Fleeces – Sorting and Washing

Having just sorted and washed over 2.5 kg of fleece – leaving me with just under 2kg clean fibre I thought I’d share a few thoughts. If your new to sorting and washing fleeces hope this helps. If you are experienced and have any comments I’d love to hear from you

Start by sorting your fleece 

  1. Test for tenderness – this is important – I have just binned a beautiful soft fleece – (given to me by an unsuspecting person). When I ‘did the ping test’ (held both ends and pulled sharply)  instead of  a lovely ‘ping’ it parted company; only good for the garden. Hopefully you will have tested before buying your fleece (though like me you may have been given it) 
  2. Remove dirty sections, second cuts (short bits where shearer has gone over again) any coarse fibre – (usually round tail or legs)- and felted areas more likely over back – https://www.yarnmaker.co.uk/fleece/FleeceSortweb.pdf.
  3. Sort in piles of colour, staple length and quality

I start by washing the best fleece (before I run out of energy)  

Whichever way I wash, I always place in net laundry bags (I now have 11)


There are nearly as many ways of washing a fleece as spinners. I use these three depending on my energy and organisation levels, the fleece and the planned spinning. 

  1. Best (in my opinion) HOT WASH

Hot wash – based on New Zealand Creative Fibres advice. 

3 washes at 75oC, 70oC and 65oC with a good squirt of washing up liquid (or a wool scour – though I have found them expensive and  no better)  

3 rinses at >55oC

Leave each bag in the water for just 5 minutes (much shorter than many people recommend but lanolin reattaches as it cools).

Set up a series of bowls and move bags along in turn

2. Easiest – MACHINE WASH

Place net laundry bags in washing machine on a wool wash with wool wash liquid of some sort – advantages quick easy, disadvantages may not be great for your machine, doesn’t remove lanolin (that may be good or bad depending on your preferred spinning techniques) –

I only do this when my capacity to wash properly is exceeded – it does mean you are not storing dirty fleece. I would usually was again before processing and spinning.

Don’t try with a fine fleece, such as merino, or you may have felt. Short wools and long wools are probably OK

3. Compromise  

Use the same system as for hot washes but using tap hot water. I may also reduce number of washes and rinses to 2-3. 

Possible with a clean, low lanolin fleece that I am happy to spin with lanolin still present. But if left for long, the lanolin becomes hard and a rewash is needed.

For all washing 

Don’t agitate – just lay bag in water and submerge 

To take bags out of the water, roll the bag up, to prevent fibre being to disturbed. Don’t wring –, squeeze gently then either roll in a towel to dry or place in a spinner (or spin cycle of your washing machine)

Once washed drying is important – wool can feel dry when it still has plenty of water present – if it feels cold it is probably still damp. Err on the side of caution – as a damp fleece will become mouldy when stored. 

I discovered that an herb drier with 8 tiers is perfect for drying fleeces.

The final thing I do is record what I have, how much and where it is stored. There is nothing like knowing you have some Manx Loaghtan which would be perfect for this project but not being able to find it. If you are a fibre addict you will soon understand. If you can spin your fleece before acquiring your next, you have my admiration.

If you would like to use my fleece record sheet feel free. If you do use it I’d appreciate any feedback. I would love to hear you fleece experiences and answer any questions you have.  Give me a call, email, message me on facebook or fill in contact form Contact  email beechwoodcraft@gmail.com 07850 716602 facebook

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