Excerpted from the books Hands On Spinning and More Magic Wool
Washing (scouring) seeks to remove wool grease (lanolin), dirt, vegetation and chemicals from your fleece. Follow these instructions to avoid felting your wool. Felting requires moisture, heat, and agitation of the wool. A good scour requires moisture, heat, and agitation as well, in the presence of a detergent. But if you concentrate on getting the temperature of the water right, using enough detergent, and limiting agitation, you can get very clean, soft wool without felting. Some other things you can do to avoid felting are to never run water directly on the wool, and never vary the temperature of the wash and rinse baths.
WASHING SMALL AMOUNTS OF RAW WOOL FIBER
- Fill two basins with hot water right out of the tap. To each basin add a gentle liquid washing detergent (Dawn works well) or Orvus paste, (for especially greasy fleece, nothing cleans better than Wisk) until the water feels slick when tested with a clean dry hand. Do not make suds. Woolite is not recommended, it contains bleach and causes fibers to break down with use over time.
- Immerse the wool slowly and let it soak for ten minutes so the dirt can loosen.
- To wash the wool and remove it from the water, support it well as you lift it carefully from the water. Squeeze it slowly and gently to help drain off the dirty, soapy water.
- Put the wool in the second bath (that bath is the same temperature now as the first bath). Let the wool soak for another five or ten minutes, with no agitation at all.
- Remove the wool lifting it from the water and squeezing it slowly and gently as you did before. Place on a towel or in an empty tub or container.
- Drain and rinse the basins. Fill them both with warm water the same temperature as the baths you just emptied, or slightly hotter. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the first bath (the amount is not critical; the vinegar will help cut the excess detergent and leave the wool in a slightly acid environment).
- Put the wool in the first rinse bath and gently push it down until it is covered. Don’t let the wool migrate all over the basin. Leave it there for five minutes, and then repeat in the second rinse bath.
- Lift the wool carefully as in step three, gently squeeze out the excess water, and lay the wool on a clean dry towel to drain. Once the towel has soaked up a good deal of the water, you can speed drying by moving the wool to a fresh dry towel. Let it dry away from heat, sun, pets, and any further agitation on your part. Depending on the weather, it will dry completely in one to three days.
EASY WASHING MACHINE METHOD FOR LARGE AMOUNTS OF RAW WOOL FIBER
~ QUICK SPIN DRYING! ~
- Fill washing machine with hot water; add soap (see step 1 above) and let agitate a moment.
- Turn off washing machine. Add up to approximately 2 pounds of wool, opening it up to remove debris as you go. Let soak for 20 minutes. Turn the machine to the last spin cycle. Remove wool carefully, supporting it well.
- Fill washing machine with warm water, to match the temperature of the wool. Turn off the machine. Add wool. Let sit for 20 minutes. Spin to remove water. Remove wool carefully.
- Repeat step 3 adding a few dollops of vinegar to the rinse water prior to adding wool. If you wish, at this time, you may add moth-repellent essential oils such as lavender during this second rinse cycle.
- This removes most of the water. Finish drying on a towel. (Refer to drying instructions as explained in step 8 above.)