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Lanolizing wool covers can seem like a complicated thing to do, especially because wool is intimidating enough on its own to a lot of parents already.
To add to this confusion, there are some lanolizing instructions available on the internet that don’t work (speaking from my own experience!).
The truth is that lanolizing wool isn’t as scary as a lot of parents think and I’m here to guide you through the lanolizing process so you’ll end up with evenly lanolized wool covers every time and avoid the common mistakes beginners might make.
Gather the Ingredients for Lanolizing
Here is a list of items you’ll need to lanolize wool covers successfully:
- lanolin in pure solid form (affiliate link to Amazon) or as a pre-prepared store-bought lanolin emulsion (read this post about the best lanolin for lanolizing wool covers),
- an emulsifier, such as baby shampoo or wool detergent (emulsifier is only necessary if you’re using pure solid lanolin),
- a container to lanolize the wool cover in (a mason jar, a kitchen pot, a small basin, etc. One mason jar will suffice for 1 cover, while larger kitchen pots can generally be used for multiple covers at once) and
- clean wool cover(s)
- towels to help with wringing out excess water.
You’ll also need to reserve a couple of minutes of your time to prepare the lanolin bath and to take the covers out of it after a couple of hours to dry them. Read more about how much time does lanolizing take in this post.
Now that we know what we need, let’s head to the next step: preparing the lanolin bath.
Prepare the Lanolin Bath
The two most important things to consider when preparing a lanolin bath: lanolin has to be evenly emulsified and the lanolin bath temperature has to be lukewarm, never hot (no more than 30°C/86°F).
As mentioned above, some lanolin instructions aren’t as clear as possible about how to make sure the lanolin emulsifies completely, especially if you’re using pure solid lanolin instead of an already prepared store-bought lanolin emulsion.
From what I’ve learned the order in which you’re adding ingredients matters, so make sure you follow my instructions below, otherwise, you might end up with lanolin spots all over your wool covers.
First, fill the lanolizing container (mason jar, a kitchen pot, or a small basin) with lukewarm water, so it is ready to go, once you prepare the lanolin emulsion separately.
Here’s some advice for you (speaking from my own experience). Don’t fill up the lanolizing container with hot (or boiling) water for the sake of lanolin having a high enough temperature to melt. You’ll have to wait for hours for the water to reach lukewarm levels (no more than 30°C/86°F) because you can’t put wool in hot water.
Take a smaller container (about 0.6 cup/1.5 dl) in which you’ll prepare the lanolin emulsion. It’s great if comes with a lid so you can shake it nicely without any spills.
Take about 0.3 – 0.5 teaspoon of solid lanolin per wool cover and put it in the small container. Add a drop or two of an emulsifier (baby shampoo or wool detergent). Add hot water until the container is almost full. Put the lid on and shake vigorously until you get a uniform milky-looking emulsion.
“As mentioned above, the order of ingredients matters, so make sure to have an emulsifier present in the mix when lanolin and hot water “meet” for the first time.
Alternatively, if you’re using a store-bought lanolin emulsion, pour the suggested amount into a small container, fill it with hot water, close it with a lid and shake vigorously. You don’t need to add any emulsifiers – they are already in the prepared store-bought lanolin emulsion.
Then, the only remaining step is to pour the lanolin emulsion into a larger container, filled with lukewarm water and mix it, so the whole mixture becomes a milky-looking emulsion. I usually mix the emulsion with a whisker.
Put Wool Covers Inside the Lanolin Bath
Now that your lanolin bath is evenly emulsified (no lanolin patches floating on top of your emulsion) and the temperature is lukewarm (less than 30°C/86°F), it is time to put your wool covers inside the bath.
The wool cover you intend to lanolize needs to be clean – previously washed with a specialized wool detergent.
Some people prefer to lanolize wet wool covers while others lanolize dry covers. The lanolizing instructions I followed always suggested to lanolize dry wool covers, so I always followed this.
Turn the wool cover inside out (if you’re lanolizing nighttime wool covers also known as pull-ups), so the crotch area will be the most exposed to the lanolin bath.
If you’re lanolizing daytime wool covers, you don’t have to turn them around (because you can’t), but I do recommend you undo all the rising snaps before (washing and) lanolizing so it’s lanolized evenly especially if you decide to change up sizes in the coming days or weeks.
Assuming that the container is almost full of the lanolin emulsion (to allow full submersion if the wool cover), you need to submerge the wool cover very slowly.
Wool absorbs water very slowly, so don’t rush this. Otherwise, you’ll just push all the emulsion out of the container and the wool won’t be able to absorb water that quickly.
Once all the wool cover is submerged in the lanolin bath, you can repeat the process and add a few more wool covers if needed.
When all of them are submerged, you have to make sure they stay that way. I usually place a soup plate over the kitchen pot which ensures the wool covers aren’t peaking out of the lanolin bath.
Soak Wool Covers in the Lanolin Bath
This step won’t require any work from you, just some patience.
The lanolizing instructions I followed suggested 3 to 4 hours of soaking the wool covers in the lanolin bath and that is what I usually do.
I know some people only leave the covers for less than an hour and it probably works well enough but I usually want to be sure the wool is properly lanolized to make the most of a lanolizing session.
I have left the covers soaking in the lanolin bath overnight as well, which worked well. In my opinion, this is just overkill time wise but it generally can’t hurt the wool.
If you want, you can turn the wool cover inside out very gently after a while has passed so it’s lanolized on the outside as well but the important part is certainly the inside so I usually don’t bother with turning it around.
You can also gently swish them around to change their position in the lanolin bath every now and then, especially if you’re lanolizing multiple wool covers in one container.
After a couple of hours of soaking in the lanolin bath, it’s time to take the wool covers out and prepare them to dry.
Wring Out Excess Water
If you don’t make the effort to squeeze out as much excess water as possible out of the wool covers, they will drip very heavily and for a very long time.
Since you’re dealing with wool, however, you need to be very careful with the manner of pressing out as much water as possible.
You should never start squeezing or stretching the wool covers manually like you would do with a simple cotton cloth or a towel. The wool might be shocked by this and could felt and shrink.
Instead, I pour the lanolin bath out of the container, leaving only wool covers inside it.
Then I put a large towel folded in half on the bathroom floor (tiles) and place a freshly lanolized wool cover on one end of the towel.
The freshly lanolized wool covers might feel a little sticky from the lanolin – don’t worry about it, it will wear off. You might have even over-lanolized wool – in that case go read this post.
Then I start rolling the towel around the wool cover until it is covered with the towel. A lot of excess water comes out of wool this way.
I repeat this towel roll for 2 to 3 times and if I’m lanolizing pull-ups, I gently turn them around and to the towel roll on this side one time as well.
By now, you’ve squeezed as much of excess water out of the wool cover as possible and it’s time to dry the cover.
Let’s head on to the next step!
Air-Dry Wool Covers Flat
Wool covers can take a couple of days to dry completely.
You might be tempted to speed this process up by tossing them in the dryer but do not do this!
Wool is a sensitive natural fiber that could easily shrink or felt on high heat, not to mention that freshly applied lanolin would likely melt and make the inside of your dryer very greasy.
Instead, use a drying rack, place a towel on it and put the lanolized wool cover on the towel.
Make sure to never place wool on a direct source of heat that might shrink and felt the wool.
The drying rack will allow maximum air circulation and the towel will absorb the extra water that will come out of the cover in the first couple of hours.
I usually remove the towel after about an hour or two when I feel it’s wet and can’t absorb a lot anymore because at that point it’s keeping wool from drying.
Then I just leave the cover placed horizontally on the drying rack until its completely dry (drying time depends on the temperature and humidity levels but it’s about 1 day in the summer and up to 3 days in fall/spring).
I turn the pull-ups inside out and vice versa to dry better in the morning and the evening, so about every 12 hours.
When the wool cover is completely dry, you can start using it.
If you followed the above instructions, the lanolized cover should last you a couple of weeks before your next lanolizing session.