Although I live in Missouri, I’m from Florida so I didn’t grow up wearing wool. I came to love it during about 5 months out of the year though after moving here to the great white north. I thought this story was interesting mainly because of the process described in the release. It’s “biopolishing.” At first you might think that means taking a very tiny buffing machine and applying it to some new genetically enhanced micro-organism or something. Not so. Read about it in the release from the American Sheep Industry Association.
ASI ANNOUNCES NEW WOOL PROCESSING METHOD
DENVER, Colo. – Wash and wear wool has been available for many years. Unfortunately, the processes used to achieve washability, while completely successful, require expensive equipment. Recognizing this, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) teamed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in 2001 to develop a revolutionary new environmentally friendly wool-processing method, called biopolishing, which is now ready for commercial application. This inexpensive process will change the comfort level of wool garments.
ERRC’s Jeanette Cardamone, Ph.D., developed a process to remove the outer-lipid layer from the wool fiber using activated peroxide. Removal of the lipid layer is required for the second part of the process to be successful. In the second step, wool is exposed to a special blend of enzymes that ‘digest’ the now exposed scales on the surface of the wool fiber. The scales on the fiber surface cause wool shrinkage; by removing them, shrinkage is minimized and the resulting garments are now washable. In addition, biopolishing makes wool fabrics brighter, whiter and more easily worn next to the skin.
To date, all of the biopolishing mill trials have been successful at treating knitted or woven fabrics; however, trials are currently under way to determine biopolishing’s success with yarns and loose fibers.
For more information contact Rita Kourlis Samuelson.