What soap to use for nuno felting is already covered in the NFT&T Tips & Tricks Book, but it's taken on a new significance for me since my hands turned to sandpaper this winter.
Part of the problem was the constant immersion in soapy water for several hours a day, but the other tolls were the cold weather and my move to a new place ------- all the packing and cleaning on top of a crazed felting schedule turned my hands into liabilities. It even became impossible to complete a fiber layout without half the fibers sticking to my hands.....
Oh, and there's that pesky problem of the older you get, the more your skin dries out...
Using all kinds of hand lotions and special balms helps but the best thing to do if you are using one kind of soap for felting is to switch to Olive Oil Soap.
Most US felters use Dawn dishwashing liquid because it has few additives and leaves little to no soap residue. It's my favorite.
Dawn produces soap bubbles so it's easy to judge if I made a mistake and added too much to my wetting-down water. If you add too much soap it inhibits the first stages of the nuno felting process because your fibers actually get too slippery to migrate through your fabric base.
Olive Oil Soap does not foam or bubble at all so it takes a bit to get used to using it once you make the switch. Most European felters swear by this soap and never use anything else.
It truly is not only kind to your hands but will restore moisture to your hands and the more you use it, the less work you have to do looking for other remedies.
1. Fill your wetting-down container with water first
2. Add your soap and swish it into the water with your hand or a spoon - if using Dawn, try not to produce soap bubbles --- it makes it harder to see what you're doing through all that mess
3. How much soap you use - both Dawn and/or Olive Oil Soap - depends on your water temp, your fibers and fabric, and what kind of water you have - hard or soft.
Adjust the amount of soap you use as needed ---- I have extremely hard water and need to use just a scant teaspoon of Dawn for 2 gallons cold water.
With Olive Oil Soap I have to add 1/2 cup to the same amount of water.
You can buy Olive Oil Soap in liquid form at 3x the price of the soap in blocks.
I use a cheese slicer to flake off the soap and dilute it in hot water in a jar with a lid, shake and use once it's completely dissolved. Just reshake every time you use it.
Smells wonderful and it is so much kinder to your hands - even if you just switch to it temporarily until you return to your favorite "other" soap.