Understanding Washing Machines and Caring for Saddle Sox

Not All Washing Machines are Created Equal

It’s important to recognize that different washing machines have distinct functionalities. While this may seem like common knowledge, what might not be immediately evident is the potential harm that eco-friendly washing machines can cause to items like Saddle Sox, wool saddle rugs, and pads.

Traditional Top-Loaders vs. Eco-Friendly Washers

Let’s begin with the conventional approach, the one that has stood the test of time for washing Saddle Sox. For synthetic Sox, a machine wash and tumble dry have always sufficed. This method remains effective for old-fashioned top-loaders. You can adjust the water level (low, medium, or high), and if you’ve forgotten to add an item, it’s easily accommodated. These machines utilize enough water to thoroughly saturate the fibers, and the agitation helps maintain the integrity of the felt. However, the key factor here is the water level.

On the other hand, in eco washers, which determine water usage based on load weight, there’s simply not enough water to adequately wash any saddle sox without jeopardizing the wool felt within. This might not be common knowledge because many, like myself, have a fondness for their old Kenmore washers that allow for manual water adjustment to suit the load type. These machines don’t lock you out once the cycle begins, ensuring that there’s enough water to make the items inside truly wet. I’ve often wondered how a wash cycle with minimal water actually achieves cleanliness, be it for clothes or anything else.

Eco-Friendly Machines and Wool Care

If you own one of these modern, eco-friendly machines, ones that conserve water and lock you out after the cycle initiates, refrain from washing your Saddle Sox, or any other wool felted pad or rug, in them. The water levels will always fall short for proper felt washing.

Caring for Saddle Sox in Eco-Friendly Washers

For those in the eco-friendly washing machine camp, the process for washing your Saddle Sox aligns with how you’d care for Merino Wool or Sheepskin Saddle Sox.

Here’s a straightforward guide:

  1. Brush off any large debris with a grooming brush.
  2. Fill a tub or spacious sink, allowing ample room for full immersion of the sox, with water and Eucalan Soap.
  3. Let them soak for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to overnight. Then, squeeze out any excess water. (Note: If you think they need additional soaks you can repeat this process, never rinsing, until the Sox are clean and then you can spin them out. Personally I have done this up to 5 times on some Sox I have received in for cleaning.)
  4. Place them in the washer, using only the spin cycle to extract remaining moisture.
  5. Finally, let them air dry on a flat surface, ideally in the sun.

Understanding Felt and Water Interaction

Now, some of you might be curious about why a scarcity of water can have such a detrimental effect on felt. The reason lies in the pivotal role that water plays in maintaining the integrity of felt. Without sufficient water, it’s akin to subjecting the felt to repeated shakes by dogs. The fibers begin to disengage, causing shedding and a loss of the felt’s cohesion.

Felting Techniques

To truly grasp how felting occurs, it’s worth noting there are several techniques. One involves the use of needles, a craft in itself where intricate creations are fashioned from felted wool. Another method entails soaking the wool in warm water, followed by agitation and/or needling, and then transitioning to cold water while continuing the process.

The Consequences of Insufficient Water Usage

When water is used minimally, only to slightly dampen the items, all the integrity painstakingly established during the felting process is compromised, resulting in a lumpy, unfelted mess.

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