Deodorizing Laser Cut Wool

When you receive your laser cut wool (in my case, from Ponoko), the first thing you’ll likely notice is the smell.  It makes sense if you think about it — wool is a kind of hair, lasers cut by burning, therefore the perfume of burnt hair.  Mmmmmm.

Lean in close and take a deep whiff.

So what can you do about this?  It obviously won’t do to ship to your customer (or use in your own project) as-is.  Follow along as I clean up the most recent order of mustaches for my fleece neckwarmers.  Your project will be different, but here’s what works for me…

My goals are two-fold: deodorize the wool and soften up the burnt edges, but since most of the smell is coming from the burnt edges, this is a two-birds/one-stone operation.

Burnt edges are apparent in this photo.

I use Woolite, a nail brush, and a watertight lidded container. You’ll be sloshing that water around, so get something to make sure it stays where you want it.

Ingredients have been gathered.

Fill the bowl half full of cool water, then add the felt.  This obviously wouldn’t work if you had bigger pieces, but you may be able to do something like fill your sink with water and detergent instead, or you could use a larger Rubbermaid tub without getting quite so sloshy.

Soaking it up.

Now let’s make some bubbles!  Stir it, shake it, spin it.

I’m getting agitated.

Let it sit for 5 minutes, spend another minute gently agitating, sit for 5 more, then agitate again before finally dumping the filthy water. Now do it again.

That water was clear when I put it in.

After two to three cycles of soaking, agitating, soaking, rinsing, and repeating, I pull the pieces out and go after the edges with a stiff nail brush.  On someone else’s advice, I tried an electric toothbrush once (clean and new, of course), but it took a lot longer than I was willing to spend for all of the pieces I had.  With this brush, I can stack the identical pieces and do them all in one clean sweep.

It does raise the felt, but I prefer that more natural look as opposed to the crisp laser edge.

Normally I’d hold the brush with my right hand, but it was busy taking the picture.

I’ll do one more cycle of soaking and agitating, then put the bowl under cool running water until no more soap bubbles appear.

Rinse well under running water.

I pat them dry on a towel, then leave overnight (or longer) on a baking rack for all-around circulation.

On the drying rack.

Below you can see some comparisons of a cleaned mustache and one still needing to be done.  That’s right, for the sake of your education I left one out that I’ll have to clean up separately. Don’t say I never do anything nice for you.

You can see there’s a little bit of shrinkage and some raising of the fibers.  Neither is an issue in my case (and the raised fibers are even a benefit), but you should be aware in case your design’s dimensions are critical.

Comparing the surface finishes. New is on the top, washed is on the bottom.

Comparing edges. You can also see the shrinkage in this shot.

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