Washing Fleece in a Washing Machine
If you can't wash your fleece right away, we suggest that you store it in a clean cardboard box or a pillowcase. It isn't good for the fleece to sit in a sealed plastic bag too long.
Machine Washing Instructions: Here's how I wash fleeces in my washing machine-
Fill the tub with hot water. Add 3 times your normal amount of laundry detergent or better yet, about 1/4 cup of inexpensive shampoo, like Suave Lavender, and agitate to dissolve.
STOP AGITATION, press wool into the water and let soak for 15 mins. Set washer to "spin" cycle - MAKE SURE WATER IS NOT SPRAYED ON THE FLEECE AS IT SPINS OUT.
Remove the fleece, fill the tub with hot water to rinse, press wool into the water and let soak 15 mins. Spin again.
You can repeat wash and rinse if you feel the wool needs it. If you used laundry detergent, add a little vinegar to the final rinse to correct the PH
After the final spin, remove the fleece to a towel or sheet and tease open to aid drying. I often dry my fleece on a sheet outside in the sun.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO NOT LET YOUR WASHER AGITATE THE WOOL, AS THIS WILL CAUSE IT TO FELT.
Hand Washing Fleece
I have been washing some wool for customers who want to use it for making Santa beards and for doll hair. It is important to try to keep the lock structure for these uses, so I have been trying several techniques.
The simplest is to use the mesh bags that are sold for washing delicates in your washing machine. Stuff them with wool (I put about one pound in each “sweater” size bag), pre-soak overnight in any temp of plain water, remove the wool, drain the tub, refill the tub with hot water and inexpensive shampoo (I used about 4 oz. shampoo for about 5 lbs of fleece), and gently push the mesh bags of wool under the soapy water to soak again. I let it sit in the soapy water overnight. Since our Coopworth is not very greasy, just dirty, this seemed to work fine. I am told that with greasy fleece, you should take the wool out of the water while still hot to prevent the lanolin from re-depositing on the wool and making it sticky. If you use laundry detergent, do a final rinse with some vinegar in the water to neutralize the alkalinity- wool does not like an alkaline environment- it makes wool brittle! Also, in her article in Shepherd Magazine (Oct. 2006, pg. 30) on washing wool, Hope Yankey warned of using detergent with brighteners, as this can interfere with dyeing of the wool later. I guess this would be OK to use if the wool was to be used only for Santa beards.
After the wash, I again remove the wool, drain the tub, refill the tub with hot water, and gently push the mesh bags of wool under the plain water to rinse. I like to add a little cream rinse to the final rinse water…makes the wool smell so good! You may need more than one wash and/or rinse, depending on how dirty the wool was. Some people say not to “shock” the wool by putting cool wet wool in hot water, but I found this was not a problem as long as I was gentle with the wool. I also like to put the bags of wool in my top loading washer to spin out the water between all steps and after the final rinsing. Lay the bags out on a surface that air can penetrate from underneath to dry. I set up my skirting table in the sun. After the wool was mostly dry, I took it out of the mesh bags and spread it a little to finish drying. I laid a cotton sheet over it to keep stuff from falling on it.
Some of the wool I then dyed using the “immersion” pot method to give a mostly solid color. I say “mostly” because I found that the weathered tips took up more dye, and turned out a little darker than the cut end.
There are other techniques to maintain individual lock structure, though more labor intensive than the one I ended up using; Purchase tulle yardage off the bolt, lay it out and arrange locks in a single layer over half of the length, leaving spaces between the locks. Turn the other half over the top to make a sandwich. Baste all the locks into the mesh (I tried safety pins…worked OK). When done, it will look like a quilted batt. Wash it in hot water with some shampoo, spin out in a top loading washer, rinse, and repeat if needed. Hang on a clothesline or surface that air can penetrate from underneath to dry. Alternately, you can cut the tulle into 18” X 24” pieces, lay the locks lengthwise on the tulle about one inch from the edges, and roll into a “sausage”, tying the sausage at the ends tightly and between the locks loosely. Wash and rinse. To see this “sausage” technique, go to; Washing Wool.
Jim and Martha McGrath
HC 72 Box 14D
Franklin, WV, 26807