First take the raw fleece and lay it out on the floor. Go around the edges taking off the very dirty wool. Then check the rest of the fleece for excess dirt and hay, and remove that. Turn the fleece over and remove any visible short cuts.
Separate the fleece into smaller pieces, and bundle it up, trying to keep most of the cut ends facing in. Then put the bundles in mesh bags and close the bags with rubber bands.
Put HOT water in a large tub or washer, enough water so that when the wool is submerged it isn’t too cramped. BEFORE putting the wool in, add enough soap to make the water feel slippery. I use a dishwashing detergent; you want to make sure that the soap is good for cutting grease. Then add the wool, make sure it is wet, but don’t agitate it or mess with it more then you have to or the wool could felt. Always add the wool to the water, don’t run water onto the wool, this could felt it also. Let the wool sit in the soapy water for around a half hour. Then take the wool out and gently squeeze out the water (if you are using a washer just put the washer on the spin only cycle, leaving the wool in, then take the wool out before adding the rinse or other wash water).
Most of the wool that I wash is from our Shetland sheep, and they don’t have a lot of lanolin, so one wash is plenty; if you are working with a very muddy or oily fleece you may need to do two washes. The second wash would be the same as the first one, but you may not need as much soap.
To rinse: put water that is not as hot as the first water was, but not cool either (you want to avoid sudden change in water temperature so the wool doesn’t felt) in the tub or washer. Put the wool in for 30 or so minutes. If the water comes out very dirty or soapy you will need to do a second rinse, same as the first. NOTE: If using the washer, at NO time should the washer be allowed to agitate—if it does, you will have felt!
After I finish rinsing the wool, I spin the water out using the spin only cycle on the washer. Then I take the wool out of the bag and lay it out on a towel to dry. If you don’t want to use the washer to spin out the extra water, the wool will just take longer to dry.