Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cleaning fleece isn't as easy as I anticipated.

I've tried two different methods and here's what happened.

As soon as I got my fleece, I took out half a dozen locks and washed them individually in the bathroom sink. I followed instructions given to me by Chris at Joybilee farms and filled the sink with hot water and Ivory dishwashing liquid. She actually told me to use Dawn, but Ivory's what I have and I had to try. She also said to gently rub the tips on a bar of soap - no problem, I just happen to make all our own soap. I soaked the locks for only a minute, dragged the tips over the soap, and soaked another minute. I then rinsed them by dipping into fresh not-quite-as-hot water.

Worked pretty good, but the tips are slightly stained yet.

Next experiment, I got a plastic mesh basket thing and put quite a few locks in it. I filled the sink with hot tap water (it was too hot for my tender fingers) and Ivory soap. Well, I've changed the soapy water over and over, I even let it soak all night and the result is not as good as washing the locks individually.

The lock on the left is still yucky dirty, the center lock has been washed repeatedly as a batch, and the one on the right was washed individually. So far washing individual locks wins.

I don't want to be condemned to standing at the sink washing individual locks for days! My 1.4 kg of fleece works out to 3.08 lbs which translates into too many locks to wash this way.

I started searching to see what I could find online, and came across the Yarn Harlot's blog where she descibes how she does it. Here's a link

I just might give her method a try. I'm absolutely paranoid of ruining my fleece and I'm being sooo gentle with it! Anyway, she get's a roasting pan and lays a clean pillow case in it. She then stacks her locks all neatly in two rows on the pillow case and then folds the pillow case over the fleece, making a big sausage shape package. I don't have her method memorized so if you're inclined get the instructions straight from her site. Basically, she puts her fleece package in soapy water on the stove and turns the heat on low. She doesn't use Dawn, she uses bargain blue-coloured dish soap, so I thought using Ivory would have been ok. I have to print out her instructions and try it.

Has anyone had the tips of their fleece stubbornly remain slightly amber coloured? I have to say, it smells a lot better now though. I'd love to hear some comments.


  1. I think perhaps, you are being a little hard on yourself! I truly think it makes a HUGE difference in what soap you use for cleaning, and ivory is just a bit too gentle.

    Don't forget too, that you will process those locks, and get more dirt out that way too. I personally hate the Dawn dishsoap smell, but I've discovered that I like a little lanolin left, so Orvus paste works for me.

    Go look at this link:

    That is way too cool!

  2. Oh thank you!!! :D
    That link you sent is fanatastic! I'm going RIGHT NOW to find some ultra concentrated Dawn and some lingery bags. This method seems safer than the stove-top method.
    The tiny town I live in only has one country store, so I doubt I'll find Orvus paste but I'll ask.
    I'll post my results too.
    Carol [skukum knits]

  3. When I get fresh-sheared fleece, I stuff the sorted wool into big mesh bags - the ones my greengrocer gets potatoes in! Each bag is made for 5 kilos of potatoes - that amounts to half a fleece (approx. 4 kilos, packed weight).
    Then I fill the old baby bath with HOT water - 45 degrees Centigrade, cirka) and plonk the sack in. Leave it to stew in its own juices until the water is absolutely cold, usually overnight.
    Then I stuff the sack into the washer and put it through the spin cycle. Back in a tub of cold water for a rinse - another spin. Repeat again.
    Finally, the wool gets spread out to air dry. I use an old net curtain on a drying rack, so air can circulate all round.
    I've used this method for nigh on 30 years, and have never felted a fleece. What ruins wool is temperature change combined with either rubbing or soap. Thus, only one sack at a time in the spin dryer. Otherwise the friction of two sacks at a time WOULD produce lumps of felt ...

    This way, I use the wool's own chemistry. Lanolin + urine + sweat + other assorted muck + heat + water = soap. The first batch of water turns as brown and silty as the Yangtse river, but it cleans anything. Even filthy woolen coats can be cleaned by dunking in it (tested and tried ;o)), but it still won't dry out the fibre as detergents will.

    Discoloured tips will regain their original colour when you wash the finished yarn - and remember, if you can bear the thought, that spinning thin (cobweb and laceweight) is easier 'in the grease', i.e. unwashed, filthy, greasy wool. Best done outdoors in summer....

  4. Oooo I'm going to try this! Oh I don't greasy fleece or spinning outside in summer - I'm game. I'm trying this method for sure, it sounds like it's been well tested - thank you!

  5. I find the Lock by lock method is a very good way to treat fine fleeces I was taught that way and achieved a pair of socks for my friend's prem baby from just 8 merino locks or staples as we call them here in New Zealand

    I have found that nearly every spinner has their own method of washing fleece and we all have to work out what works best for ourselves
    your new friend Csec on Ravelry