Washing fleece – the suint (fermentation method) method

Processed wool may be the sort of thing you bury you face in, declaring that it’s soft and snugly and that you love it…


… but wool straight off the sheep is not something you’d want to bury your face in. (At least I hope not). A raw fleece is full of mud and sweat and poop.


A couple of years ago I was told you could simply wash all that nasty stuff off a fleece by dropping it in a dustbin full of water and leaving it to sort itself out. It felt too good to be true and I didn’t take a lot of notice. But having acquired a few fleeces over they last couple of years, I found myself needing to wash them before they were good for nothing but compost.

I googled for the magical no effort method and was delighted to find it was no tale akin to that of the Loch Ness Monster. (Not that I’m saying she doesn’t exist.)

Eagerly I dropped one of my smelly, dirty fleeces in a clean dustbin of rainwater…



… submerged it and put the lid on. But then more googling told me it was supposed to be at 20 degrees. Our British summer temperature was about 14.

YouTube videos had made a fair amount of fuss about how bad the smell was, so after a week I gave it a sniff, hoping for something really bad that would tell me it was working.


All I could smell was a vague sheepyness. I decide to leave it another week. But then a miracle happened. Temperatures rose to nearly 30 and, after 5 more days, there were bubbles and lanolin floating on the surface – unfortunately the camera hasn’t picked it up.



With the help of a garden fork, I hauled the fleece out, still wondering what the problem with the smell was. And then it hit me. Others had called it farmyardy. I thought it was more like rotting eggs. Not good, but the fleece looked really clean.



After letting it drain on top of an old dog cage I dropped it in a second dustbin of clean water, because it was way too hot to start worrying about washing or rinsing it.

Meantime I put a second fleece in my original stinky water…


Two days later, when the weather had cooled down, I googled to see how I was supposed to rinse it. It turned out that I had done exactly the right thing. The best way to rinse it was to leave it sitting in clean water.


I changed the water and left it for 24 hours twice more – each time I did this the smell faded.

I then I washed it through with enzyme free washing up liquid…


… then rinsed it through a few times to remove the detergent – by now the smell had completely gone – andΒ left it on the dog cage to dry…

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Of course this method can’t untangle all the bits of vegetation that get caught up in a fleece, but it certainly dealt with all the stinky sticky stuff.

23 thoughts on “Washing fleece – the suint (fermentation method) method

  1. Wow! That is good to know. Watch the weather and soak it on a hot day. πŸ˜‰ I am glad it is relatively easy, and that you have rain water to soak it in, it will smell divine in the end!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The hardest bit was lifting a soaking wet fleece from the water. I put the dog crate right beside the bin and heave it bit by bit onto it using the garden fork!
      Apparently people have used tap water, but hard water can turn it grey – although some said the final wash made it white again and that soft water was fine anyway. But we have so much rain I was hardly short of rain water πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Isn’t that amazing – a good soak in air warmed water and job done! Sounds like you might need to order up some more wee heat waves! I need to tell you I had a jolly good time watching your first vlog. The world record thing was a hoot πŸ™‚ I think I subscribed – if I didn’t I will next time you put a link up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely need some more heat – we’ve been back at 15 or so ever since I put the second fleece in. Thank you so much for the feedback on the vlog. Not many people commented, so I was thinking they were kindly saying nothing because they didn’t like it, but didn’t want to be negative. (Although it is summer and a lot of bloggers I interact with are absent from their own blogs at the moment.) So great have you being so positive – although I definitely need to smile more and bring up the energy. Just checked and I haven’t gained any subscribers, so yes please, do subscribe next time πŸ™‚ Thanks again.


      1. I have to admit that after I watch a long piece on YT I usually rush off to do something else as soon as it ends and forget to do the whole after process of liking and subscribing – I’ve lost track of a number of people who have inspired me to do something because of that tendency. I’ll have to change my game πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m thinking doing some much short bits too – although I know some knitters like to sit down and watch a whole half hour or even hour while they knit. So guess there’s a balance and the best thing to do is to remind people to subscribe at the end as I’m sure you’re not the only one.


    1. Not sure I got roast lamb odour. Couldn’t quite see lovely husband being happy with fleece in the bath. Mind I couldn’t do it if I wanted to – we have a septic tank, so all the lanolin would upset it. And I don’t want an upset septic tank!


  3. I might try this next time one of the dogs rolls in fox crap. Do you think they’d sit still for that long.
    Only joking – don’t call the R.S.P.C.A out on me.
    Anyway, I watched the vlog/youtube/podcast/you talking thingy but might not have favourited or commented – off to check.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry I don’t. Apparently it’s the combination of sheep sweat and lanolin that makes it work. Although we don’t call it lanolin, goats have some sort of grease and they will sweat, so it may well work – why don’t you try a small amount in a bucket first? And let me know how it goes. Good luck!


  4. Just found your blog, this is probably a silly question but, Can this fermented suint method only be done during the summer ( I live NE Scotland) and we don’t really get much in the way of hot weather especially not now October is just round the corner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello. Glad you found me. Not a silly question at all. I don’t know, because I’ve never tried to do it when it’s cooler, but certainly my first one didn’t get going until the weather warmed up, so I would think the answer is no 😦 Certainly from what I’ve read people say the temperature needs to be in a certain range – not to high or low. If I remember I’ll ask others I know who do it and reply again to you. We’ve had an abysmal summer here on Dartmoor, so I hear where you’re coming from. The other challenge I’ve had is getting the fleece dry once I’ve have cleaned it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Looking forward to trying this method. I have just had a friend who is an excellent carpenter make a carding drum for us and can’t wait to get this year’s fleeces (16 x Romney) cleaned up ready to card. We’re planning to make rugs on a home made dowel loom.
    Thanks for the reassurance that this works πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How exciting. Yes, definitely works. Given the summer we’re having though, I’ll warn you it really need to be 20 degrees of above to get it fermenting decently. A friend of mine has just done this for the first time and I told her to put it in the greenhouse – it worked, but extra stinky!


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