How To Wash Raw Wool

How to Wash Raw Wool |


I have been spinning my own yarn for several years now, and want to eventually begin actually making some articles of our clothing.

So far I have mastered the spinning part, but am still pretty lame at actually creating something to wear with the yarn!

My plan is to improve my crochet and knitting skills over this winter, but first I will be spinning lots of yarn to work with.

Once you obtain a fleece of raw wool, the first thing you will need to do with it is wash it to remove the greasy lanolin.

There are many different opinions and theories about how you can or can’t wash raw wool.

I am simply going to share with you the way I wash raw wool, that gets it sparkly clean and avoids felting. (Can wool even be referred to as sparkly?)

It’s easy, uncomplicated, and doesn’t require a lot of hands on time.

Step #1

Lay your wool out on a flat surface and remove any clumps of dried poo, hay, or burrs from the wool. This is called skirting. If you have acquired your wool from a high quality vendor/farm there should be very little skirting needed.

Here, I have a small amount of raw wool that I got at a festival a few weeks ago. It’s about 1.5 pounds, and required no skirting to be done. I am totally in love with all the color variations! (It’s from a Gotland/Shetland cross sheep)

A little flock of sheep is definitely on the livestock wishlist for our homestead- hopefully as soon as we get some land cleared!  Until then, I just buy from local shepherds.

How to Wash Raw Wool |

How to Wash Raw Wool |

Step #2

Measure out twice as much laundry detergent as you would normally use into the bottom of your washing machine. Here is my recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent that I use.  Fill the washing machine with HOT water, then turn the washer off.

How to Wash Raw Wool |

Step #3

Place your wool in the washer, and use a broom handle to gently poke the wool down under the water. Generally most washers can hold up to 1 entire fleece. Let the wool sit in the hot water until the temperature cools to lukewarm. Usually 1-2 hours.

How to Wash Raw Wool |

Step #4

Set the washing machine to the “drain and spin” setting, and turn on.

Step #5

Fill the washer with WARM water, and turn it off before it begins to agitate! Let sit for about 5 minutes, then set to the “drain and spin” setting one more time.

Here is my wool after step 5.

How to Wash Raw Wool |

Step #6

Carefully lift the wool out of the washer, and lay it on an old towel. Drape the towel and wool over a drying rack in a nice sunny area outside. I turn my drying rack sideways so there is a larger surface for the wool to rest on, but you can use a porch railing, clothesline, or any other hard surface to dry the wool on. Outside is best, but in the dead of winter, I use my bathtub to set the drying rack in.

How to Wash Raw Wool |

The key throughout the washing process is to not disturb the wool very much. So, no agitating of the washer, or messing with it with your hands, or you can end causing parts of the wool to felt. Felted wool is not cool if you are preparing it for spinning!

Once your wool has dried, it is ready to be carded. If you aren’t ready to card it yet, you can store it in a plastic or cloth bag until you are ready to use it.

 Is using wool straight from a sheep intimidating to you? If so, I hope this series on using raw wool will help you get started!



This post has been shared at The Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Tuesdays With a Twist, The Backyard Farming Connection, The Homestead Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop, The Home Acre Hop, Simple Lives, Link and Mingle, The Pin Junkie, Freedom Fridays,  From the Farm Hop, Old Fashioned Fridays, Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, Clever Chicks, Mommy Monday, and The Art of Homemaking

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28 responses to “How To Wash Raw Wool”

  1. Great post. I love to knit, and had dreamed of my own little flock of sheep, but it never happened, and at this point I’m in no position to add animals to our home. But I used to help a friend skirt her shetland fleeces. She paid me in fleece, which I sent to have washed and spun with my angora rabbits fur. It made wonderfully soft yarn, but I still love pure sheep wool best. Shetlands are a great breed for a small farm.

  2. ohhh Kristina is learning spinning and we visiting a farm where they were shearing the sheep and we helped skirt so the next step would be to get our own wool and start from scratch! Thanks for sharing such an easy way to get the wool clean, there is a lot of info out there and some confusing. Pinning!

  3. Stella Lee says:

    I really must get my spinning wheel functioning and find some fleece. Thanks for the tips.

  4. What a great post! I’m not a fiber artist so I’ll probably never use raw wool, but I know many people who are and I’ll be refering them to this post. Thanks for sharing with us at Simple Lives Thursday; hope to see you again this week.

  5. Rebecca Venn says:

    You made washing so simple! Thank you. Would be interested in trying an alpaca fleece? I am cleaning out my fiber shed, and have some browns, true blacks and white that I do not have a need for this winter. I would love to send you some to try spinning. I will include instructions on washing the fleece. Just a little quicker than the sheep’s wool because alpacas do not have any lanolin in the fiber, but otherwise the same. Alpacas also have very little scales on their fiber shafts, so softer to the touch and a little less likely to felt. I like to blend my alpaca with Merino, but I also like 100% alpaca for scarves and articles that I wear against my skin. Let me know if you would like to try some fiber!

  6. janice says:

    I have been cleaning, carding, spinning knitting and weaving for about 30 or so years . Interesting the way you clean it. I prefer to spin wool that’s clean but still in the grease. Makes for waterproof garments and really soft hands.

  7. Brittany STOCKHAM says:

    I’m part of a group that re-enacts the middle ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire to pre-Tudor period.
    I have seen many people sewing wool that they skirted and carted and I always wanted to try.
    My cousin just sent me a huge box of llama wool so I thought I would get started. Thank you for this info it’s very informative.

  8. Kirsten Mia says:

    This is wonderful… thank you for sharing… a new task always seems intimidating until you accomplish it. I hope to have sheep soon… not too many but I do want to learn to spin, a friend gave me an old (old) spinning wheel that her dog began chewing on so I need to have a few bits replaced. We just purchased a property and aren’t in it yet and the first goal is Chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs… in that order…
    I signed up for your newsletter so I can learn from you!
    Thanks again,

  9. Anne says:

    I tried your steps listed above, but my wool ended up in a twisted circle of wool. Your final picture looks nothing like mine. How do you keep you wool from spinning into a rope in the washing machine? Or did you pull the twisted mass apart? Thank you.

    • Angi says:

      If you can see in the picture of the wool that is still in the washing machine, mine was a twisted circle too! I just gently lifted it out and separated it. Make sure your washing machine isn’t agitating, or you will end up felting the wool, and that could create issues…

  10. Pawnee Camp says:

    Hello! I am fellow lover of fiber and am a shepherd living in Maryland. I raise Gotland Sheep. I found your raw wool washing instructions while searching for a Way to wash my wool without the mesh bag I have seen a friend use. Your steps seem to be clear and easy to follow. Thank you. I stopped at your spot as well because I recognized your wool as similar to what mine looks like and my interest was piqued. I wonder if I could ask you a few questions regarding your experience spinning Gotland cross fleeces. I want to sell my fleeces for the first time this year and am a bit less than confident facing the world of fiber experts out there. I would love your advice about what you look for in your raw fleece when you buy. I am a novice at the interactions between shepherds and spinners and am eager to learn. Thanks for your time. Smiles!

  11. Constance Standley says:

    Loved the article about washing the wool! Been wanting to try this for some time. It’s been gathering up in the burlap bags for some time now. I stopped selling it 2 years ago. We live quite some distance from town & I am disabled, not being able to drive. My husband has learned to shear now. We raise Border Leicester sheep. We have a small flock, but about 7 fleeces stored up. We have been doing their shearing once per year, and if you know the Border Leicester sheep, their wool is top rated. Would like to look for some people who may wish the fiber. I have no time for spinning as I did in the past. We bought a century old farm which I am slowly redoing. Please get back with me regarding this. Thank you. Connie

    • Angela says:

      Hi Connie,
      Are you interested in selling those fleeces?

      It sounds like you have a lot going on but are working on what you can. I have a 102 year old farm and have a small flock of sheep and a small herd of angora goats. My husband died last fall so now it’s all up to me to keep it all going.

      Good luck and I look forward to your reply.

      • Constance Standley says:

        Hi! Sorry it took so long to get back with you regarding the wool. I’ve been under the weather. What state do you live in? How much of the wool are you interested in? What prices have you been paying for your Border Leicester raw wool per pound? Lastly, what is your direct email and contact so we may speak to you? Thank you, Connie.

        • Angela says:

          Hi Connie,
          I have never bought BFL.
          Would you be at all interested in doing a free-for-shipping deal? I would take all the back logged fleeces for that.

          Or, depending on quality (VM, age, etc.) we could work out another price for some of it.

          My direct e-mail is


  12. Pat Kalbaugh says:

    Just wondering if there are any issues with smell or grease left in the washing machine after this procedure? Also wondering if I could or should use Woolite instead of regular washing detergent as I don’t think I want to make my own. Thanks Pat

  13. E Mona De Villiers says:

    Wonderful! Thanks for the heads up. Just started on this new experience. Signed up and looking forward to all your great ideas. Thank you.

    Regards from South Africa.

  14. michelle sawyer says:

    Thank you for a user friendly site , I’m new with wool and spinning. I’m looking forward to reading more questions and comments. I will let you know how washing the wool goes!

  15. Kathy Johnson says:

    What recipe do you use for washing your wool? I don’t see it anywhere. Many thanks. KJ

  16. Kathy Johnson says:

    What recipe do you use for your washing soap for your wool? I don’t see it anywhere. Many thanks. KJ

  17. Dell says:

    Hi just came across this post and I love it. Wish I had found it when I started washing my fleeces. It’s perfect. May I add one thing. If you have fleeces with a good amount of lanolin ( I have mainly a merino flock here with 2 corridales). May I suggest using a tub/large bucket or container for washing. I learnt the hard way that the lanolin build up wrecks the washing machine. It builds up in the pipes and puts strain on the motor. Took me 2 Broken machines to realise that’s what was doing it. I still use the machine for a final spin just to get the last of the water out. Thanks again for this great post, now I’m going to go and look at the rest of your site for most great tips/ ideas

  18. Diana says:

    Between step 4 & 5 are you running the warm water directly on the fleece, or are you pushing it aside to fill the machine, or removing the fiber? Nice site, Thank you.

  19. Brianna says:

    So in the washing stage you are basically never letting the washing machine move, just filling up with water and soaking and then draining?

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