How I wash a fleece, part 2

OK, I gave DH the slip.
Part two, in which we get our hands hot and dirty and our fleece clean.  We have set the stage with our props and move on the the actual washing of the fleece:

  1. Pour 1/2 pot (to fill the roasting pan about 1/2 way full)  of boiling water into each of the 3 roasting pans in set #1. Of course, if you only have 1/2# of fiber, use 2 pans.  3 seems like the maximum number of boiling pans that are reasonable to deal with. I aim the water directly at the soap blop so that it mixes around, then I use my hands (you will be smart and use the wooden spoon) to really mix it up.
  2. Pull off fiber– how much? Enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but not too much. Maybe 3 oz. Here’s an inside tip– after this first round, the process goes really quickly. Don’t try to shove too much fiber into the pan, thinking you will get finished faster. You will win the race and lose the war, m’dears. Less fiber is cleaner fiber. And other trite witticisms. Get your fiber clean in fewer rounds– that’s the goal.  Shoving too much fiber into the pan will lead to dirty fiber that needs more rounds of washing.  Anyway, back to the hot boiling water in the pan. Gently push the fiber down under the water. It will immediately turn cloudy. Guess what? Your lanolin is releasing!

Repeat to fill the remaining 2 pans in set #1 with more dirty fleece.

After putting fiber into the pans, re-fill the big water pots and get them on the boil again.

  1. Employ your fear of felting fiber through washing it. Harness the fear for good. Do. Not. Rub-Agitate-Squeeze-or any other manipulative thing to your hot soapy fiber. You can gently swoosh it to see if you can tap out some dirt. GENTLY.
  2. Wait 10 minutes. No more. Here’s the scoop– you don’t want the water to cool down. Soap does the work in about 15 minutes, and we will be going another round, so at ten minutes, get ready to rumble again.  Longer is NOT better, it is actually worse.  If that lanolin cools and redeposits on your fiber, do not try to cry on my shoulder about your tacky icky fleece.  I told you so.  Or to quote The Big Bang Theory, I informed you thusly.
  3. Pour boiling water into the second set of 3 pans (the ones with the smaller blop of soap) Agitate to mix up the soap. Pull all the fiber out of one of the pans from the first round, let the water drain back into the original pan, and dump it (gently) into one of the pans in the second set. Push the fiber under the water. Repeat for the remaining pans.
  4. For clarity: we go from full soap pan #1 — drain fiber — to little soap pan #2.
  5. Get more water on the boil. Also, rinse out the pans from set #1.
  6. Things start speeding up now. I can wash 2# in just over an hour, although I despair of getting it done when I first start. So– stick with the program, and I promise it’ll pick up! Also, please note that I re-use water, so if you’re thinking that there’s too much water going down the drain… keep reading.
  7. To re-cap– we now have pans in set #2 full of boiling, slightly soapy water and fiber. After 10 min. these will get moved, so get pan set #1 down on the counter and fill them halfway with boiling water. At this point, I might add hottest water from my tap, but i’m usually inclined to stick with almost all boiling water. About 10 min. have gone by, and you are now ready to pull the fiber from each pan (in set #2), let the soapy water drain back into the pan, and plop the drained fiber into one of the pans (set #1) now full of clean, clear, boiling water. Plop, plop, plop.
  8. I talked about re-using water. I don’t re-use the water from the soapy washes. I wonder if I could dump these on plants? Anyway, rinse out the pans in set #2 (these were soapy). If the fiber (in the clear water) seems like it needs only one more “rinse”, then add vinegar and boiling + hot water to the now empty pans in set #2 (all this talk of sets reads confusing. When you have actual pans in front of you, you’ll get what I’m referring to) If the fiber seems too soapy still, leave the second rinse water plain. Vinegar water is for the final rinse.  So if you think two rinses are gonna do it for you, be ready with vinegar for rinse number two.  If you think you’ll need three rinses (man, did you use a lot of soap!) save your vinegar for rinse number three.  And if you think that two rinses are it, and you add vinegar to the final rinse but then you change your mind… no biggie.  You can add more vinegar to the next and true final rinse.  Or not.
  9. Remove the fiber from the first rinse and put it into the second, boiling (+vinegar?) water. Keep the first rinse water, add some soap to it, get it boiling hot (it should already be pretty damned hot) and start again with an initial wash of some more of your stinky dirty fleece!

Likewise, that second batch of fleece can go from the first batch’s first rinse water, into it’s second rinse water, with the addition of a small amount of soap and boiling water.  (This is where I start re-using water– the rinse water from the previous batch becomes the wash water of the following batch!)

  1. Keep going– it’s super logical. It may sound confusing or like too many steps, but as you do it, it’s so logical that it’s simple. It’s also safe, fast, and it works. The main things to remember: boiling water, no long soaks in ever cooling water, no real agitation, and NEVER put a fiber in water from HOT TO COLD.



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