30cm of normal sewing thread, doubled to tie the fiber bundles.  Lay the doubled cotton thread on a flat and easy-to-clean surface (e.g. I use the lid of my washing machine).  Carefully remove the staples of wool from the body of the fleece.  Lay them on top of the cotton thread. Place the tie about 1/4 of the way down the length of the staple. In this example the tie was approximately 4 cm from the top of the bundle. Once you have about 10 grams, tie the thread tightly around the bundle.  Don't panic too much on the amount of wool.  You will get the hang of it.  For this fleece, it was about 5-6 staples per bundle. Note that you will snip the cotton free later.











Step 3 - Locks tied into small, manageable batches.

Step 3 - Locks tied into small, manageable batches.

Repeat step 2 until 50-100 grams of locks have been tied.










Step 4 - Washing the locks

I prefer cat litter trays for this. They are wide and easy to use (cheap, too). A bucket is too deep and narrow and doesn't allow the locks to open up to clear the lanolin out properly. 

Half fill the cat litter tray with HOT tap water. The water needs to be 60 celsius or there about to melt the lanolin in the fleece.  Add a good quality wool scour.  I prefer a proper wool scour as opposed to wool wash or soap flakes as it removes the lanolin and dirt quickly without the need for any agitation at all. The one I use is Australian made and biodegradable.

Gently immerse the bundles one by one into the water.  I gently push them under using the bottom of the scour container so I don't scald myself. Walk away for 15 minutes. DO NOT stir, play with, move or agitate the locks. Go grab a coffee or check to see what the kids are up to. Because sure enough they will be up to something while you're preoccupied.

Once 15 mins is up and the water has cooled down enough that you don't injure yourself, remove the locks from the water one at a time. Gently squeeze out excess water and place them on a flat surface (again, for me, the top of the washing machine).  

If you have forgotten them and left the bundles so long that the water has cooled, don't panic just keep plugging along. It only means the lanolin will have reattached to the fiber, and the beauty of a stronger wool is isn't doesn't as easily felt in rapid temp changes.  


Step 5 - Repeat washing then rinse

Empty out the water into a bucket. Don't pour it down your drain. Over time, the lanolin will build up and block the pipes. Garden plants LOVE this water.  Refill the litter tray with clean, hot tap water, a small amount of scour and repeat the process.   Depending on the fleece and the amount of grease/dirt it may take several washes for the locks to come clean. A particularly dirty fleece may benefit from a cold soak overnight before washing.

once your water is clean (this fleece took two washes in the scour) fill your tray with clean hot tap water and soak the locks for 15 mins to rinse. Remove now clean locks.







Step 5 - Drying Locks

Step 5 - Leave locks to dry in a sheltered place.

Step 5 - Leave locks to dry in a sheltered place.

Here on the farm, I am lucky enough to have a nice, roomy verandah and a drying rack to dry locks and fleeces. However use whatever space you can negotiate. One of those airing racks for cakes works wonderfully for drying locks quickly.

For best results, open up the wet lock. I do this by smacking them on the rail of the verandah; first the tips, then the butts. This fluffs up the locks and allows for easier separation later.

Lay out your locks on your chosen drying rack or folded up towel to let them dry.  Don't do this outside on a windy day unless, like me, you have a sheltered verandah. Otherwise, they will fly off down the driveway when they are dry.



Step 6 - Ready!

Step 6 - Dried locks ready to go!

Step 6 - Dried locks ready to go!

Your scrumptious locks are now ready. You can snip the thread if you are ready to spin or dye.  If you are dying the tips, you may want to leave them tied in bundles.  Enjoy!