Two Icelandic (wiki link) fleeces were given to me, and I purchased a Baby Doll fleece in August, too. All of these were admittedly full of vegetable and priced accordingly. The Icelandics were free, if that paints a clearer picture.
My research has led me to believe that an overnight soak is just the thing for a really dirty fleece, and I realized last week that unless I wanted to wake up with a skim of ice on the top of my soak water, I better get those fleeces processing.
Getting fleece clean is not a pretty sight. While the finished product is (hopefully) soft yarn that smells of ...well....nothing, shorn fleece is straight from the barnyard. And all that that implies. It’s the first true reality show, with no edits, and all the smells.
I took photos anyway. Someone might be interested. This follows the Babydoll fleece...
Hot H20 (140F) with plenty of Dawn (water should be slippy) for 20 minutes
Hot H20 (140F) with less Dawn for 20 minutes (possibly additional if req)
Hot H20 (140F) with vinegar (a couple of good glugs) for 20 minutes
Hot H2O (140F) for some minutes (repeat clean rinse until clear)
(This was during the third soap wash...the water was much cleaner at this point...I know...)
Important! Keep hands off during the above steps! I so want to do just a little swishing..but at the least manipulation at this point will mat the fleece, and at the worst, felt it. I push the fleece down gently (because wool will float until wet). I slowly re-arrange the baskets to drain, and to wash out the tub between steps. But I really have to keep my hands off!!!
[This did not remove all the grass/seeds/hay from the Icelandic, but I am processing these fleeces for the experience of working with Icelandic. Icelandic is a primitive sheep with a short undercoat (called the thel) and a longer outer coat (the thog). The undercoat is much softer than the outer, and often is separated before using. When it is spun together, it is called lopi yarn. According to my resources. I am looking forward to the carding and spinning experience. Even if it means fighting the VM. It's for free...]
After scouring, I gently press the excess water out of the fleece, lift it to towels and roll it up for more drying, and lay it out on the patio, in these cases, overnight.
All the lanolin is gone (Icelandics are not lanolin heavy). The nastiest veggie matter is gone. The dust is gone. It is mostly clean. Washing after spinning will help with the remainder of the dirt. Most importantly, the barnyard odor is completely gone. I will spend some time picking through for removing the grass and seeds and hay in this case, then teasing before carding.
In the past, as I mentioned, I have not used the overnight soak, and I don't think it is particularly necessary for cleaner fleeces. I have also used lingerie bags, and I don't know which I like better, baskets or bags. I am thinking maybe baskets.
What I love? Is my tankless hot water heater that I can crank up to 140F on demand without hassle, and never ever ever run out of hot water during this process. Then I just go press the button again to return the device to our normal temp. Then off for a shower!
That was one sweet investment!