How to Wash Raw Wool for Spinning

Written by susan brockett
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How to Wash Raw Wool for Spinning
Some spinners like wool that is freshly sheared. (sheep image by TA Craft Photography from

Hand spinners are drawn to wool festivals for the wide variety of fibre that is for sale. Some spinners choose fibre that is prepared and ready to spin, while others choose freshly sheared raw wool, directly from the sheep rancher. These fleeces must be washed thoroughly before spinning. A washing machine that you can start and stop makes this process very easy.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Top loading washing machine that you can stop and start
  • Shampoo for oily hair
  • Clean bucket or dishpan
  • Clean sheets

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  1. 1

    Examine the wool. Most raw wool fleeces available at wool markets, state fairs or festivals have been skirted, which means that seller has removed the wool from the underbelly and hind end of the sheep. The fleece, however, may have some vegetable matter or stains, so spread it out and just pull or cut away areas that are unsuitable for spinning.

  2. 2

    Fill the washing machine with hot water and add about 88.7ml. shampoo. Wool is a lot like human hair, so shampoo made for oily hair works really well for washing fleece. Let the machine agitate a little to distribute the soap.

  3. 3

    Stop the washing machine. Make sure that it is not agitating. Add the wool fleece, pushing it down into the water completely. Let it soak for about 15 minutes. Do not move it around.

  4. 4

    Let the water drain out of the washing machine and select a spin cycle. Make sure that this cycle does not spray water on the fleece. Spin it for a few minutes to remove some of the water.

  5. 5

    Remove the fleece to a clean bucket or dishpan. To rinse the soap out, fill the washing machine again with hot water. Stop the cycle and add the fleece. Let it soak for about 15 minutes. Drain the tub again and spin the fleece once more.

  6. 6

    Remove the wool and spread it out to dry. If you can, spread it outside on a clean sheet, but put another clean sheet over it because squirrels and birds love wool for their nests. When the wool is dry, it is ready to dye, card or spin.

Tips and warnings

  • Most front loading washing machines cannot be stopped and started. Refer to the owner's guide for information on your machine.
  • If you cannot stop your washing machine from agitating, you can wash the wool by hand. Agitation will cause the wool to felt, and you cannot spin felted wool.

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