How To Wash Locks

And keep them Frizz free

A bundle of Teeswater lock tied with ribbon

I recently was lucky enough to get my hands on a pound of raw teeswater longwool (not kidding about long, the staple of the lot I received averages about 13 inches in length) that was really well priced. Even though it cost about half as how much teeswater normally goes for, it wasn’t exactly a bargain destash fleece, and I wanted to be positive that not one penny of the $45 I spent on this went to waste. And when I did my un-bagging video on my facebook page, one of my followers mentioned that she had purchased some teeswater locks but they were frizzy (which is a real shame when you’re paying an average of $10/oz of dyed locks), which had me thinking about how I can do this in order to avoid any extra work afterwards to try to save my locks.

*Side note, if you have purchased/received a clump of frizzy locks, I highly recommend watching this video, as well as this one. You could still potentially rescue them.

So as I usually do before I try anything new (and writing my guides), I spent a long time researching prior to deciding how I was going to approach it. I scoured the internet to find out how other people wash their locks. In many cases, fiberistas carefully go through the raw fleece, gently separating it lock by lock, and they create some sort of bundle. Some don’t and just wash them the way that they would any other fleece, except I really wanted to avoid the possibility of the aforementioned frizz. One way I’d seen was to tie the bundles of locks in one or two places, but my thought was that the spots underneath the ties might trap any grease or dirt, and then there’s still the potential of the ends felting together a bit and getting frizzy when pulled apart. I watched one of Natalie Redding’s video on how she washes hers. I watched Mary Egbert’s video (from Camaj Fiber Arts) on how she washes hers. And then I finally settled on doing a combination of Natalie’s and Mary’s methods with my own spin on it.

Before we go any further, I need to point out that there is no single right or wrong way to do this. If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I am far from a purist of any kind, and I’m always open to new ideas. I like to look at all the different methods people use and see if I can make any improvements that work for me. I am also not a fan of purists who think there is only one way to do things. If you’ve been bundling your locks a certain way, and that has been working well for you, keep doing what you’re doing! I also don’t claim to be the first or only one to do it this particular way - I just didn’t see this method of doing it published anywhere online while searching.

When you get your fleece, look over it, pick out any obvious bits of VM, separate the cleaner looking locks from the dirty ones. The cleaner ones can skip this first step and just move on to the bundling process. For the dirtier ones, you are going to need a pre-soak. You don’t need to separate them lock by lock yet for the pre-soak - the goal here is to just get a good bit of the dirt and grime out of the locks first. That way, you don’t have to worry about trying to work out any dirty tips when they’re in the bundles. If you want to, you can do a pre-soak for the entire batch all at once.

Dirty Teeswater locks in Avalon EcoSpin ready for soaking.

Dirty Teeswater locks in Avalon EcoSpin ready for soaking.

When doing the pre-soak, I don’t add any detergent to the water, and only move it around enough to make sure the water gets in and around all the fibers. I leave it to sit for as long as it takes me to remember that I have wool soaking, spin it out, and spread it out in my hanging herb dryer net.

In the meantime, I separate the cleaner looking locks one by one and set them aside. Both Natalie and Mary used tulle, which is what I used - I think I remember some people mentioning in the fiber groups that they have also used pantyhose for their bundles, so if you want to experiment to see what works and have a bunch of hose laying around, you can try that as well. Tulle is much much cheaper than hose, however, and being the craft-supply-hoarder that I am, I’d saved the tulle that I used for my wedding decor nearly 10 years ago.

Process of rolling teeswater locks in a long sheet of tulle into bundles, one lock after the next with an inch or two of space between locks.

Process of rolling teeswater locks in a long sheet of tulle into bundles, one lock after the next with an inch or two of space between locks.

I cut the tulle sheets into three sections so that it would be wide enough, leaving several inches on each end of the staple. Cut yours to whatever width you need for your locks (you may get more or less sections out of your tulle). Then carefully, starting with the cleanest locks in the middle and ending with the slightly dirtier ones on the outside, I started rolling it in the tulle. I’d turn it over, leaving 1-2 inches between locks, add another lock, turn it over, add another lock, and so-on. That way none of the locks were touching each other inside the bundle, and there was plenty of “air” between them to allow for good water flow.

Bundles of teeswater locks rolled in tulle, with ends folded and stapled to close, ready to be washed.

Bundles of teeswater locks rolled in tulle, with ends folded and stapled to close, ready to be washed.

As I approached the end of the tulle, I left enough to wrap it around one or two more times. The last thing you want is any locks trying to escape. The tulle bundles may look stiff now, but once they hit the water they turn into a soft, floppy noodles. To secure, you may choose to use rubber bands as Natalie does with hers. I found that using a stapler ended up being much faster. I was a bit concerned about the staples potentially rusting during the soaking process, but this wasn’t going to be a several-day long soak. You’ll be done with these before they get a chance.

Bundles of teeswater locks soaking in an even layer of hot water in the utility sink

Bundles of teeswater locks soaking in an even layer of hot water in the utility sink

Washing them was relatively simple. I laid them all out in one layer in my utility sink, filled it up with hot water, and let them soak. I moved them around a bit at first, to get the water swishing through them, and then I became a bit more confident. I still didn’t heavily agitate them, as I didn’t want to accidentally nuno-felt them to the tulle, but no real need for kid gloves here. Drain the water, rinse them with a sprayer if you want (I did), refill, add detergent (I use Unicorn Baby Beyond Clean), swish, drain, add water to rinse, swish, drain, one more rinse, drain (continue rinsing until water remains clear). If there were any dirty tips, I just scraped them with my nail a bit through the tulle to break it up.

Unrolling the bundles of Teeswater locks after washing and removing excess water.

Unrolling the bundles of Teeswater locks after washing and removing excess water.

When you’re done, if you have a spinner, go ahead and throw them in to spin out the excess water. If you don’t, you can roll them up in a towel and press as much water out as you can (stand on it if you want to). Then it’s time to unbundle them! Pop the staples off the tulle - they will slide right off, no cutting necessary - and toss the staples in the bin. Then start unrolling them, pulling each lock out and setting it aside one by one. If some of the locks are a little attached, just pull them off. I think the frizz is more of an issue when you pull the locks apart when they’re dry, not so much when they’re wet. You can run them between your fingers and tug on both ends the way Sharon Tree does in her rescuing frizzy locks video. Then place them on a drying net, like the herb drying racks or pop up sweater drying racks or even just a towel will do.

Teeswater locks drying in the hanging herb drying rack - holding one of the locks up to show minimal/no frizz

Teeswater locks drying in the hanging herb drying rack - holding one of the locks up to show minimal/no frizz

When they’re done drying, they should look something like this!

Separating clean teeswater locks into two piles, white ones to keep as is and stained ones to dye at a later date.

Separating clean teeswater locks into two piles, white ones to keep as is and stained ones to dye at a later date.

The final part of the process is totally optional. I collected my dried locks and decided to separate the brightest, whitest locks from the ones that had more yellowish tips. The ones with the yellowish tips will be dyed later (which I will share with you when I get my Teeswater lock post up).

What method do you use for washing locks in order to preserve their structure? I’d love to hear what you do in the comments below!