To clean feathers from their own animal oil, steep them in 1 gal. of water mixed with 1 lb. of lime, stir them well, and then pour off the water, and rinse the feathers in cold spring water. To clean feathers from dirt, simply wash them in hot water with soap. Rinse them in hot water.
To clean white ostrich feathers: 4 oz. white curd soap cut small, dissolved in 4 pints water, rather hot, in a basin. Make the solution into a lather by beating it with birch rods, or wires. Introduce the feathers and rub well with the hands for 5 or 6 minutes. After the soaping, wash in clean water as hot as the hand can bear. Shake until dry.
Slightly soften the soiled feathers with warm water, using a camel's-hair brush. Next raise each feather with a flat piece of wood or paper-knife, and clean them with spirits of wine. Dry with plaster-of-Paris, and afterwards brush them carefully with a dry camel's-hair brush.
Birds' Skins. - Make a strong solution of salt in water, saturate a large and thick cloth with it. Wrap the bird up in the damp cloth in as many folds as you can, not disarranging the plumage. Look at the bird in 6 hours, and if not long dried on the blood will be soft; if not soft, keep it in the cloth longer, and re-wet it. When soft rub out with gentle pressure, putting something hard under each feather with blood on, and rubbing with the back of a knife. Of course each feather must be done separately.
Col. Wragge treated the soiled plumage of albatrosses, Cape petrel, etc., by simply washing the feathers in rain water, after the process of skinning, and then laying a thick mixture of starch and water over the portion to be cleansed. Next he laid the birds aside, and left them till the plastering of starch had become thoroughly dry. He then removed the dry plaster by tapping it, and found that the feathers had become much cleaner. Old specimens may be cleaned in this way. Feathers may be "set" by just arranging them naturally with a needle or any pointed instrument.
White. - Dissolve 4 oz. of white soap in 2 qt. of boiling water, put it into a large basin or small pan, and beat to a lather with a wire egg-beater or a small bundle of birch twigs; use while warm. Hold the feather by the quill with the left hand, dip it into the soap liquor, and squeeze it through the right hand, using a moderate degree of pressure. Continue this operation until the feather is perfectly clean and white, using a second lot of soap liquor if necessary. Rinse in clean hot water to take out the soap, and afterwards in cold water in which a small quantity of blue has been dissolved. Shake well, and dry before a moderate fire, shaking it occasionally that it may look full and soft when dried. Before it is quite dry, curl each fibre separately with a blunt knife or ivory paper-folder.
Coloured feathers cleansing
These are to be cleaned and rinsed in warm and cold water, as above, but not rinsed in blue water. Coloured feathers may also be cleaned in a mixture of 1 part fresh gall and 3 of lukewarm water, washing them in this mixture in the same manner as in the soap liquor. But they will require more rinsing when done by this method, in order to take off all smell of the gall. Dry and curl as before.
Carefully take out the lining, and wash with warm water and soap, as directed for white ostrich feathers, but do not shake them until they are quite dry. Before re-making, carefully repair any rents there may be in the skin.
To purify Feathers for Beds, Pillows, etc
Prepare a quantity of lime-water in the following manner: Well mix 1 lb. of quicklime in each gal. of water required, and let it stand until all the undissolved lime is precipitated, as a fine powder, to the bottom of the tub or pan, then pour off the clear liquor for use. The number of gallons to be prepared will, of course, depend on the quantity of feathers to be cleaned. Put the feathers into a clean tub, pour the lime-water on them, and well stir them in it, until they all sink to the bottom. There should then be sufficient of the lime-water to cover them to a depth of 3 in. Let them stand in this for 3 or 4 days, then take them out, drain them in a sieve, and afterwards well wash and rinse them in clean water. Dry on nets having a mesh about the same size as a cabbage net; shake the net occasionally, and the dry feathers will fall through. When they are dried, beat them well to get rid of the dust. It will take about 3 weeks to clean and dry a sufficient quantity for a bed. This process was awarded the prize offered by the Society of Arts.