Avalon Bay EcoSpin Review
A few months ago, on my birthday, I received the Avalon Bay EcoSpin, but due to a number of reasons I hadn't tested it out until now. OMG - this really does make washing fleeces easier. MUCH easier.
Granted, I don't think this is a solution for someone who needs to process a lot of fleece at one time, unless they have several of these. I've seen in the fleece groups, some people have several giant tubs to wash their fleece going at once. My posts are more geared towards the individual who wants to process their own on a smaller scale, which by the way, is really rewarding. Last several projects, I've mostly used fleeces/colors I processed/dyed on my own, and it just feels so much more unique. Exclusive even. I think anyone who is serious about working with wool should at least give it a try if they have the means to do so - it's a game changer. At least for the sole reason of being able to try other fleeces. So far, the clun forest I bought last year has been one of my favorites to needle felt with, easy to process and dye, and gives me a beautiful smooth finish. That was my first fleece, a totally impulsive purchase, and one I don't regret.
The EcoSpin is basically a giant salad spinner with a drain spout, and suction cups on the base (which is very helpful when you're spinning this thing, trust me). The best part about it is that there is very minimal agitation to your fleece, which is incredibly important when washing something like a fine wool or alpaca. Alpaca, as I've discovered, seems to felt if you just look at it the wrong way. When washing fleece in tubs, you need to dump it out, pick it back up, put it back in the tub, add more water, push it down, maybe swish it around (gently... swish it around gently). All of that handling risks felting.
using the ecospin
Let's go over a few points from the manual. You cannot use boiling water with this. Now, that being said, I've never cleaned my wool using boiling water - HOWEVER - if you notice some wool moths on one of your fleeces, heat is the best way to get rid of them. Contrary to popular belief, cold alone only makes the caterpillars inactive. It doesn't kill them. Hasn't happened to me yet, but it's one of those fears that pretty much anyone who uses wool, and has a lot of it, worries about. Good thing is you only need temps to be above 120° F for 30 minutes to get rid of them, and boiling water is 212° F. So I'd say maybe get some water up to 180 (or boil it and mix in tap water to cool it down some) and fill it with that. Side note: If it's the middle of summer, put your fleece in a black plastic bag, tie it closed, and leave it out in the sun. Or even better, in your car in the sun. It'll be really really smelly when you open it up, because wool sweats, so wash it out to get rid of any bugs and air it out. I've read you can set your dye this way too, but I digress.
The manual says the maximum load capacity is 4.63 lbs. I think this means something like a thick pair of jeans, not 4.63 lbs of something bulky like fleece. You would not be able to fit that much fleece in this thing. Maybe 2lbs at best. Testing this out, I washed 1lb of fleece and there was still a good bit of room left. Honestly I still can't picture how you'd fit four and a half pounds of laundry in this... I mean it's big but it's not THAT big.
There is a max line on the inside of the basket. The manual states "Be careful not to add water higher than the Max Level listed here. If water is too high, the fast speed of the handle will cause the EcoSpin to overflow." OK, first of all, I'm using mine in the utility sink so overflow is not a concern. But it also makes it difficult to spin if it's that full, so I'd think the bigger risk would be possibly snapping the cable that holds the handle on (and allows it to fold down). That being said, this max line is so low, you aren't going to be soaking very much fleece if you only fill it to that line, especially with how much water it absorbs.
I fill it so that, with the fleece in there, it's about 2 inches from the top of the inner basket. To fill it, you can place it so that the water comes in between the outside and inner basket, so you don't felt your fleece. Yes, it's beyond the max line, but I'm not spinning it while it's soaking anyway. I then use my hand, with the lid open, to swish the basket a bit back and forth, help the water flow through the fiber. Especially after adding detergent (I use Unicorn, it's amazing). If you have a fleece that's coarser than ultrafine, you can reach your hand in there and swish it around very gently to help, otherwise just moving the basket a bit is fine. Close it up and let it sit. When you're ready to change out the water, drain the water until it reaches to where the max line is. Just eyeball it, or mark a line outside of the tub with a permanent marker - the washer is translucent so you can see the water level in there. Then start spinning as it finishes draining. Rinse and repeat (pun intended).
When it's your last rinse, i.e. water is totally clear, spin it as fast as you can to get as much water out. Then you can pull the basket out and carry it over to your drying rack. This wool is SO DRY there was barely a hint of dampness. Not even a drip. I was able to place the basket down while I set up my rack and the surface was still dry. Doesn't the wool look so fluffy and dry already?!
Where has this been all my fiber-processing life?
Here are the pros:
- Back-saver (this is a big one for me). When I was washing my fleece in tubs the old-fashioned way, I would lug the tub out of the utility sink, out the door and to the drying rack where I would then dump the whole thing out. Water is not light. One gallon of water is approximately 8.35 lbs. And you know you're using more than a gallon of water. Wool absorbs almost a third of its weight in water. Add all that up, and a day's worth of fleece-washing-rinsing-washing-rinsing-washing-rinsing-etc. will leave you pretty sore. With this, I don't have to lift a thing.
- Time-saver. Part of my final process using the tub method involved laying all the fleece out on a towel, rolling it up, and putting pressure on it (standing on it, walking on it, sitting on it, etc) to try to squeeze as much water out of the fiber as possible to speed up the drying process. The EcoSpin leaves the fleece as dry if not drier than after I was done with the towel method. Also, I'm saving all that time I spent otherwise lugging a tub of wool-and-water back and forth to my rack outside.
- Non-felter. I was trying to come up with a creative one-word term for the fact that this does not felt your fleece (not on it's own, if you handle your fleece while washing you can still technically accidentally felt it).
- Multipurpose. If your washer ever breaks, or your power goes out, or if you don't have one, that's actually its original purpose. Great for delicates. For the parents out there, you could probably wash toys in this as well, like Legos. I wonder if I can spin my salad in it too? (definitely would want to clean it first though, lol)
- Price-point. This costs $67. A salad spinner costs $20-30, and maybe a quarter to half the size. I don't think the price is unreasonable at all, and you can do a lot more with it.
- Can't process an entire fleece at once, unless you only have 2 lbs of it. Doesn't affect me personally, as I wasn't doing that anyway, but I know some people do that all at once. That's not going to happen with this.
- Having a large item to store. Honestly I'm fine with it living in the utility sink, but yes, this does take up a bit of space, so if you don't plan on processing fleece for the rest of your fiber days and/or want something you can use to quickly wash your delicates instead of risking throwing them in the washing machine, it's worth taking into consideration.