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Wool Wash Review : Unicorn Clean | Kookaburra | Eucalan | SOAK

March 07, 2015

UPDATED JANUARY 2018 to include current pricing, product images and thoughts.

Nearly three years ago, we were gearing up to launch our own brand of wool baby garments, YOOKI. We knew we wanted to sell a wool wash alongside our garments but being the small start-up that we were, we couldn't afford to carry more than one brand. So, we had to make a choice. Naturally, we wanted to carry the best product. That's what inspired this wool wash comparison. Given the available equipment in our kitchen laboratory, we took our best shot at making this scientific and unbiased.

METHODS SUMMARIZED:

Un-dyed wool felt was used to test the cleaning action of five popular wool washes against a variety of stains you encounter in everyday life. Although the material was “stained” by allowing the different staining materials to completely dry into the material, this test was not intended to completely remove the stains but to be used to compare the cleaning power between the different wool washes. Actual stain removal would generally require some additional effort and use of soaps such as Fels-Naptha or BunchaFarmers (these will be tested in the future). For more specific info on methods see below.

WOOL WASHES

STAINS

  • BLUEBERRY JUICE
  • VEGETABLE PURÉE
  • TOMATO JUICE
  • COFFEE
  • HIGHLIGHTER MARKER
  • DIRT
  • SHARPIE MARKER

 Close-Up of the Dry Wool Swatches after the 6 hr Wash/Soak:

Unicorn Fibre Wash Unicorn Beyond Clean Eucalan
SOAK Kookaburra

 RESULTS

 

BEST WOOL WASH REVIEW UNICORN VS SOAK EUCALAN KOOKABURRA

Link to Enlarged Results Table

 

Listed immediately below are our summarized thoughts/pros/cons for each product.

For more detailed results and methodology continue reading below the summary.

 

Unicorn Beyond Clean | Fragrance-free version of Unicorn Power Scour

Best for: heavily soiled/stained or smelly knits | removing lanolin build-up

Strengths: toughest on stains, fastest acting, good for cloth diaper washing too

Weaknesses: cost

 

Unicorn Beyond Fibre | Unicorn Fibre Wash

Best for: All purpose wool wash, stains and/or moderate-lightly soiled knits

Strengths: tough on stains, fast acting

Weaknesses: cost

 

Kookaburra Wash

Best for: medium-mildly soiled knits

Strengths: low cost, rinse-free option

Weaknesses: out-performed by other washes on stains, slower acting

 

Eucalan Delicate Wash

 Best for: medium-mildly soiled knits

Strengths: low cost, rinse-free

Weaknesses: out-performed by other washes on stains, slower acting

 

SOAK

 Best for: lightly soiled knits or imparting fragrance onto knits

Strengths: available in hip/trendy scents, rinse-free

Weaknesses: cleaning action was weakest, expensive (relative to performance)

 

SUMMARY | TAKE-HOME MESSAGE

If you routinely wash wool that is smelly and/or needs deep cleaning and even stain control, I recommend using the Unicorn products which were the most powerful cleaners for only a few cents more per wash.

If you're generally washing wool that only needs light maintenance washing and no serious odor control then the Kookaburra and Eucalan are solid low-cost options.

If your main goal is to impart lovely scents onto your wool and you're not in the market for a deep powerful cleaner then Soak will do the job. We also recommend Sweet Tea 'N Biscuits handcrafted wool washes for this purpose (we did not test the cleaning power relative to these other brands, but we know that they make wonderful products, have great customer service, are a small mom-run business, AND they offer a variety of lovely scents).

 

CLEANING POWER:

Best performer was Unicorn Beyond Clean (equivalent to Unicorn Power Scour). Weakest performer was SOAK.

TIME:

SHORT SOAK TIME | 1 HR OR LESS

The Unicorn products were the fastest acting on stains and had noticeable effects as soon as 15 mins into the soak. In particular, Unicorn Beyond Clean (equivalent to the classic scented Power Scour) was the fastest. The Unicorn Beyond Fibre/Fibre Wash was a close second.

LONG SOAK TIME | 6 HOURS OR MORE

Kookaburra, Eucalan and SOAK all required an extended soak in order to signifcantly impact the stains in our test. If you have the extra time and are not in need of serious stain removal, Eucalan and Kookaburra are solid budget-friendly options. For a little extra money you get a more effective and faster acting detergent from Unicorn.

Maybe you're thinking, Hey!, the Kookaburra, Eucalan and SOAK might work more quickly and have more powerful cleaning action if used at a higher concentration. It's important to keep in mind how that impacts the cost/wash. Doubling or even increasing the concentration of the two lowest-cost options by 50% would bring the price above the already fast acting and powerful Unicorn Beyond Clean. We also didn't test anything at a concentration above the recommended amount so it's hard to say what the result would be.

 

Our overall favorite when considering time, cleaning action and price:

Unicorn Beyond Clean

This product gave us the rapid clean that we think most of our customers will appreciate. The majority of our customers are cloth-diapering moms that value both time and money but are willing to pay a little extra for something that works well. Even if you aren't washing cloth diapers or wool diaper covers, this product offers a ton of value for the money.

While it is the most expensive option we tested, we think that the extra 2-12¢ per handwash is worth the gained value of effectiveness and time-savings. If price is a major concern but you wash a fair amount of wool/delicates, there is a gallon size which offers a significant cost savings of 53%: 19¢ per wash vs. 40¢ per wash.

Note that many of our customers are also lanolizing their wool which plays into our decision. This product is perfect for removing lanolin build-up on treated diaper covers and also on raw fleece. Something that the other products tested wont do.

 

MORE DETAILED RESULTS FOR EACH PRODUCT:

 

UNICORN BEYOND CLEAN | UNICORN POWER SCOUR

This wool wash came out on top in my test which wasn’t all that surprising since it’s specially formulated to be tough on grease, soiled diapers and stains. There was a noticeable difference in its cleaning action at the 15 min, 30 min and 1 hr mark compared to all other washes tested. For this reason, I think Unicorn’s Beyond Clean is the best choice for cleaning lanolized wool knits that have either been heavily soiled or are starting to smell. This is also a great choice for regular washing if you prefer to not have to soak your wool for long periods of time as it was the fastest acting wash on the stains and dirt.

There is a rumor circulating about this detergent being harsh and only useful for “stripping” wool diaper covers, however, Unicorn assures us that this wash is everything but harsh on wool fibers. It is perfectly OK for frequent/regular use on your diaper covers or any other delicate items made of natural or synthetic fibers. It was specially formulated for deep cleaning wool without damaging the delicate fibers. Note that Unicorn Beyond Clean is great on lanolized diaper covers since it will actually get the covers clean by removing the old lanolin. Old built-up lanolin can become rancid and harbor smells which are easily washed away with with Unicorn Beyond Clean. These smells may otherwise be left behind if a milder wool wash is used that doesn’t cut the waxiness of the lanolin.

Beyond Clean is fragrance-free Unicorn also makes a lightly scented version called Power Scour that is otherwise identical. The instructions for Unicorn Beyond Clean call for twice the amount (0.5 oz/gallon) necessary for hand-washing a couple diaper covers: Beyond Clean is also marketed for use with cloth-diapers and the company wants to ensure that enough detergent is being used to get these items clean. We used half of the recommended amount in our wool wash test (0.25oz/gallon) since this is sufficient for hand-washing wool knits as confirmed by Unicorn.

Best for: heavily soiled/stained or smelly knits, removing lanolin build-up

Strengths: toughest on stains, fastest acting, good for cloth diaper washing too

Weaknesses: cost

 

UNICORN BEYOND FIBRE | UNICORN FIBRE WASH

This wool wash was a close second which was apparent by the 30 minute time point. It actually out performed the winner on both coffee and sharpie marker stains. Unicorn Fibre Wash and Beyond Fibre wash are excellent choices for day to day knit washing. If you have at least 30 minutes for soaking these two versions of Unicorn Fibre Wash are quite effective on stains.

Based on frequent personal use I can vouch for the cleaning power of Unicorn Fibre Wash; it has kept all of our wool diaper covers stain free with the exception of one rust stain. Note that I soak my knits as soon as a potential stain is discovered to avoid it from completely drying and setting into the fibers. I almost always use tepid water between 98 and 100º F. With this routine our diaper covers come out smelling fresh and looking clean every time.

To clear up any confusion, Unicorn Fibre Wash and Unicorn Beyond Fibre Wash are identical with the only difference being that the standard Fibre Wash has a mild lavender fragrance. The Beyond product is unscented and marketed for use with baby items or for those with sensitive skin. There is also a difference in the product instructions; two times the amount is suggested for the Beyond version compared to the standard version.

This difference is again to ensure that those who are using this product to wash soiled cloth diapers use enough detergent to get these items clean. For hand-washing knits 0.25 oz/gallon of tepid water is sufficient for cleaning your wool diaper covers. If you feel your diapers are extra soiled it’s safe to increase the concentration to 0.5 oz/gallon of water. For washing soiled diapers I personally recommend using the more powerful Unicorn Beyond Clean to keep your cloth fresh and free of build-up.

Best for: All purpose wool wash, stains and/or moderate-lightly soiled knits

Strengths: tough on stains, fast acting

Weaknesses: cost

 

KOOKABURRA WASH

Kookaburra Wash was slow to start but after about 2 hours of soaking it started to catch up to some of the other washes. By the end of the test it did well and compared closely to the Unicorn washes with the exception of the tomato juice and green vegetable stains which were a weakness for Kookaburra Wash.

One noticeable thing about this wash is that it has a distinct tea tree oil scent that remains after your knits are rinsed and dried; this was using their "scented" version. This may be a turn-off for some while for others it might be a plus. When we did this review this was the only version available, however, now they offer an unscented and a lavender version.

This wash is good for fibers of all types and is safe for use in your machine for general purpose laundry washing. Also hypoallergenic and a good option for those with sensitive skin.

I have not used Kookaburra often but at its lower price-point (28 cents per hand-wash) I think it’s a good option if your knits aren’t heavily soiled. Otherwise you’ll need to allow for longer soaking times with this option compared to some of the other washes.

I'd like to point out that Kookaburra and Eucalan both have a small amount of lanolin in their formulas. This can be viewed as a pro and a con. On one hand, adding lanolin can help protect the natural fibers and enhance their natural anti-odor benefit, it also lends itself to build-up over time if it isn't washed away with something a little stronger. If you opt for one of these products, be sure to use something that will wash away the old lanolin from time to time.

Best for: medium-mildly soiled knits

Strengths: cost was on the lower end

Weaknesses: out-performed by other washes on stains, slower acting

 

EUCALAN DELICATE WASH

Eucalan performed similarly to the Kookaburra in that it took a little longer to notice its cleaning action. Stains began noticeably fading at around 1 hour but were still brighter compared to the other washes. By 2 hours the stains faded more but were still brighter than the leading washes. When the stains were closely compared by the end of the test, Eucalan fell short on most of the stains (blueberry juice, vegetable purée, tomato juice, and coffee).

I used the unscented version of Eucalan but it comes in several scented varieties. It’s priced well at 28 cents per hand-wash and I think it would be a good choice under these conditions: 1) your knits are not that dirty/stained 2) you're looking for a low-priced wool wash.

Redundant comment about lanolin: Kookaburra and Eucalan both have a small amount of lanolin in their formulas. This can be viewed as a pro and a con. On one hand, adding lanolin can help protect the natural fibers and enhance their natural anti-odor benefit, it also lends itself to build-up over time if it isn't washed away with something a little stronger. If you opt for one of these products, be sure to use something that will wash away the old lanolin from time to time.

Best for: medium-mildly soiled knits

Strengths: low cost

Weaknesses: out-performed by other washes on stains, slower acting

 

SOAK

Soak received the lowest score by the end our stain test. Notable weaknesses of this wash were blueberry juice and highlighter marker.

Personally I would choose Kookaburra or Eucalan over this wash since they both offer higher washing performance at a lower price point. That said, I'm not here to bash any products and each product has its merits. While this one might not be the best choice for for tough cleaning, it is a good choice if one is looking for something that comes in a variety of fun and trendy scents. The scent we tested was “fig” which was light and sweet. The scent remains detectable on garments after rinsing (even though rinsing isn't necessary with this one) and drying which is a plus if you like for your laundry to be fragrant after washing.

Best for: lightly soiled knits or imparting fragrance onto knits

Strengths: comes in hip/trendy scents, good for mildly soiled knits

Weaknesses: cleaning action was weakest, expensive (especially relative to performance)

 

Methods/Details:

250 mL of the following liquids were dropped on to the wool fleece using a syringe:

Blueberry Juice, Green Vegetable Purée, Tomato Juice, Coffee

Highlighter Marker: A circle was drawn without overlapping the path

Dirt: ¼ teaspoon potting soil was smudged into the wool fleece by thumb twice

The wool fleece then dried for 20 hours before proceeding with hand-washing

Hand-washing

  1. Wool wash prepared in 2 Liters (1/2 gallon) tepid 98ºF water per product instructions (see wool wash table for dilution). Syringe used to accurately measure wool wash.
  2. Submerged wool fleece and soaked for 15 min
  3. Pinching (always 20 times per stain)
  4. Soak 15 min (total 30 min)
  5. Pinching
  6. Soak 30 min (total 1 hr)
  7. Pinching
  8. Soak 1 hr (total 2 hr)
  9. Pinching
  10. Soak 2 hr (total 4 hr)
  11. Pinching
  12. Soak 2 hr (total 6 hr)
  13. Pinch
  14. Squeeze out excess water
  15. Dry

 

A word about pH

I tested the pH of the wool washes just before submerging the stained wool felt using these handy pH strips (the same kind we often use in lab to double check our solutions before use).

The pH of the wool wash is important and needs to be either 7.0 or less to preserve the texture and feel of the wool (< 7.0 is slightly acidic and better for washing wool). Not surprisingly all the wool washes had a pH of 6.5 with the exception of the Eucalan with a pH of 6.0.

The color of the pH strips in the photo don’t exactly match-up to the colors in the key (it is close and still allows you to see the differences which is why I included the picture). This is because they were dry by the time I took the photo. The pH was determined by comparing the color of the wet strips to the key in order to get an accurate reading.

Also included are two controls that I knew should show up on the far but opposite ends of the scale in order to confirm that the strips are working. I used a baking soda solution to show something that is extremely basic/alkaline and lemon juice to show something that is really acidic.