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how to extract lanolin from wool  RSS feed

 
Judith Browning
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do you have any more details on how to extract lanolin. You mention boiling? Is there more to it than just boiling, or can it be extracted effectively by just boiling? Thank you so much!


Nicole, I got curious about this and ran across a short video....apparently bringing the wool to a boil is the main part of the initial process.  From my experience with natural dyes I'm fairly certain that this won't necessarily hurt the wool as long as it's done slowly up to temperature (maybe a slow simmer rather than a rolling boil?) and not agitated or suddenly immersed in cold water.  This video makes it look fairly simple and I love the stove used. There was no mention of cleaning the lanolin/wool wax/wool grease after skimming off....Maybe would need remelting and straining at least?  I think it looks completely possible on a small scale.

I might try this with the last bit of unwashed fleece that I have and see if I still like it to spin after that.  I really enjoy spinning wool with some lanolin left in and this might make it too dry.


edit
to add a bit of info from another site... http://www.pbs.org/weta/roughscience/series3/shakers/handcream.html
To extract the lanolin from unwashed wool you boil the wool in water for a few hours, adding salt to improve the yield of lanolin. Next, you reduce the solution by boiling off most of the water. After you filter any undissolved solid material from the hot solution and let it cool, you should be left with a pale-yellow waxy solid floating on the surface of the water. This is impure lanolin. You can purify it, as we did on the show, by taking the crude lanolin and shaking it with a mixture of olive oil and water. The impurities will dissolve into the water and the oil, leaving you with a solid layer of off-white, waxy 'purified' lanolin suspended between the oil and water.

I wonder at the way they suggest 'purifying' the lanolin....now I really want to try this.
On rereading this I think it wouldn't damage the wool either.....at first I thought they were suggesting reducing while the wool was still in the vat....not sure the salt would be necessary? especially if we wanted some lanolin left in the fleece.

http://queenbeefibers.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-to-seperate-lanolin-from-wool.html
Step one- Fill a large pot with hot water (pot should be large enough to fit your wool)

Step two- Put the raw wool in a laundry bag and place in pot

Step three- Add salt (1-3 tablespoons)

Step four- Bring water to a steady boil for a few hours. Do not leave wool unattended. Add water as needed.

Step five- Remove wool from water and place in a container to dry. (Water is very hot so do this with gloves and tongs)

Step six- Continue to boil water until it all evaporates. What is left is the lanolin!

Step seven- Pour the leftover lanolin though cheese cloth or muslin. This will remove dirt and debris.

Step eight- Allow lanolin to cool then jar!
 
r ranson
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This began as a post in the the raising sheep only for wool thread.  But it's so darn awesome, it deserves a thread of its own. 

Thanks Judith for posting about this topic.  I'm excited to try it, but unfortunately, all my sheep are low lanolin breeds.  I'll have to find some with more grease in their wool. 

I could see this as a useful step in preparing wool for dyeing.

Anyone try this?  What was it like?
 
Rebecca Norman
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I'm not the type to post about skin care products, but seriously, I started using lanolin on my face last year and It. Is. Great. I live in the desert and am not getting any younger, and scented products end up hurting my eyes later in the day, so I was cycling through different unscented commercial products that didn't work that well, or oils like apricot oil that seemed to work well initially but later turned out to be basting my face like a pastry getting crispy in an oven. But lanolin, oh yeah, that really works! I bought some kind of purified lanolin off amazon in the US, and I'm a total convert.

About the purification method above, since oils float, I don't see why it's necessary to boil all the water away before taking the lanolin. And then shaking it with water and oil? Why not skim the lanolin off the top in the first place, or cool the water with the lanolin on top? But since I've never done anything like it I could be totally wrong.
 
Judith Browning
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About the purification method above, since oils float, I don't see why it's necessary to boil all the water away before taking the lanolin. And then shaking it with water and oil? Why not skim the lanolin off the top in the first place, or cool the water with the lanolin on top? But since I've never done anything like it I could be totally wrong.


I think you're correct...and I also wondered at all of the boiling after the wool was removed.  The Edwardian video shows boiling the wool for a period of time and then letting it all cool off and then skimming the lanolin from the top.  Boiling the water away to retrieve the lanolin seems unnecessary to me too.  I think I would try the method shown in the video and then if the lanolin needed further cleaning try shaking in a jar with olive oil and water (mainly because I'm really curious about that step).

I guess it's time to start experimenting.....
 
Travis Johnson
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I know when we shear sheep, my job is to go in and rinse the sheep shears off in warm water so that the lanolin that has collected, washes away. It takes warm water to do that, but not hot...as in boiling wtaer. I am wondering if it depends on what you are after. Lets say you want 100% lanolin and don't care about the wool, then boil the wool and get as much lanolin as you an. But maybe if you were okay with 75% lanolin and still retain the wool, you could just heat up...

I don't know, but that is my question I guess. I do not do wool so I might shear my sheep and try various testing methods. You know say 50 pounds of wool 100% rolling boil. 50 pounds of wool simmered, 50 pounds of wool warmed, etc then weigh the lanolin obtained and see how they do.

Anyone got the link for the lanolin sheep breeds? I looked but could not find it. I did find out that a farmer can obtain 2-4 pounds of lanolin per hundred pounds of wool.
 
Judith Browning
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Travis Johnson wrote:I know when we shear sheep, my job is to go in and rinse the sheep shears off in warm water so that the lanolin that has collected, washes away. It takes warm water to do that, but not hot...as in boiling wtaer. I am wondering if it depends on what you are after. Lets say you want 100% lanolin and don't care about the wool, then boil the wool and get as much lanolin as you an. But maybe if you were okay with 75% lanolin and still retain the wool, you could just heat up...

I don't know, but that is my question I guess. I do not do wool so I might shear my sheep and try various testing methods. You know say 50 pounds of wool 100% rolling boil. 50 pounds of wool simmered, 50 pounds of wool warmed, etc then weigh the lanolin obtained and see how they do.

Anyone got the link for the lanolin sheep breeds? I looked but could not find it. I did find out that a farmer can obtain 2-4 pounds of lanolin per hundred pounds of wool.


I think you're right that one wouldn't need to necessarily boil the wool.  I use fairly hot water to wash my wool and a minimum of dish soap so I still have some lanolin in it for ease in spinning...I might try the same method minus the dish soap next time and see if any lanolin rises to the top as it cools.  When dyeing though, sometimes I bring the vat to a simmer for maybe an hour tops, never a boil.  I think, at least in the past, no one would ruin a fleece to get the lanolin so I suspect they weren't really using a rolling boil that I'm pretty sure would cause the fleece to felt.

I don't know particular breeds so don't have any information on which sheep would have the most lanolin...interested though and it might be something I would look for when we sheep shop this summer.
 
Travis Johnson
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I just have so many breeds of sheep that I thought I might try taking the lanolin off the breed with the most lanolin.
 
r ranson
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Looking at the Big Book of Handspinning by Alden Amos

p. 50.  "Wool felt melts between 105 and 110F, a fact which established the minimum effective temperature for the scouring liquid or liquor, to use the technical term, a combination of soap, water, and alkali.  Heating the scouring liquor to at least 110F is the easiest way to accomplish this.  Still, the bath should not be too hot: above 125F (52c), even mild alkalis damages wool.  This places the optimal scouring temperature between 110 (44c) and 120F (49c)."

Scouring is a way washing wool that gets most, or better still all, of the lanolin, sunit (sheep sweat) and other much out of the wool.  This is different than regular washing which focuses on removing dirt and removes only some of the lanolin and sunit.  Scouring is a combination of real soap and heat (and preferably the correct water to wool ratio), and some other factors to get a wool clean enough to dye, cleaning is often done with detergents and tap water.

What does this have to do with extracting lanolin?  It gives us a melting temperature for lanolin.  However, that's in a solution with soap (an alkali) so it has a maximum temperature to prevent the wool from being damaged.  But if we don't have the soap in it, would it still release the lanolin at so low a temperature? 

I guess what I get from this is that maybe we don't need to boil the wool?  Boiling or simmering the wool encourages it to felt.
 
Daniel Schneider
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Hej hej!
I was wondering, has anyone else tried doing this? Sofie and I tried last summer, and got pretty much nothing. We used the Edwardian Farm segment as our starting point, and basically just filled an 18 liter stockpot with some wool we weren't too attached to, then added water to cover, slowly brought it to a boil over the course of an hour or so, boiled it for about 5 hours. then let it cool, and looked for the lanolin that wasn't there. On the plus side, the wool was wuite usable afterwards. I actualy spun it up with bery little trouble. there were some tangled bits that we discarded rather than try to card out (maybe 5% of the total), it was quite dry compared to my usual spinning yarn-not too surprisingly, as I generally just do a cold-water  wash with no soap to get rid of suint and dirt, bu not the lanolin- and the yarn was harsher than the unboiled wool gave, but it would serve perfectly well for rugs, furniture fabric, coarse blankets, or coats/cloaks. I haven't done a lot of felting so I'm not really sure, but my gut feeling is that it would work for that, and it was so thoroughly scoured that I'm sure it would dye like a dream.I think the trick was the very slow warming up to the boiling point and cool-down, and the fact that we didn't stir it too much while it was boiling.

However, the main point of the exercise was lanolin production, not how to safely boil wool, and *that' was a bust. We've talked about it ourselves and with some other interested folks, and have come up with these ideas for trying to do better:

Different wool: possibly the wool was too old, and the lanolin had dried up and fallen/rubbed off, or evaporated; maybe that wool didn't have enough lanolin to give a result in the first place
A number of recipes suggest adding salt to the water, so we might should try that
Take the wool out of the water while it's still hot-maybe the lanolin reattached to the wool as it all cooled. Considering the dryness of the wool when I spun it, it doesn't seem so likely, but...
Try boiling down the liquid after removing the wool. Lanolin mixes with water- that's why it's so useful in creams, salves, etc- so maybe it won't just solidify when it cools; the water might have to be physically removed.
Do a cold-water wash of the wool before starting. Suint mixes with urine on fleeces to make a natural soap: maybe that binds to the lanolin when it melts, and getting rid of it while the lanolin is still solid would mean the lanolin will stay in a usable form.

So, has anyone tried any of these things, so we don't have to? Or even better, has anyone successfully extracted lanolin, and feel like sharing tips ? If not, as we do more experiments, I'l let ye know what happens

 
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