The beginning phase of the actual processing of wool begins in the washing or scouring area. The wool is washed or scoured in very hot, soapy water that is normally 65 degrees Celsius. This helps to remove all dirt, lanolin and other foreign materials from the wool before any further processing is attempted. The wool is dipped and soaked in many different bowls containing different consistencies of the cleaning agent. The wool is completely submersed in each tank, then dragged through the substance before being removed at the other side and ran through a set of rollers that squeeze out all the liquid still soaked into the wool. The wool then repeats this process several more times. As the lanolin is removed from the wool it is separated out and is used to make soap, shampoo and other cosmetic products. The cleaning agents can be a combination of several of the following things: Sodium metabisulphite, Hydrogen peroxide and/or insect repellent. Organic acids can also be added to adjust the pH of the wool to a 7 and bacteriostats can be used to sanitize the wool if it is intended for pillows and mattresses.
After the wool is washed it is then dried to about 16% moisture. Some people air dry the wool while others use a large chamber with hot air circulating inside.
Photos Courtesy of Briggs and Little Woolen Mills Ltd. and Frankenmuth Woolen Mill
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