Monday, January 11, 2016

Staying Warm: Wool Blankets

Winter is in full swing. Unless you live in the Southwest, and even some locations there, you may be dealing with extreme cold and snow. It takes someone smart to stay warm.
At one time, woolen blankets were found in every home, but today, the majority of our blankets are woven of cottons or acrylic fibers which are fairly easy care. But don't let that deter you from owning or inheriting pure wool blankets they're not that hard to care for and they'll keep you very warm on a cold night. Just a few tips on caring and storing is all you need and you can start to enjoy these warm covers.
The Technical Side of Wool.
Each wool fiber (measuring about a thousandth of an inch in diameter, depending on the grade) consists of a bundle of corticle cells, made up of polypeptide chains arranged in coils. These corticle cells are wrapped up in a scaly outer layer called a cuticle, which in turn is covered by a filmy skin called an epicuticle. The epicuticle actually sheds drops of water.
In addition, raindrops are less likely to break up on the surface of wool and seep through than with other fabrics, since the fuzziness of the fibers cushions the fall. So in a light rain, much of the water runs right off, the fabric hardly getting damp at all.
But the real genius of the wool fiber lies in its ability to cope with the high humidity that you may get during rainstorms or at other times. The sheep (they may look stupid, but it's all an act) have cleverly equipped the epicuticle with tiny pores that allow water vapor to pass through to the core, where it's chemically absorbed. A single fibre can slurp up to 30 percent of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet.
Wool does act as a natural insulator, thanks to its built-in crimp. The fibers repel each other, keeping a bit of dead air in between them. But it's the epicuticle that does the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping you warm despite the wet What type of Blanket?
Purchasing a blanket made of 100% wool is best, but hard to come by. A Blanket made of 80% wool, or above will give you similar results as a 100% wool blanket does. Just be sure the weaving is the right kind. If you want a long lasting blanket, that can be washed many times, you want to ask for a "Loom woven" blanket. A less expensive, but with limited washings (if any) is a "Needle-punch" blanket. Learning the difference between the two types of weave will help you decide what blanket to Purchase.
What is a "loom woven" wool blanket?

The yarn from two directions are actually woven together.

Produces a very durable, warm and long lasting wool blanket that is suitable for machine washing and drying.

Recommended for facilities that will wash and dry woolen blankets on a regular basis.
What is a "needle-punch" or "non-woven" wool blanket?

Blended fibers of wool and synthetic are intertwined with thousands of needles above and below, producing a felt-like blanket material.

Produces a warm, limited-use wool blanket for disaster and emergency relief.

This inexpensive process allows for large quanties of wool blankets to be produced quickly and sold at a low cost to humanitarian organizations.

Not recommended for machine washing.
What's So Great About Wool?
Wool is water resistant. The quality that distinguishes wool fibers from hair or fur is the presence of a hard, water- repellent outer layer that surrounds each hollow fiber, overlapping like shingles on a roof. The fiber's core absorbs up to 30% of its weight in moisture vapor without becoming damp or clammy, while the hard outer layer protects against outside liquid moisture. Water is repelled, but humidity is absorbed, and that helps with thermal regulation.
Wool is moisture wicking. Besides keeping outside moisture away from the skin, wool also wicks away perspiration. When you sweat, that sweat cools your skin—which is not what you want when it's cold outside. Wool fibers absorb perspiration and wick it away from your body, thus keeping you warm and dry.
Wool is a wonderful insulator. The crimp of the wool produces insulating air spaces that retain body heat. These warm air pockets next to the skin are kept dry while the hollow wool fibers absorb moisture vapors and the hard outer surface moves liquid moisture away from the body.
Wool regulates temperature and is breathable. Wool has a very wide comfort range, essential for adapting to changing weather conditions. This unique property makes wool the perfect fiber to be used in the production of outerwear, because it has the versatile ability to warm in colder conditions and cool in warmer conditions.
Wool blends well. Wool can be blended with many different natural and synthetic fibers to create a multitude of fabric options.
Wool helps Allergies. Wool is an inhospitable environment for dust mites.
Sensitive Skin Alert. Persons who have allergies or sensitive skin may find pure wool blankets or fabrics irritating on their skin.
Here are a few tips to help you prolong the use of a wool blanket:
Beat and brush the blanket: Every few days, simply slap the blanket against a door, pipe, fence, etc. Then use a soft to medium stiff horse brush (not a metal curry comb), and brush the hair and dander from the blanket. This won’t take more than 5 minutes of your time.
Wash the blanket: Every 60 to 90 days, wash the blanket in a tub of cold water. For best results, put your blanket in a tub of water and let it soak for a least an hour. Then, as best you can "wring" the blanket in the water, then "wring"
it out of the water.
Hang the blanket over a rail: (like the top rail of a fence), and with a soft to medium brush, lightly brush the blanket on both sides. Let the blanket air dry completely, then slap it against a door or fence until it feels as soft as a brand new one.
NOTE: It is best Not to use soap when washing wool blankets. The blanket will retain much of the soap (even soaps made specifically for wool). When the blanket becomes wet with sweat, the residual soap may seep throughout the very porous wool, and irritate a horse’s back.
After a few washings, the color will of course begin to fade. This has no bearing on the usefulness of the blanket in serving it’s true purpose. You might find that you prefer an older, faded, soft blanket next to your horse’s back. After all, the concept is to protect your horse’s back and keep them comfortable
How to wash your wool Blanket…
The rule of thumb for all pure wool clothing and blankets is to wash in cold water and gently wring or use the delicate cycle and low spin on your washer. It's no longer necessary to handwash woolen items, as most washers now have a delicate agitation cycle and low spin feature. Heat can and usually does shrink woolens, reducing them in size and ruining their appearance. Cold water and gentle washing will help keep your woolens in good condition.
Wool requires special care. It is important to read the care label of your wool blankets. Some wool blankets are washable.
Others will need to be dry cleaned. Once wool has been shrunk, there is no way to retrieve the original size - so be careful! If your wool blanket's care label says that it is machine washable, wash in cold water and lay flat to dry, unless otherwise stated.
Yes, they can be dry cleaned if you prefer. All of them can be washed, but the technique for washing has changed in the last few year.
Easy Soak
If your wool blanket is washable you may wish to try the easy soak method. It that saves energy and prevents shrinkage. Use lukewarm water and an unbuilt synthetic detergent. Unbuilt detergents are those are those containing no soap and no builders such as washing soda, borax, and other chemical compounds that are alkaline. All soaps and all water softeners contain alkalis, which are damaging to wool.
First pretreat any spots or especially soiled areas with detergent. Dampen the area and apply the detergent with a soft brush or sponge. You can use the easy soak method in either tub or washing machine.
1. Fill the washer with lukewarm water, add the detergent, then put your blanket in.
2. Without operating the washer, let the blanket soak for 15-20 minutes.
3. Then turn it over once or twice by hand and spin off the water.
4. Refill the machine with lukewarm water and with washer off let the blanket soak-rinse for 5 minutes.
5. Spin out the water. Dry by hanging the wool blanket on a taught line with a fold in the middle. Or hang the blanket over parallel lines placed about a foot apart for quicker drying. The blanket should be in the shade.
Some other options are to hang wool blankets outside in summer and let them air dry. If that's not possible, you could hang a slightly damp blanket over a door or lay it across a few chair backs and it will dry overnight. A non-rusting shower or towel bar is also a good option.
Do not use clothes-pins; they will leave a mark. When the blanket is thoroughly dry, fluff the nap up with a stiff brush and press the bindings, but not the blanket.
A moth-proofing mixture (EQ-53) can be added to the second rinse if desired. The blanket can then be stored safely in the linen closet without wrapping. This method of washing blankets gives fine results. The detergents rinse out easily, leaving the blankets soft and fluffy. There is less shrinking, matting, or stretching than if the blanket was agitated in a washer or squeezed and rubbed by hand.
Storing Wool Blankets.
Since woolen blankets are usually stored when not required, it's important to protect them in storage from pests and dampness. Years ago, moth balls were used to keep insects from destroying the wool fibers, but this method left a lasting, hard-to-get-rid-of unpleasant scent that permeated the whole room.
Today, you can easily store these blankets in a tightly-sealed bin or heavy plastic bag. If pests are a real concern in your area, you can add a few cedar chips which are available from most general merchandise outlets. Cedar wood is a natural flying insect repellent and is a good alternative to moth balls.
How to get odors out of a blanket?
Some staining substances can leave a strong residual odor which remains even after repeated cleanings. There is a treatment that may be effective when standard cleaning methods are not. It is called an ozone treatment and is particularly useful for organic based odors. Ozone treatments are occasionally available through dry cleaners. You can also look for an ozone treatment facility in the phone book; look under "ozone" or "fire restoration" (ozone treatments are often used for the removal of smoke odor) on the internet.
Protecting wools from moth damage?
To best protect wools from moths, it helps to first know when wools are susceptible to this type of insect damage.
Moth damage to wools mainly occurs during storage or when wool articles are not moved or worn on a regular basis.
Clothes moths, which are small buff-colored moths, choose dark, quiet, undisturbed places to lay eggs. It's the moth larvae that feed on wool, not the adult moths. Knowing that wools are susceptible to moth damage during storage or inactivity, here are several easy steps that will generally prevent damage:
Clean your wool before placing in storage. Soiled wools (even those which have picked up invisible body oils) are more likely to attract moths. Both dry cleaning and laundering will remove any moth eggs or larvae.
After cleaning, store wools in an airtight bag or container.
Although the above steps should be effective for moth control, some consumers choose to use additional measures for moth control. Commonly-found moth control products on the market include moth balls, moth crystals, cedar (in various forms) and herbal sachets. Both the moth balls and crystals are very effective when used as directed.