1. Fill 5 gallon buckets with hot water (120F) and add a squirt of Dawn dish soap (best brand). It will take 3 – 5 buckets to do an entire fleece.
2. Pull the fleece gently apart by the handful, divide it among the buckets, and submerge it entirely.
3. Let the wool soak 30 minutes to 1 hour. Do not let it soak too long or the water will begin to cool and the lanolin will settle back on to the fiber.
(Stupidly I soaked it all at once as you can see, not smart but, It did come clean)
4. Pour each bucket of wool through a large colander to remove the hot water from the wool.
5. Refill the buckets with hot water and soap while the wool drains in the colander.
6. Gently squeeze handfuls of the wet wool to express out as much dirty water as possible and place it in the new wash water. Do NOT wring or agitate the fiber or “cold shock” it by rinsing in very cold or very hot water. This will cause it to felt together and make it difficult to card or comb later.
7. Repeat steps 3 – 6 again but place the fleece back into hot or warm water without soap.
8. Repeat step 7 once again or fill the washing machine with hot water, add the fleece, let it soak briefly, and spin out the water. AGAIN, DO NOT AGITATE OR USE ANY WASH CYCLES. The benefit to the washing machine is that all of the excess water is expressed out during the spin cycle and the fleece dries faster. If the washing machine is not used, blot the excess water out of the fleece by rolling and pressing it in towels. ( You may have to keep going over and over again these steps until the water runs clear...I can't count how many times it took me to get all of mine clean. It depends how dirty the fleece is.)
9. Spread the wool out to dry in a clean, safe place. It will dry faster with a slight breeze or in the sun. Once completely dry store in a plastic tub or box.
(I have this screen that I use because it lets the water drip out underneath if there is any. However I do use the spin cycle in the washer so it's pretty much dry already, but with the screen the air is able to hit the fleece from the underside as well. I didn't dry it here inside the house, but for the sake of a picture I put this here so you get the idea)
I had two different kinds of wool here, the first picture was Leicester and this second, white one is Corriedale. It all dried within an hour with the spin cycle taking out almost all the water, the screen allowing air to hit all sides, and the heat of the day.
Tomorrow I'll post some pictures on my progress with making yarn out of both the Corriedale, the Leicester and the crazy colored wool I bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool