How to Skirt and Scour Wool
Spread your new fleece out on a large surface. It’s a good idea to do this outside or in a garage-type area, this can be messy! Now begin by removing any dung tags, matted wool, and large pieces of vegetable matter. These are going in your compost pile or used as mulch around a favorite shrub.
Look at the over all fleece and you will see that there is different quality wool from different parts of the sheep. The largest area and usually the best wool come from the back and sides. The neck ruff is a finer wool, but gets lots of hay chafe from eating caught in it. Likewise, the belly wool is usually dirty and matted. Remove them both, they can be discarded or washed separately.
Next look at the coarse, long wool on the hind quarters, this is the britch. It should be removed also and discarded or set aside to wash separately.
If you are working with a colored Jacob fleece, decide if you want to separate the colors. This can be done before or after scouring.
My favorite soap to use is Unicorn Power Scour. You need to have water that is between 150F-170F to adequately remove the lanolin. If your hot water doesn’t get this hot, add boiling water. Mix your soap and hot water together BEFORE adding your wool. Then poke your wool into the soapy water and let it sit. DO NOT AGITATE! If you do, you risk felting. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Let the water drain away, remove the wool and refill your tub with hot water. This doesn’t need to be as hot, but it shouldn’t be cold. Again, rapid temperature change can cause felting. Squeeze out as much soapy water as you can, then poke the wool back into your tub of clean rinse water. Push it down with the flat of your hand to get the rinse water through the wool. You may need to drain and rinse a second time.
Squeeze out as much water as you can, I roll it in an old towel and walk on it! Then take a clean dry towel and spread the wool out to dry. I use a porch in the summer (out of direct sun), or near the wood stove in the winter. Turn it daily so it all dries completely. Now luxuriate in your scrumptious, clean wool!