Monday, November 04, 2013

Wool Washing, Part 1

When we used to have an active webpage, I had this article about how I wash our Corriedale wool.  It was a popular page, and I still get asked a lot about washing wool, so I thought I would try to recreate it here on the blog rather than rewriting the whole thing (so the photos you see are from 2008!)  Procedure for me is still the same and because I'm washing some wool right now for my Wovember project, I think its a perfect time to share!


This first photo is of a raw lamb fleece belonging to DANIEL, a coated Corriedale wether (yes,he WAS coated even though the tips of his fleece are very dirty). Lamb fleeces are my most requested item and I charge a premium for it (after all, a sheep onlyhas one lamb fleece in its lifetime!) But lamb fleeces can be a challange...they are usually dirtier, even though the lamb is coated from about 3 months on.  And they are generally very fine and can be delicate.  But what a reward at the end!.  Anyway, I wash all Corriedale fleeces the same...I just chose a lamb fleece for this example so that you can see how it goes from grungy to sparkling.

For this demonstration, I'm washing just a few ounces of fleece in a sink.  If I'm washing an entire fleece, I do it in my washing machine, a few pounds at a time, filling the tub first with the water, adding the fiber, then spinning the excess dirty water out WITHOUT agitating or running water on the fiber.  I remove the wet fiber, refill the washtub, replace the fleece and start the process over again.  This works for me and has for several years, but I will NOT recommend that you put wool in your washing machine as this could cause problems.  To be safe, you could fill a dish pan or bucket outside in your yard, follow the steps below and wash your fleece that way.  Only you can decide for your own situation.  I am just going to share with you how I get my wool clean ;)  Lets get started....

STEP 1: COLD WATER SOAK  Fill your basin or container with cold water, no soap.  Lay the fleece in the water, pushing it down gently if you need to.  I generally leave it to soak for about 10 - 20  minutes.  You can see what the water looks like in the photo above.  Remember, this water contains NO SOAP and is COLD!  I read this tip from someone who raised Merino sheep many years ago (I wish I could remember who to give credit to, but I can't)  To me, this makes a huge difference to the cleanliness of my lanolin laden, fine wooled Corriedale sheep.

Compare the picture to the left, which is the fiber that has been soaked in cold water only, and the picture below, which is the unwashed fiber...can you believe what a difference just a cold water bath has done?  It has loosened things up, removed a lot of the sweat and it seems to me it gets the fleece ready for the next step....the real wash!  See the dish soap in the picture?  That is the brand I prefer, though many recommend the blue dish soap or even a horse shampoo.  I like this one, it works well for me.  I never use the horse shampoo many mention...we didn't use it on our horses when we raised them because we could never get it rinsed well!  Human shampoo or pet shampoo is worthless for washing wool, in my experience and opinion. I have used Shaklee liquid soap with some success.

So now we've given the wool a cold soak, gently lifted it out of that cold water and even given it a gentle squeeze, and set it aside while we drain away the greasy cold water.  Tomorrow I'll show you the next step in my wool washing procedure - I hope you'll come back!  Maybe this picture of Daniel the lambs sweet face will entice you?


thecrazysheeplady said...

Oooh - good tip on the cold water soak. I've struggled with greasy fleeces. Will give that a try! Thanks for sharing!!!

judith said...

Thank you! I look forward to the second part of the process :)

Unknown said...

This is awesome, but I can't find part two! can you put in a link for it?

Cary ~ My Wool Mitten at Serenity Farms said...

Absolutely, unknown blog reader ;) It's the very next post ~

Thank you for reading!