Big Wooly Mess: Our Adventures in Washing Wool for Insulation

We had high hopes of washing our own wool to use as insulation in our tiny house.  Wool insulation is extremely functional and has a low environmental impact.  Furthermore, we live on a sheep farm and have access to hundreds of pounds of fresh-sheared wool.  It seemed like another serendipitous match made in sheepy heaven.

After much research into wool-washers and wool-washing, we determined that:

1.  Getting the wool washed for us would be prohibitively expensive.

2.  Washing the wool ourselves would be… well, if not easy, then certainly do-able, and for a few hours (or days) of work, we’d end up with hundreds of pounds of fresh, fluffy, clean fleece ready to stuff into our walls and keep our house warm and cozy.

We bought some old cooking pots and re-built a fire pit… and, let’s just say we are re-thinking both 1 and 2.  Please do watch our video here on the… very interesting attempt to wash wool and help us laugh together at our first big tiny house mess. 

Joseph and our friend Devin building the fire pit for heating water to wash the wool... back when we were still optimistic about the process!
Joseph and our friend Devin building the fire pit for heating water to wash the wool… back when we were still optimistic about the process!

10 thoughts on “Big Wooly Mess: Our Adventures in Washing Wool for Insulation

  1. Did you end this video with a pun, Joseph? “Wool see?”
    I wish it came with smells! Where was Devin? Where was lambie? The fire pit looks impressive, at least.

    1. Devin stopped by for a few days, but sadly left before the boiling took place. Lambie has been returned to the herd, and misses you and Bruno fiercely…as well as the rest of her human-herd. Baaa…. just baaaa.

  2. I used to wash wool for various craft projects in cold water in a BIG tub…. soak, soak, soak and then rinse rinse rinse and then card it to get all the shmutz out. Doesn’t it felt if done in hot water?? Then you would never get the shmutz out! Just my thoughts….

    1. Thanks for the thoughts Barbara! Hot water alone doesn’t felt it. It’s the switch from hot to cold that does. Yes, I think washing a small amount of wool for a craft project is very practical and doable. We were aiming for around 250 lbs though, and just don’t have the time or facilities for it I think. On to the next!

  3. Its easy to wash wool in a top load washing machine. I do it every spring as I prepare the fleeces from my small flock of Shetland sheep.
    1-Fill the machine with hot water. Add say 1/3 to 1/2 cup Dawn dish washing soap.It’s a good degreaser, but not too harsh like wool washing soap, that I won’t name. Now add say half of a fleece equally distributed. Let it wash/soak in the soapy water until the water is lukewarm. NO water pounding on it as the tub fills! NO agitation from any of the wash cycles! Only push the fleece in after the washer has finished filing.
    2-Spin out the dirty water. Feel the fleece. Is it squeeky clean? If not remove the fleece and repeat the process until it is clean. Most fleece are clean with one wash.
    3-After the fleece is pronounced clean, remove it and fill the washer with warmish water, about the same temperature as the soapy water when it was spun out. Add say, 1/2 cup vinegar, swish to mix just like you did with the soap and return the wet fleece for a final rinse/soak and spin.
    Hope this information is helpful enough so that you will be able to use the wool as insulation. You might want to consider adding a piece of cedar between each stud to ward off wool moths that can and will eat wool, especially wool that still has any grease left in. Good luck.

    1. WOW! Thank you for that in depth description on how to wash wool Kronberg! One question that I hope won’t offend anyone reading. Do you first have to pick through it for the poopy/vegetably bits? Most of them were sorted during shearing, but we’ve found a few that have slipped by.

      We have some time before we need insulation again, so I think we’ll give this a go when we get our stomachs back. We’ll definitely keep you posted and were wondering if we could ask you questions when we do go ahead again?

      S + J

      1. Removing all the crud is called “skirting”. This is done before washing the fleece. The fleece is laid out on a table-like something. I use a wooden square with PVC pipe acting as the table top. Others use chicken wire stapled to a wood frame. My table is on saw horses so it is portable.
        1- Lay the fleece on it with cut side down. Grab the fleece in several spots and give it a good shaking. Not so much as to disturb the fleece integrity, but enough so that the short cuttings, pooh and debris fall through to the ground.
        2- Next, go around all the edges pulling off and throwing away anything that look disgusting. This can be pooh, fleece matted beyond recovery or lots of plant matter. It doesn’t hurt to be quite ruthless at this stage because nothing good comes from bad.
        3- Its ready for washing after skirting. Yes, I wash fleece in my household washing machine, only after it has been rigorously skirted. Good skirting can make washing a pleasant satisfying experience. Sorry your first attempt was disgusting.

      2. Ohhhh. That makes so much sense Susan! Skirting. How did we never hear of this? I think we assumed the washing would get that stuff out :-Z Thank you again for chiming in and offering this great advice!

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