First Fleece Wash

 So today was the day. The calendar was wide open and no commitments. So I leapt into this project with all my fins flapping. The Rambouillet fleece needs to be washed to remove the lanolin and the suint. Suint is sheep's sweat. And a lot of other dirt still needs to come out. So the top picture is where we left off after the skirting and manual picking. This was very time consuming.

 Wash Number One. All throughout I am using nine lingerie bags to contain the fibers. The detergent of choice is the blue Dawn dish detergent (do not use the type with enzymes!). I cranked up the hot water tank to 160 deg F and am doing this in the tub. For each step the time is set for twenty minutes. Enough for the lanolin to dissolve and for grit to fall to the bottom, but not enough time for the water to cool and the lanolin to re-deposit onto the wool. First water quite murky.
 Wash Number Two is noticeably cleaner. Between washes I am gently pressing out as much water as I can, and rinsing a bit with my Water Pic shower head (on a hose). During the soaks it is okay to mush the bundles down into the water a bit; I am using a metal slotted spoon. You need rubber gloves for everything.
 Wash Number Three is cleaner again. Yippee. Why not cram all the wool into more mesh bags and fill the tub right up? Well, because you need to ensure that water can move around the wool quite freely.
Rinse Number One. Just skip the detergent and otherwise everything is the same. At times it was so hot and steamy, that it felt like I was having a sauna with all my clothes on.

And finally Rinse Number Two. Very clean water around the lingerie bags with wool inside.
Now I remove the wool from the bags after spinning the water out in a salad spinner. Do that in the bottom of the tub please. The wool is laid out on an absorbent towel and once all the wool is on the towel, roll it up from one of the short ends. At this point I take the rolled up wool outside.

And here is the drying rack with the much cleaner wool happily resting on it. This rack is sold as an herb drying apparatus, but I tell you, it works perfect for this. The sides on the levels keep the wind from racing off with my hard won white wool. I have six levels altogether that are snapped together. The final picture is a close up of the wet fleece, now drying. (I can't seem to be able to add this text below it. )
Altogether I had four bath tub's full of wool to wash. So that's 20 separate cycles of filling, waiting and then draining and rinsing. In fact it is dark now and I am still not done. Two more rinses to do and that's it!  Okay, so then there's the washing out of the tub and a few other choice chores. So if you're wondering why good wool costs so much, I would say because a lot of time and effort goes into the preparation and cleaning of it.


  1. I agree there's a lot of time and work involved in the process and the cleaning is only the beginning. Then there's the carding and spinning but the spinning is fun not work. :-) And it's all so worth it!

  2. I am not sure yet whether I will card it or just spin right from the fleece. A test card on the drum carder showed some nepps. But I haven't tried the hand cards yet.


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