Washing fleece is relatively easy. Don't let it intimidate you. You can get great results without felting your fleece. There are two methods that we use. Salad spinner and bathtub. Each method is outlined below.
Salad Spinner Method
This is the method of washing fleece we use most often because we usually only need small batches. It's quick and easy. It does a great job of spinning the alpaca fleece dry. It's convenient and can be done on our sink while we are doing other kitchen chores.
- Large salad spinner with removable basket
- Liquid dish detergent (We use joy, but Dawn is a favorite with others)
- White vinegar
- Raw fleece
Here is a photo of the salad spinner we use.
Start your wool processing with skirted fleece. Pick out the seconds and large vegetable matter. Have a clean side by side sink area to work at for washing fleece. We use our kitchen sink. If you can't use that, you could use 2 buckets.
Fill one sink with hot tap water to a level that will cover your fleece. Add a few drops of liquid dish detergent after filling the sink. You don't need a lot. Swish the water with your hand.
Place the raw fleece in the basket of the salad spinner.
Put the basket filled with fleece in the water and gently push the fleece down into the water until it is all wet. Do NOT agitate the water at anytime during the cleaning process or you will end up with felt. Let it soak for 20 minutes.
A minute or so before the 20 minutes is up, fill the second sink the same way as the first. Lift the basket out of the first sink, allowing it to drain as much of the water as you can, and place it in the second sink. Push the fleece down into the water.
Set your timer for another 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the first sink.
Just before the 20 minutes ends, fill the empty sink with warm water and a couple of capfuls of white vinegar. Again, lift the basket from the water and let it drain. Place it in the vinegar water and let it soak for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the other sink.
After this rinse, lift the basket out and drain.
Place the basket in the salad spinner, put the lid on, and spin. Dump the water out that has accumulated on the bottom of the spinner and spin a second time.
After washing fleece, spread it on a screen to dry. A lot of the vegetable matter will fall out at this stage as the fleece dries. Some will be removed with carding. We use a window screen and lay it across the bathtub. If we're in a hurry, we will blow dry the fleece.
We use a drum carder to card one ounce of fiber. Now you are all
ready to use your clean carded fleece. This method cleans about two ounces of fleece. The photo is a one ounce batt.
- Raw fleece
- Mesh laundry bag
- Liquid dish detergent
- White vinegar
The bathtub method of washing fleece is the same as the salad spinner method. It is just done on a larger scale.
Put your raw fleece in the mesh bag. Don't pack it tight, keep it loose. Fill the bathtub with hot water to the level you need to cover the fleece. Add liquid detergent, a quarter of a cup should be enough. Place the mesh bag with fleece in the tub and push the fleece underwater until it is all wet. Remember not to agitate.
Follow the three 20 minute cycles for washing and rinsing as described in the salad spinner method. To drain inbetween soaks, lift the bag out of the water and hold over the water.
When done washing and rinsing, gently squeeze the laundry bag to
remove excess water. At this point, we put portions into the salad spinner and spin it dry. Or you could put it in your top loading washing machine on spin with no water running. Spread it on a screen to dry completely.
Make sure your fleece is completely dry before you store it.
Washing fleece does not have to be scary. Start small to make sure you get the hang of washing without creating felt. You will love working with clean alpaca fiber.
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