How I wash fleece a play in 3 parts

I’m back with more tips on how to turn a stinky, dirty fleece into sweet smelling fiber ready for spinning!  This will be a three part post, and a pop quiz will follow.  (also, I promise to take and add photos the next time I wash a fleece!)

I wash fine, uber greasy fleece– the seriously yummy stuff, like Cormo, Merino, Rambouillet. I used to use the washing machine, but there are several reasons to bypass that mechanized method, not one of which has to do with felting!

  1. Lanolin dissolves ONLY in very very hot water. You can wash greasy fiber 10X in Dawn, but unless you get your water hot enough, the lanolin will not release. Reason number ONE for not using a washing machine.
  2. Once that water is hot enough to dissolve the lanolin, if it starts to cool down, it will re-attach to the fiber and be even more difficult to remove. It might feel nice, but after a month, the fiber is tacky and awful to spin. I might have experience with this. Reason number two for not using a washing machine.
  3. The more water the fiber has to swim in, the easier it is for the water/detergent to get at all the fiber. If the fiber is packed in, or in lingerie bags to save your washing machine drum, the fiber can’t swim freely and won’t get as clean. Reason number three for n.u.a.w.m. (lazy typer)
  4. Do not be afraid you will ruin or felt your fleece. If you are afraid before you start, then use that fear to your advantage– remember this simple advice: never move your fleece from hot to cold. Cold to hot is ok, hot to cold is BAD. If you have your fleece in hot or warm water, you can move it around, it won’t felt. If you have your fleece in hot or warm water that is soapy, you can move it around, it won’t felt. Just use your fear, and don’t move it like a crazy person. A little movement to shove it (gently, of course, and singing lullabyes won’t hurt) out of the way or to flip it over, or whatev…. it won’t hurt. Now, take that same soapy fleece and rinse it in cool water…. FELT. And by rinse, I mean put it into a pot of cool water– you’d never actually run water on a hot soapy fleece would you? (shake your heads “no” plz.)
  5. Pre-soaking is your best friend. Fill a big tub full of water (temp doesn’t matter) and plop your stinky fleece in. (one assumes that you’ve removed poop and large bits of vm already. IOW, do your skirting before you pre-soak) Voila– instant mud. Keep all curious children away, this is not nice mud. Hmmm. Don’t tell them that, it might make the mud more irresistible.
  6. If the water is really gooey and dirty, pull the fiber (bedraggled rat fiber, now) out and dump the water in your garden. I water plants that I’m not going to eat…. jic there’s medicine or other nasties in the dirty water. Refill the tub and soak. Let the stinky fleece soak overnight– this one simple step goes so far in the cleaning process you won’t believe it! Also– I soak about 2 – 4 lbs at a time in one of those big big Rubbermaid totes/tubs. NOT in lingerie bags, plz.
  7. Send Susan all your fiber. (just put that out there to see if you’re still reading. If you are hypnotized by my words, perhaps this command will actually work)
  8. The real 7. Set up wash central. I use 6 tag-sale roasting pans (well, 5 plus 1 huge pot I bought on sale at Target b/c it is TURQUOISE and it’s so cute!) I have 2 large pots (the spaghetti making size) of water on the stove, boiling. Yes, boiling. BTW, the pots on the stove only ever hold water from the tap, so you can use your actual kitchen-dedicated spaghetti pots.  The other pans are dedicated to all things fiber.  Only.   WEAR HEAVY DUTY GLOVES. You might even wear two pair if you are sensitive to hot. A couple of fiber dedicated wooden spoons couldn’t hurt (I always forget, but then I have skin-o-steel and the super hot water doesn’t bother me… until it does, and then swearing happens) And, the best kept secret of all– laundry detergent. You can use Dawn, but it’s cheaper to use laundry detergent (liquid is easiest) You can use Power Scour…. but if you have laundry detergent, you’re fine. The enzyme-as-fiber-destroyer discussion rages on ad nauseum. It has been pointed out by several Ravelry scientists that the enzymes in detergents do not survive the high heat of fiber washing, nor do they remain active once rinsed out. I do not care if the shawls I make in 2012 survive as artifacts into 2112. I will not be around to glow with pride by then.  Last thing on the counter is cheap white vinegar.

Set up your station: 3 roasting pans for washing, with a blop of detergent in each (a blop is about the size of a half dollar coin USD). These are referred to as SET #1.  3 roasting pans with a smaller blop of detergent in each (smaller blop is about the size of a nickel USD) This is referred to as SET #2.  The pots of water on the stove are full and boiling. Remove the fleece from the muddy pre-soak and let as much of the yucky water drain away as possible without boring you to death.

Stay tuned for part two, where it gets even more riveting. Someone I’m married to says I have to get back to work.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “How I wash fleece a play in 3 parts

  1. Ruth Ann

    Your comments are awesome. I have purchased several jackets and need to cut them up and felt them. Thank you!

  2. This is the best “how to wash fleece” I have read so far. Clear and well written, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.

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