Best Fleece Washing Method ?

Results from our test washings

In July I blogged about my favourite ways of washing a fleece. Since then Alison Daykin and I meet to discuss fleece washing for our book. We discovered we had very different approaches and had come across many more – so to settle our arguments we decided to test a few. 

The two extremes were steaming on a stove top for hours with plenty of soap to cold soaking without washing.

We started with a full fleece of a merino cross – a few years old so maybe not the finest. We divided it into 7 x 200g piles and started testing. 

We spend a day and a half, shoving fleece in buckets, placing them carefully in net bags or laying locks meticulously in bundles and wrapping in material. We put them in cold water, hot water, very hot water, or brought them to a simmer on the stove top. We completed careful rinses, simmered rinses and bunged in the washing machine rinses.  

 We were amazed by the results.

Our current favourite method we have named the Yorkshire method as it is one suggested by my Yorkshire friends. I was sceptical as it seemed to defy so much of what you read. It was definitely the best balance between effort and outcome.

Thanks so much to Liz Smedley and Beryl Thompson

So here it is 

The Yorkshire Fleece washing instructions 

as per Liz and Beryl

  1. Fill a bucket with tap hot water, hotter than your hand can bear
  2. Add a large slug of WUL or soap flakes
  3. Place fleece tips down in layers
  4. Leave for 45m minutes (yes 45mins)
  5. Carefully lift fleece out and place in a net bag. To my surprise it was still too hot to touch  without gloves
  6. Squeeze the water out 
  7. Leave until cold – MUST be COLD – if still warm increased felting
  8. Place in washing machine on cold rinse and spin cycle (remember to adjust the spin to its LOWEST setting) 
  9. Take out of machine and net bag – lay out to dry – we used a layered herb dryer.

NOTE caveats

  1. IF in doubt – use a gentler method and more washes
  2. Finer fleeces and more greasy fleeces do not respond so well – update 25/1/2020 – a fine fleece may well felt if rinsed in the washing machine (Ask how I know this?), a high lanolin fleece will still have large amount of lanolin but the wash phase can be repeated.
  3. If a clean fleece with lanolin is left for a few months it will become ‘crispy’ and need another wash – we do not know yet if this happens in this wash method.We used washing up liquid for them all – if anyone fancies undertaking comparisons using different soaps or fleece scourers please let us know
  4. Water quality may make a difference – we didn’t test

We are hoping to publish more detail in future. If you have undertaken any testing of washing methods we would be really interested to hear about them.

2 thoughts on “Best Fleece Washing Method ?”

  1. That’s interesting. I would also be curious what other methods you used. We are trying to work out the best method of cleaning alpaca fleeces or spun wool


    1. Hi Joanna, thanks for your interest.
      We also tested
      1) Yarn Harlots method
      2) Overnight cold rinse, warm wash, cold rinse,
      3) New Zealand method 3 hot washes at 75, 70 and 65 degree C- then 3 hot rinses >55C
      4) Various mixtures of these
      Hoping to write an article for the WSD journal detailing full test results.
      we were surprised with the result.
      As far as alpaca is concerned I washed some recently – one half I rinsed by hand the other half I put in the machine for a cold rinse and spin. Despite my concerns it didn’t seem to felt in the machine rinse. But it was just 200g.
      alpaca doesn’t need the heat that wool does but seems to need more rinsing


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