Red Oak Farm
Copyright © 1998 -2012
Washing Emu Feathers
If you have had an emu processed and got the feathers back from the slaughter facility, they are probably quite bloody. If you processed the bird yourself, the feathers are probably cleaner. In either case, before they can be used or sold to the public, they must be cleaned.
First of all, do NOT put them in a sack or pillowcase in the washing machine. You will wind up with a tight ball of feathers that you cannot separate for love or money.
Everyone has their own way of doing things, and certainly this may not work for everyone, but this is what I do when I wash feathers. I usually wash several pounds of feathers at a time in the morning and then spend the afternoon drying them.
Setting Up (Outside, in nice weather)
Table or back end of pick-up
You want the tubs at the front of the table, slanted so that excess water will run out of the tubs and onto the ground. Use the 2 x 4 under the tubs to achieve the slant and position the tubs accordingly.
I use a degreasing dishwashing liquid to clean the feathers. My personal preference is Dawn, but you may like something else. I recommend a degreaser because a tiny layer of fat remains coating the shaft or quill of the feather, as well as a tiny bit inside, when it is removed from the carcass. The amount of detergent you use is going to depend on the condition of the feathers. Bloody feathers are going to need extra washes. No, you do not want to use hot water. That will only "cook" the blood and make cleaning more difficult.
Starting with the first pound of feathers in tub one, squirt a couple of lines of detergent on the feathers, then hose them down good. The water coming out of the hose attachment will agitate the water a bit, but you can also swish it around with your hands. If you are careful with this and have the tubs at the right angle, the dirty water will drain out of the tub as you hose in fresh without losing feathers. When you no longer have muddy or bloody water, scoop the feathers out and put them into the next tub. If you have 'clumps' of dirt clinging to feathers you should notice them at this stage and can remove them. Squirt more soap and go through the process again. The third and final tub should already have water in it along with 1 cup of bleach before the feathers are added. Swish the feathers around in the bleach water, then remove them to the draining rack.
Note: Do not use too much bleach as the feathers will be eaten up.
Allen made a draining rack for me from an old window screen. This is essentially a box on legs with a window screen bottom (reinforced). I put the feathers on the screen and spread them out. The excess water will drip off onto the ground.
As I wash pound after pound of feathers, I will move the dryer feathers from the screen to tubs which are taken into the house to be dried in the clothes dryer.
Drying the feathers
I sit on a stool beside my clothes dryer with some reading material and a well deserved snack (after washing feathers all morning I deserve a candy bar). I toss handfuls of feathers into the dryer at a time, let it run for a few minutes and then open the door, reach in and fluff the feathers. Dry feathers immediately go to the door and will spill out as you open it, so have your box to catch them under the door.
I constantly add more wet feathers as the dry ones come out.
Warning - you must open the door and physically reach in with your hand to fluff the feathers or they will clump together and be unusable!
Do not ever put a dryer sheet in with the feathers as they will become interwoven with the sheet.
If you look at our Feathers page, you can see that we sell zip lock bags of sorted and unsorted feathers. I store these feathers in large plastic containers. The just cleaned feathers that have not been bagged yet are stored in large garbage sacks that are tied at the neck.
Emu feathers can be dyed using Rit dye or any natural fabric dye. You cannot bleach the feathers white, but there are fabric paints that work like dyes which you can use.