Friday, February 15, 2013

Lanolin-the Magic Behind the Wool!

So by now, hopefully you know that wool is pretty much the most awesome thing to happen to cloth diapering! If you are confused or just want to review the basics, go for it! This  post is for those of you who, like me, are geeky enough to want to know, not just THAT things work, but WHY they work!
So the magic behind the magic, if you will-is this mystery ingredient called lanolin! Lanolin is an oil that sheep naturally produce. It is what helps them to "weather proof" their coats/wool. When wool is processed into something usable for clothing, it is typically washed (usually many times!). This process removes the lanolin. Now, it is also possible to spin and work wool without doing the washing-this is called spinning or combing "in the grease." However, this leaves the wool waterproof enough that it won't take to dye very well, so in most cases, you are not going to find bright colored wool that has been worked this way.
So what does lanolin do when we are talking about diapering? Several key things-in essence, lanolin is what makes your life as a wool diaper cover-user SO much easier!
  • Lanolin helps the wool to wick moisture away from the baby's body and hold it within the wool (you can think of this as helping to waterproof the wool). Wool which is lanolized can hold up to 1/3 its weight in liquid-this is a LOT of liquid when you are considering that diapering wool is the final barrier over a diaper.
  • Lanolin "conditions" the wool and helps keep it soft. It also helps keep the fibers healthy and lying in the same direction-meaning your diaper wool will last longer. But my favorite thing that lanolin does is...
  • Lanolin is the reason your covers are self cleansing! When the diaper wool gets wet (urine), the fibers swell as they absorb the fluid. This causes them to rub lightly over each other. The lanolin (mixed with urine) creates a natural "soap" that neutralizes the uric acid (the "waste" part of urine) and then that "rubbing" motion is just like scrubbing. This is why you can hang damp wool to dry, and when it is dry, it is clean! It won't even smell musty (or if it does, you need to relanolize your garment).
Now, on a sheep, the lanolin is an oil produced by glands within the sheep, so it is constantly replenished. However, since your wool garment is (we hope!) no longer actually attached to the sheep, you will have to replenish the lanolin. On average, this needs to happen once every 4-12 weeks, depending on how you are using the garment and how many times the lanolin is "used."
Lanolin comes in all forms:
This is solid lanolin-you can buy it from Amazon or Ebay. I use Medela or Lansinoh (the kind you get for breastfeeding issues) because I have that left over from when my guy was little. It is not expensive!

This is liquid lanolin/wool wash. This is readily available-just make sure when you are buying it that it has a high concentration of lanolin (there are wool washes that are made for clothing items, but you want ones made specifically for diapering!).
If you need instructions on how/when to lanolize and wash, feel free to check out these posts.
Also, don't forget that there is a soaker up for grabs (for FREE!) here!
Happy Friday, everyone!

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