Thursday, 21 October 2010

Techniques- Fleece washing round up

As I tried a lot of fleece washing methods I thought a round up post would be a good idea so next year I can see what to do and what to avoid.
Starting with this, a Suffolk fleece, so fairly robust and felting resistant.
Lingerie bags and buckets
Sort the fleece into chunks and place them into lingerie washing/laundry bags. Not too much in each bag.
Put the bags into a bucket(s) of cold water and leave to soak for a few hours. Change the water and give them a second cold soaking for a while, even overnight. Do not pack too much into each bucket.
Do a very hot wash cycle- once with dish washing soap, once with clear water and once with vinegar and a little hair conditioner, soaking for about twenty minutes each time. Do not run hot water directly onto the fleece or go from hot to cold water. Avoid moving the fleece too much.
Drain and squeeze/spin as much of the water out as possible.
Hang the bags to dry or lay them flat over a mesh drier.
This gives a fairly clean fleece, there were still some dirty patches and the tips were stuck together. It also uses a lot of hot water.
Lock by lock
Prepare three tubs/buckets as for the hot wash cycle above.
Pull a lock from the fleecey mass and swish it in each of the buckets in turn until it is clean. Put into lingerie bags to dry.
This gets the fibre nice and clean and the locks are sorted ready for combing or carding. It takes ages though and losing the bit of dirtiness at the tip of the lock means it does not stay together particularly well during the drying.
Bags of locks
Take a chunk of fleece and gently but firmly pull out all of the locks. Lay them flat and thinly spread into lingerie type washing bags.
Do a cold water soak for several hours/overnight.
Do a three cycle hot wash (soap, nothing, vinegar and hair conditioner) trying to keep the bag fairly flat to avoid the locks clumping together. Lay flat to dry.
This gave fairly clean locks which dried very quickly. There is also less to store as the junk has been removed and time is saved when carding/combing as the locks are already sorted for you. It does take ages to get them sorted and into bags though.
Washing machine on cold
Sort the fleece into chunks and place into lingerie bags. Put through the washing machine on a cold wash with normal machine washing liquid.
Do a three cycle hot wash (soap, nothing, vinegar and hair conditioner) and spin/squeeze out as much water as possible. Dry.
A little felting occurred, as the machine wash did not remove the lanolin at all it was not really worth doing.
Washing machine on warm
Sort the fleece into chunks and place into lingerie bags.
Put through washing machine at 40 degrees centigrade using normal machine washing liquid.
This method resulted in quite a bit of felting, it was possible to pull locks out though. There was no greasiness left in the fibre. Also not really worth doing.
Shower hosing
Divide fleece in manageable chunks. Put in bath tub and spray with shower set to cold until the water is running clear from all parts of the fleece.
Do a three cycle hot wash (soap, nothing, vinegar and hair conditioner) then squeeze/spin water out and put into laundry bags to dry.
This worked well and gave the cleanest of the washes. It does still smell a bit sheepy, I think more water during the hot wash stage might have helped. This could be a downside of washing in fairly large chunks.
I am most likely to use this method to wash the fleece I have left.
The end result (this was a bags of locks wash):


  1. Thanks for walking through the various types of washing fleece over the last few weeks. It's nice seeing different types of wool being used too.