Fermented Suint Method

Fermented Suint Method is a technique to clean wool fleece in preparation for spinning.  This method was developed for the lower lanolin wools which have a lower wax content in their woolgreasePrimitive and longwool breeds specifically. If you’re new to fleece processing, this is one of the simplest ways for cleaning fleece and a good place to start.  There is no heat involved in the process and therefor less of a chance of felting your wool.  Plus it’s just darned intriguing to see a fleece practically clean itself with it’s own built in “soap”.  Let me warn you though, the process smells bad. If you live on a farm, there’s nothing unfamiliar here, but if you’re in an apartment, you might want to think about finding a friend with a backyard :). I’ve put some FAQ’s at the end, which is just an excuse for me to ramble on more about the process ;).

The process is designed for cleaning large quantities of fleece, as each subsequent batch makes the FS mix stronger.   It is a technique which has been used extensively on  New Zealand wool farms to clean fleece without the use of heat or detergents.   I first learned about this technique from reading an article by Judith MacKenzie McCuin “On Washing Fleece, in Spin Off magazine’s Fall 2008 issue. The issue is only available as a download now.  Judith also mentions this technique briefly in her new DVD Three Bags Full,  full of excellent information on selecting, preparing, and spinning a fleece. I can’t recommend it enough.

Suint is basically sheeps sweat.  It’s made up of potassium salts which together with woolgrease, some rainwater, and a weeks worth of soaking creates a basic “soap” that will help to clean dirt and woolgrease from your fiber.  While you will need a fleece with a higher grease content  to start your FSM batch with, this method was developed to clean the lower grease fibers, i.e. Lincoln longwools and primitives (Shetland, Churro).

I will clarify right from the start that this method will not remove all of the woolgrease, and it will not dissolve or remove vegetable matter (VM).  With the breed types listed above, you may find that you do not need to do a hot water and detergent (i.e. Dawn dish soap sans enzymes) wash after this process, as some prefer to spin with a bit of “grease” left in. However, your hot water washing will be a much shorter process when you use the FSM as your initial wash.

You will need the following:

  • An unwashed wool fleece (of a higher grease content) this is your starter fleece
  • Rainwater
  • Opaque container with fitted lid


  • Large laundry bag
  • Extra bin
  • Window screen

We start with the container:

20 Gal Container

Mine is a 20 gal container that I fill about three quarters full with rainwater collected from a downspout on my house. I have found the best luck when the container is opaque and has a fitted lid, airtight is not important.

Put your unwashed, unrinsed fleece into the bin.  The Romney here is a little shy of 3 lbs.RomneyRaven

Raw Romney Fleece

I put my fleece in large laundry bags I’ve found pretty cheap online, making it easier for me to drain the fleece when the time comes.

wool in FSM-laundry bag

laundry bag

scum and bubbles...oh my.


The “fermentation” takes about 5-7 days to develop. Keep the water warm–at room temperature if possible.  You will definitely notice a strong odor, much like a barnyard fermentation/septic smell. The wash water will start to ferment and sometimes a slight white film and bubbles will occur.

One thing to remember is even without following up this process with a hot water/detergent wash, this smell dissipates completely once the fiber is dry.

After about 7 days you can pull the initial fleece out of the tub. You want to keep as much of the liquid as you can because this wonderful liquid is what you’re going to soak your follow up fleece in.

I pull my bag of fleece out of the bin and set it onto a screen with another bin under it to catch the FSM water.  Pour what you’ve gathered from the draining back into the original FS vat.


wool in laundry bag draining on a screen

The more fleece you run through your FS vat,  the better it works. Try not to dilute it, but if you need to add a bit more rainwater to help keep the water level up that is fine.

Now you’re ready to put the wool you want to spin into your FS Vat.  The process is pretty much the same as what you did with the first fleece with the exception that you will only have to soak it for 2-3 days. Soaking longer than that won’t hurt your fiber, but more time in the vat isn’t any more productive at this point. You can be more cautious about maintaining your lock formation by whatever means you find most suitable to the fleece at hand.  Once you’ve pulled your wet fiber from your FS vat, take your time letting it drain. There’s no rush. The more that drains out the less you have to rinse away.  Remember to pour the drained liquid back into the original FS bin.

 You may use tap water to rinse your fleece.  I have run water gently over the bagged wool from the garden hose. Primitives are more resistant to felting than the finer wool fibers.  If you have hard water, a white fleece might turn a bit gray. The gray will wash out when you do your hot water and detergent wash on your fiber or finished yarn. Unlike soap, detergent helps to remove mineral deposits in hard water.  If you have loads of rainwater, you can sink bagged fleece into bins of rainwater and drain, rinse and repeat.

At this point I like to spin the bag of fiber out in an old washing machine I use just for this purpose. It was an old one that stopped agitating but kept spinning. It drains into the garden. Perfect for a wool washer like me. 🙂

Lay your wet wool out and fluff it up onto a drying screen. This was a perfect day to dry. It was a warm early summer day, with little wind. I often will put another screen on top of the wool to keep it from blowing away in the wind. Shade cloth will do the trick as well. If you lay your wool on top of old towels that helps to absorb off some of the moisture too.

DSCF0006Now as you’re fluffing the wool apart so it dries better, you’re going to notice that that smell is still present, and you’re going to think that smell is never going to go away. It will, trust me it will. If you still smell the FS mix on your fiber, it’s not dry!  Which happens to be an excellent indicator if your wool is dry enough to store.  I once brought multiple fiber samples from my first FSM to Black Sheep Gathering to show people what kind of fiber you could expect to get from this method and nary a one noticed any residual smell.  And when you wet the wool again, that smell is not present.

  1. Soak initial fleece for 5-7 days
  2. Drain fleece and keep the liquid from this soaking
  3. Put another fleece into the liquid
  4. Soak for 2-3 days
  5. Drain fleece and keep the liquid from this soaking
  6. Rinse fleece till rinse water runs clear
  7. Dry fleece till odor dissipates

Repeat steps 4-7 above as many times as you have fleece to clean. I cleaned 25 pounds of fleece in that bin you see before I ran out of fleece to wash.

That is the long and short of the Fermented Suint Method of washing fleece.  Below I have included a few Frequently Asked Questions, and feel free to drop me a line with any questions you might think should be addressed on this site. Thanks for looking and thank you to all the fellow Ravelers and fans of the FMS that helped me with their input over the years.

More documentation photos here.  Click on pictures to open and read captions.

I find that this method works well for those of us who:

  1. can’t put the grease into their septic systems
  2. have multiple fleece to wash
  3. want to use it as a pre-wash for high grease fleece
  4. have an area where they can work outside 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to use rainwater?

We’re making a soap (not detergent). Soap cleans best in soft water. Many have created a  FSM with tap or well water, but the cleaning quality of the FSM has had mixed results.  You can use regular tap water to rinse your fiber, however on white fiber you might notice some graying due to the minerals in your water. A final hot water wash (with a detergent, i.e. Dawn, Power Scour) of your yarn or fiber should remove that graying depending on how hard your water is.

Why a high grease fleece to start the vat with?

Higher grease content equals higher suint content. The more suint you have in the water the better the cleaning will work.

Can I spin the fleece that I started the FS Vat with?

Yes, there’s no reason you can’t process this first fleece as you would any other. The higher grease content will require a longer scouring process, and might require two hot water washings. I have also run the first fleece through the vat in smaller batches just to allow the FS mix to gain better access to the locks.  You’ll note that more dirt and grime falls out too when you’re running smaller batches through the vat.

Can I use the FSM for just one fleece?

The process was developed for cleaning large quantities of fleece and might not be worth the effort to clean just one fleece. (See cold water soak below)

Can I skip the rinsing process after a FS soak?

Yes, you can drain out the FS Mix, spin out the fiber and go directly to your hot water and detergent washings. I usually do a rinse before spinning just to get out more of the dirt and grim that the fiber was soaking in.

Is the FS Method the same as a cold water soak?

No, a cold water soak is just allowing your fleece to soak in water overnight. However even if you’re not using the FSM to clean your fleece an overnight cold water soak will remove the suint, dust and grime from your wool and make for easier washing. I also find much fewer washings are necessary after a cold water soak, especially with low grease fibers. Basically wool has it’s own built in cleaning mechanism, and it was customary in rainy regions to spread the shorn fleece over rock walls and let the rain clean out the dust and dirt. The suint in the fleece did a good job of “washing” the fleece with this simple method, and was especially successful with the primitive fleece such as the Shetlands. “Spinning in the grease” is often a term used when spinning a fleece prepared in this manner.

Does this method remove vegetable matter from my fleece?

Wish it did, but no. That will require shaking out your dry fleece before and after any washing method, then a good picking or combing will help the rest drop out of your fiber before you prep it for spinning.

Should the subsequent fleece in the vat be rinsed first?

No, the addition of unwashed fleece to the vat is what makes it stronger. To quote Judith MacKenzie: “Use the fermented water over and over; the more you use it, the better it gets. Don’t worry that it looks dirty–use the water until, as they say in Montana, it’s too thick to swim in and too thin to plow.”  That isn’t to say you can’t put a rinsed fleece through the vat if you have one, but you’re not saving any time rinsing it first and you’re losing the suint that adds to the cleaning properties of the FSM.

Why is my fleece still “sticky”.

This method was developed for the lower lanolin wools which have a lower wax content in their woolgrease.  In your finer breeds, what is left behind are the heavy stubborn waxes. These will need to be removed with a hot water and detergent scour. Also try to spin the “sticky” fiber on a day when you can leave it in the sun to warm the waxes. I’ve often spun wool directly off a freshly shorn sheep, body heat and warm sun makes the fibers spin a very fine single. They seem to wash up very nicely once in a yarn despite the grit and grim you see in the fibers as you spin it. Try it for socks, or a hat, see what you think.

Does the temperature of the vat have to be warm?

The vat should try to stay “at room temperature”.  There have been reports of bad batches occurring when temps get too warm.  The vat temp should not get too much above room temperature, so if you’re doing this in the middle of summer you might have a harder time keeping the temp of the vat around 72 degrees.  There is no time of the year I get full sun in my yard, so I am able to avoid a vat that is warming up to high temps in direct sunshine.

I haven’t had any freezing temps to deal with during my soaks.  When I started mine in the early Spring I covered the bin with an old wool blanket, to keep the vat closer to room temperature.

I’m getting algae in my vat.

There is a good possibility you don’t have enough suint in your water, that your suint to water ratio is too low. The stronger the potassium salts the less likely you will get an algae bloom and I always recommend an opaque container with a fitted, but not air tight lid.

I’m getting “wrigglies” in my vat.

Some have complained of getting mosquito or fly larvae in their vats. You probably do not have enough suint in your water, or you don’t have a snap on lid to discourage insects (air tight isn’t essential though). I can only help you here by letting you know what I have never had to deal with wrigglies or algae in my FS vats. I also do not have issues in my rainwater barrels (opaque plastic garbage cans with snap on lids stored under trees in the shade).

Can I use my FSM after letting it sit for some time?

I’ve kept my vats, free of wool, for a year and found that it was just as good. I kept mine because I didn’t foresee me having multiple fleece to start a whole new batch over again. Keep it in the shade and check that it’s not drying out…(although I’ve reconstituted mine a couple of time ;P).

Is there an actual fermentation going on here?

I don’t believe there has been a definitive answer to this question yet. I use the term Fermented Suint Method based on the article by Judith MacKenzie in her original Fall 2008 Spin Off magazine article, as well as the common use of the term in most literature on the subject.   Fermentation

Why do you do all this?

My doctor told me to maintain bone density I should lift heavy things.  Hauling buckets of rainwater and heavy wet fleece  seems to do the trick. This isn’t a sport for the feint of heart, but it’s entertaining and keeps you strong. If we wanted a quick way to do things, we wouldn’t be involved in this art at all, so take pride and carry on.


161 Responses to Fermented Suint Method

  1. Julie dean says:

    How much does your start up fleece weigh?
    After the start up fleece comes out how many pounds per mesh bag can you use at one time and how many bags per vat

    • Moz says:

      My start up fleece weighed about 3 lbs. The idea of getting the FSM vat started is to get as much suint in the rainwater as you can, so the more the merrier. 5 lbs in my 20 gals would have been fine.

      On your follow up fleeces though, you want to let the liquid move freely around the fibers, so with my 20 gal vat I wouldn’t put more than 3 lbs at a time. Remember you’re going to have to lift and drain the liquid back into the vat so make it easy on yourself and do it in small bits. You can see that I’ve sorted and put them in trays as well as just loose in a bag, depending on how you want to keep lock formation and your final processing method, i.e. combing or carding. There’s not hard and fast rule on the amounts. You can always put the bags back through the vat if you feel you didn’t get it as clean as you like, but you can save this step by letting that fiber have more ‘breathing’ room from the start.
      Good questions. I’ll use this to update my FAQ’s. 🙂

  2. Julie dean says:

    What breeds of sheep have a high grease and would best candidates for this process?

  3. Moz says:

    I use whatever I can come across for cheap. Most meat sheep have a higher grease content so I often ask local farmers for the stuff they’ll just toss away. Also the meat sheep are often Down breeds, a fiber not to be underestimated for its ease of processing and hardy wear. Rambouillet, Merino, all the finer fiber carry a higher grease content. More grease = more suint.

  4. Mandy Poje says:

    I’m tryin gthis , I’m on day 3 and I’m FLOORED with the results SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thankyou so much for the step by step !

    • Moz says:

      Glad it’s useful. I love cleaning fleece this way. It’s a little more labor intensive in some ways, and much easier in others. I think it’s a great way to start cleaning a fleece no matter how you finish it up.

  5. Mandy Poje says:

    this is WAAAAAYYYY easier than any method i’ve tried haha I have 10 bags FULL that i need to wash this is AMAZING!want to see my results?

  6. Thank you so much, this is a great idea, I suppose the old ways are really the best after all.

  7. will this break down and remove the occasional poopy ends of the fleece?

    • Moz says:

      It will help to soften them. Sometimes those stiff soiled ends just don’t want to open up. If they don’t want to open up and let you comb or flick them open you can always cut those ends off.

  8. Thanks. We live in Western BC and the climate makes it a good area for poopy fleece. So this is one thing that we contend with.

  9. EllyWendy says:

    This is one of the best-written articles I have ever read. Thank you for putting in such effort and making it so clear. I am a relatively new spinner and last year I was blessed to acquire more fleeces than I could process by doing it my slow way, a little at a time. It is Spring here on Vancouver Island, BC, and I really want to try this. Cheers! (p.s. Hello, neighbour, Patty-Anne Lea )

    • Moz says:

      Thank you very kindly for your positive word :). I was intrigued with this method when I too had an awful lot of fleece to process. It is most useful when you do have lots of poundage to get through because the more fleece that goes through the vat the stronger it gets.

  10. EllyWendy says:

    You’re welcome, Moz 🙂 Yes, I see the beauty of it. I got through my first several fleeces by fooling around with small batches, good for beginning, and lots of fun. But then, the novelty wore off and I wanted to get through the next ones — faster! Since I didn’t know how to do that, they sat over the Winter. Again, thanks for sharing your expertise with us so well. Blessings!

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  12. Bev says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this write up. the writing and your photos combine to make a perfectly clear explanation of the process (and I so appreciate your post on maintaining lock formation at the same time!). I’m in hopes of getting 3 lbs. of uncoated Cormo and I thought thiss would be a perfect fleece to try the FSM, but was concerned about keeping lock formation. Now I know just how to do that!

  13. Bev says:

    It just occurred to me to ask you if you think the FSM will help with an ancient fleece I have (ashamed to say it’s about 20 years old). It is a humongous (10 lbs. +) Corriedale. I’ve checked it and believe it is still sound, but the lanolin (at east I think it is lanolin) has formed into hard crystal-like bits. I believe JMM said that FSM won’t help get rid of lanolin, but I’m still wondering if it would help with the other grease in the fleece?

    • Moz says:

      Thanks for the compliments, Bev. I did put through some old Churro fleece, they were about 10-12 years old. It took out tons of dirt and of course the remaining suint. While those fleece are still not in the best condition because of their original storing in a hot attic, they are still clean now and I don’t have to worry about them getting any worse. Those Churro’s are for weaving so I think they will do alright for that type of spinning. The older Shetlands came out great! They were stored in a more fiber friendly way in pillow cases in the main house :).

  14. Lois says:

    Have you tried this on other fibers, like mohair? I’m not sure if that stickiness in mohair is lanolin.

    • Moz says:

      Mohair doesn’t have the suint necessary to feed the FSM vats. To remove the waxes on the mohair fibers one needs a detergent and higher temperatures than with wool. If you have an active FSM vat you can run the fiber through it as a first wash to get out the normal dust and grime, but an overnight cold soak will work just as well. (See FAQ for cold soak.)

  15. Liz says:

    I have processed one fleece with good results and moved on to the next. I noticed for this second processing that there is algae forming in the vat so I removed that fleece. Can I still use this vat since it has had an algae bloom or do I have to start over?

    • Moz says:

      I have to say I haven’t had this happen to me because I usually get the vat pretty strong with suint before it get’s a chance to grow algae. This year I started a vat with only 2 fleece and it’s been sitting through hot weather for months, and I really need to get more suint into that vat to make sure I don’t get an algae bloom. You could try to skim off the algae and then get your next fleece in there to strengthen the vat. Once the potassium salts build up in there I notice that nothing seems to grow or thrive in there. The follow up fleece only stay in the vat 2-3 days. If you notice that the algae starts to grow again try to skim it off or take it out and put the new one in after skimming. It won’t really hurt the fleece, but it’s better not to have to rinse it off of your fiber. This will be an experiment as my experience is nill with this kind of thing. Hope this helps.

      • Liz says:

        After rinsing the fleece that was in there, I decided to start over again. I noticed that the green color doesn’t rinse out of the fleece on the small parts it came into contact with. I also used a clear(er) container than what you have pictured and had mine in the sun so I will change the container and the location of my vat and try again. The two fleeces I did do where remarkable. It was like magic seeing them come out of that brown soup and turn white as I rinsed. I started out with a Romney lambs fleece and not allot of suint. I wonder if putting a little potassium salt in would help the first time around? I don’t know what it would do to the fleece though.

  16. Ninasoosun says:

    I have no rain water to work with. Rain just doesn’t happen where I live until maybe late winter. I have well water and softened (with rock salt) water that comes into the house. Is the soft water preferable to the mineral laden well water? Or detrimental? Any guidance?

    • Moz says:

      I haven’t tried the FSM using softened water, but the mineral laden water is what would cause the fleece to hold mineral stains (greying) on the fiber. I’d say give your softened water a try and see how it goes. You could do side by side comparison batches? Keep us posted too. 🙂

  17. Moz says:

    Can’t say about the potassium salts, Liz as I’ve never tried this. You could do a little experiment with a portion of the fleece that you’re not interested in keeping (the skirtings) and a smaller bucket :).

  18. Charlotte says:

    Any thoughts on storage over the winter in a climate that gets below freezing? I won’t be processing during the winter (I wear lots of wool for a reason…the cold and I don’t get along), but the thought of a smelly bin of water in the house isn’t appealing either. If it freezes and thaws out, will it still work? Or should I just plan on making a new batch in the spring?

    (Going to give it a shot on a moth-infested fleece per a recommendation that it’ll really really drown all those moths, but it is halfway through September, so storage is on the mind.)

    • Moz says:

      I’ve learned a wonderful trick from Judith MacKenzie. Get the five gallon plastic buckets with lids, fill and pack them with your wool. Put the lid on and label. You can get an amazing amount of wool in one bucket. I found a sturdy plastic dinner plate that fits inside the opening. I get my wool in the bucket, put the plate on top and stand on it. The wool takes a bit of time to rebound giving one either enough time to add more or get the lid on. I take the plate out to use again before sealing. I have heard that one can drown moth eggs.

  19. honeystrust says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I have a lot of fleeces to wash and , being reliant on tank water in Australia I was worried re the amount of water of would use, as well as gas to heat all the water. I cannot wait to try this.

  20. LA Bunney says:

    Thank you for sharing all your experience. I am a complete novice with 6 ouessant fleeces that i want to hand comb and am quite overwhelmed by the choice (and cost!) of combs. Where to start? I don’t want to buy the ‘wrong’ combs through lack of knowledge. Any advice gratefully received.

    • Moz says:

      I was just reading about Ouessant fleece in Deb Robson’s new Field Guide to Fleece. Her compact version of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. They are tiny! Love the look of these little things. It appears they are a double coated sheep, and most likely low on lanolin so you may want to put a few into your vat to get the suint levels up quickly so that you get the fermentation going before any algae wants to grow. You can always run these start fleece through the FSM again, no worries on that. Combs aren’t always necessary for a double coated fleece. I often use my mini combs if I want to separate out the coats, but lately on my most recent Shetland I’ve been trying the method of pulling out the longer hairs from the tip and then carding the softer undercoat. You can try flicking also with a pet slicker brush or rake or a pet comb. Try a few things before you commit to combs. Especially if you’re unsure which will work best. I’ve bought many over the years and have found a use for them all. I’d think that a double row Vicking comb set could be just what you’re looking for, but they could be too open and not help separate the different coats. Good luck.

  21. Angela L. says:

    I just wanted to add my thanks to you for your wonderful article! We “inherited” some karakul-cross sheep that we mostly use for vegetation control, and I have wanted to use their wool. Sounds like I am in good company when I say I have 15 raw fleeces waiting for attention! I’ve been procrastinating because of the outrageous amount of water (and heating energy) the common wool cleaning process takes. And I can’t see myself using the traditional Navajo method of laying the fleece out in the sun and beating it periodically until it’s clean. 🙂 I started two batches (fleeces from different sheep) today. It will be interesting to see if there is enough suint on their wool to get the process going. The water sure looked shmucky. 🙂 Thanks again!

    • Moz says:

      Thank you for your kind words! The Karakul may not have enough suint, but the soaking will definitely help. One water saving method I’ve just learned when/if you do a final wash with detergent, reuse the wash water. It may be dirty but it still cleans. Sometimes I’ll add a bit more Dawn to the water if I think it needs more detergent. Then I drain the bags of fiber, then spin the remaining liquid out in my old wash machine (dedicated for this). Put the bags in a hot water bath to rinse (with a glug of vinegar). Amazing how clean the fiber is in this final rinse.

  22. larae says:

    Hi moz, do you think I could start a suint batch now? Is it too cold at night? I am getting too many fleeces that need to be clean and have a Finn fleece coming and of course want to wash it right away. Let me know- its Larae in Petaluma. Tata

    • Moz says:

      Hey, Larae. I don’t think the cold matters. I started mine first batch in the early Springtime..maybe it was Feb. Do you have rainwater?

  23. Teri Eliasson says:

    Just wondering can you add some softener salt to the mix if you have to use tap water?? My water is fairly hard I did start a vat with a merino fleece and would like to keep this going (and doing a better job) I have some salt I got through Dharma that I use while dyeing

    • Moz says:

      Teri, I’ve not had any experience with water softeners so I can’t say how it will affect the whole set up, but feel free to experiment and see what comes of it. I have heard many people use their tap water with some success. The biggest problem with hard water is the mineral deposits it will put onto your white fleece. If you have a very greasy fleece, you will have to do a final scour with hot water and detergent to get more of the grease out, and my experience has been that this does take out the graying of the fiber as well. Good luck ;).

  24. Rita S. says:

    Thanks for the terrific article.

  25. Dianne says:

    I am with everyone else. GREAT article. Two things came up while I was reading it. I had some septic system issues last two years. This year added the deep permafrost and forever time to thaw. But duh – I finally identified what the problem has been after reading your article ! I have been washing wool in the tub and the grease I guess has clogged it up. Can you or anyone help me figure out how I could deal with this. Would just pouring dawn with hot water clear it?

    Secondly I had the question someone else did about mohair.and whether it could be done with this method. What I am wondering is if the vat of water used for the wool has the suint in it would that not help with the cleaning process? And what about other fleece like llama and alpaca. They are grease free but usually quite dirty (they love to roll in the dirt) I hope tp make a tumbler to get it out before tackling the wash but wondered also if it could be soaked in the suint water first to geth the fleece clean before washing.

    I have a mixed flerd of fiber animals and only a few sheep. Same number of camelids but double the number of angora goats. While washing the camalid fleece is not going ot be a problem for hte septic, I gather the mohair still will,.. So barring doing the regular hot water wash outside I wonder if putting them through the sheep suint water with the salts already would work on the mohair fleece.

    • Moz says:

      Not sure about how to unclog the drains. Ultimately, I do not claim to have enough knowledge to speak on anything but wool, I’m afraid 🙂 What have you been washing in the tub, mohair? Those waxes are very hard. It takes higher heat temps to remove them from the mohair fiber, and possibly the drains. Also the fibers do get out and get in the drains and buld up, even we humans are responsible for that ;).

      The FSM is a soap so it would work well to remove dirt from your camelids. However, an overnight soak in water would be easier and just as effective, methinks. Especially if you don’t have a lot of wool to start and maintain a FSM vat. I’ve put one mohair fleece through a FSM vat before scouring at hi temp because I had a vat going (don’t I always) but wouldn’t create a vat just for this purpose, but if you have one going its always educational to do a comparative test with a vat soak and without. Good luck and thanks for the compliment.

  26. Thanks for your reply. Much appreciated. Sorry for the typos. I was half asleep. I think for the mohair & camelid I will wait until I have some good experience with wool using this method before I tackle the method on these fibers, unless somebody else takes it on first and posts. But I sure am glad to have pinned down my septic field troubles.

    I cannot tell you what a relief it is to make sense of my septic woes . So next step is fixing it. I found a product on line that I hope will help with the field, but need to speak with them to determine if it will clear the drain as well . I may need to get a plumber with the steam truck that is used to unthaw frozen drains. If anyone is reading this with a similar problem it is called septic drainer and if you google it info will come up. Thanks again.

  27. Teri Eliasson says:

    I have had a merino fleece soaking for several months! Guess I forgot about it!! Anyway with summer here I thought I would take the fleece and “soup” outside and start a vat there. I only have a small amount of water and fleece so need to make a bigger tub. I do not have any rain water but I’m on a well. The water is quite hard in this region. Can I add some softener salt to the water?? I have some “Dyer’s Salt” from Dharma Trading, would this work?
    Thanks for the great article!!

    • Teri Eliasson says:

      Augh!!! Sorry just noticed I asked this same thing back in January. I am getting forgetful in my middle age. Did not mean to waste your time!!! I think I may try a bit of the salt and will let you know how it works. and will try not to repeat myself it the future!!!

  28. Thanks for sharing the great “How To”. I just dropped my first bag of fleece into a vat in the backyard. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. 🙂 I want to document this project on my blog, would it be ok to link to this page instead of having to recreate the wheel?

    • Moz says:

      Absolutely, the info is here to spread around. Spent the weekend at Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR and a few hours with Judith MacKenzie. She mentioned not only to…“Use the fermented water over and over; the more you use it, the better it gets. Don’t worry that it looks dirty–use the water until, as they say in Montana, it’s too thick to swim in and too thin to plow.”. but the same with your Dawn and hot water baths. Just keep using that same water on your follow up scours! No need to change out that dirty wash water with each scour bath. I’ve found great success with this, and after spinning the water out of my fiber the rinse water runs almost completely clear.

  29. Melissa says:

    I just used this method for the first time and it turned out great! Thank you for such a wonderful tutorial!

  30. Tracy says:

    Fabulous article – exactly what I needed! I started an FSM bath in a CLEAR plastic tote with an opaque lid in the sun last week, before I read your article. Will that be a problem? I saw the previous responses about algae growing in the fleece. Since this fleece is a Romney over a year old and subsequently pretty sticky, I plan to use a hot scour with Power Scour afterwards.

    • Moz says:

      Tracy, clear containers encourage algae growth, especially in new vats where the suint hasn’t had a chance to build up. Cover it with a dark garbage bag 🙂 a final hot water scour is fine,but no sense dealing with algae if you can avoid it. Good luck!

      • Tracy says:

        Great idea! I’ll do that for this batch and transfer to an opaque container for the next ones. 🙂

  31. Sara says:

    Would salt water from the ocean work?

    • Moz says:

      The purpose of the rainwater is that it isn’t hard water. FSM works as a soap, which cleans best in soft water aka rainwater. The sea water would be full of minerals and leave deposits on your fleece, but it certainly would be an interesting experiment to try rainwater on some samples 🙂

  32. Tracy says:

    I pulled my first white fleece out after 8 days as a starter fleece and discovered several pink areas. At BSG this year Judith MacKenzie said during the wool judging that if a shearer finds pink in a fleece that denotes a very bad kind of bacteria and the fleece is discarded. What do you think this pink I’m finding in the white Romney might be? If it is truly this bad bacteria, does the whole tub need to be discarded and start over? BTW I used well water as there is no other water source available here.

  33. Moz says:

    I recall JMM saying that, and have wondered about it when it turns up in the fleece during an FSM soak. I can’t say I’ve had any experience with this. Let us know what you decide and what your outcome was. Good luck! 🙂

    • Chris says:

      So does that mean, that if you don’t do an FSM soak, this means that the pink would not show up and consequently you would be unaware of the potential bacteria and thus you would just spin and then hot wash the fleece [or vice versa]??

      • Moz says:

        Usually one can see the results of bacteria stain in a fleece before it is wet. Sorry if I made it sound as though the stain only shows up in the soaking of a fleece.

  34. Tracy says:

    I think to be on the safe side it might be a good idea to dye it. 20 minutes in the dye pot should kill anything. The fleece came out sparkling clean and smelling to high heaven. I never in my wildest dreams believed the smell would disappear when dry. It did! And I didn’t believe the smell wouldn’t return when wet…it doesn’t! Overall it has been a good experience. Thank you so much for the blog and sharing your expertise!!

  35. Dianne Fitzmaurice says:

    I have Old English heritage Southdown Babydoll sheep. They are a short staple fleece and I don’t think a lot of lanolin., so I thought I would do 2 fleece together to start in 2 separate bags . What do you think? Also have hard water and didn’t collect rainwater. I have been dealing with septic troubles so all I could think of to get through that. Things are on track now but no rainwater. Could I add salt to the well water? (No water softener) . THank sDianne

    • Moz says:

      Dianne.. Two to start sounds good. Getting as much suint in the mix to start as you can. How many other fleece do you have after the two? If these are your only two, you’ll want to put them through a second time in smaller batches so the mix has more room to get at the fibers. Soap which the FSM is akin to) doesn’t clean as well in hard water and often leaves a grey residue on your fiber that usually does come away after a hot water and detergent scour. I can’t speak on softening your water with salts, but if you’re willing to experiment it’s worth a try. Good luck! 🙂

      • Well I finally got a storage container out in a deluge ot collect rain water – 10 minutes and it was full. Just put in one fleece to try. It is a Babydoll so not a huge fleece. But no sun and cold the last few days O(and more rain and hail last night!) Well it has been in there 3 days now. And you know what – no odor! The fleece did have some mess on it but not huge. Does the sun on it or temp make a difference. Does the odor say anything about how it is coming along? Thanks Dianne

      • Moz says:

        Well, yes, the odor is an indicator that your vat is working. It usually will take more than 3 days though, about 5-7 days is about average. I’ve found that it is helpful if it’s at least room temperature. If the weather is cool, I’ve wrapped mine in black plastic so it absorbs heat from the sun and then wrapped it in old wool blankets to keep it warm through the night if there are freezing temps. Now that being said, this is only to get it started. You don’t really have to worry about your vat “dying” in the cold. Mine has been in the yard for a couple of seasons now and we’ve had some frosty nights.

      • johngriswold says:

        Simply adding salt won’t soften the water. Salt-based water softeners use ionically-charged plastic beads to strip the hardness (minerals calcium and magnesium, mainly) from the water. The calcium and magnesium ions stick to the plastic beads. When the beads are saturated and cannot absorb any more ions, salt, in the form of a strong brine, is flushed through the plastic beads. The salt strips the calcium and magnesium ions from the beads, so they can be reused to soften more water.

  36. Well I have 6 Babydoll fleece from this year and quite a few from other years. But I also have 12 angora goat fleece from this year and lots from other years as well as camelid fleece. So I hav e a lot of washing and processing. I thought 2 or 3 would be good. I’ll start with 2. I’ll do this batch with no salt and then will try it or one with salt . But will have to buy the kind for water softeners.

    • Well it is day 5. It looks good but still no odor to speak of. Maybe I have been around animals too long! lol . But there is definately no odor. Wondering if anyone else has had this experience? Also has anyone else washed Babydoll fleece this way? Now a couple of other questions. Do you let the fleece dry completely before washing regularly? Or just drain and wash? Secondly to overwinter the vat it would freeze solid where I am and crack the container so I guess that is not a good way to go. I thought about salvaging it somehow in plastic bags but am wondering what solid freezing does to it. Is it worthwhile ? I could then try and transfer it to the crawl space. But it is so heavy. I have it on the steps right now so easy access to watch and animals not mess with it. No way I could move the whole container. Or just start a new one next year. Does anything happen once it is frozen and thawed? Has anyone let it freeze and thaw?

      • Moz says:

        Maybe it is your familiarity with animals :). Does if bubble a bit when you agitate it? That’s another sign. You can just drain and wash right away if you like. I often do things in stages, so dry mine first. But you can go right from the vat after draining and do your hot water and detergent scours. Don’t worry about the vat freezing. I think it will be fine when it thaws and the weather warms up next year. Just get another fleece in the vat and let it warm up.

      • That did it. Yes. There were bubbles and once I moved it around the odor came up. I will leave it 2 more days. And will put 2 fleece in next time. I didn’t use a bag. Didn’t have one big enough. Just those piddly little ones. But will likely put it in there to spin out excess water after I have washed in soap and hot water. First will let it drain on a screen though. Thanks

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  38. Chase says:

    What a wonderful article! I got right to work with rain water, a 30 gallon container and a 7# merino fleece. It was a “clean” fleece (well-skirted, no poop, but with tons of lanolin) and smelled very sheepy for days. It finally got smelly after two weeks (it had been cool and overcsat for several days) here in Maine, so I was ready to take it out anyway…then I saw the algae and got it RIGHT out. It’s been drying now for a day, and tomorrow promises to be sunny.

    I love the process, but the algae bothers me. I read the other posts about it, but I am using a black tub (it does have an opaque yellow lid, though) and I thought that 7# of a lanolin-rich fleece like merino would certainly have created a strong vat. Has anyone had any more thoughts about algae? I have a lot of dark fleeces, where a little green might just be of interest, so maybe it’s not a big deal. But I am disappointed, especially if it means that I can’t wash white fleece this way.

    Thanks again for such a great explanation of an intriguing process.

    • Moz says:

      It is best if you have a completely opaque container, and while a Merino will have a lot of suint salts in it, it’s still not the same as running 3 or 4 fleece through the vat. I’m also very wary of very clean fleece. I wonder sometimes if the wool wasn’t rinsed before shearing, thus taking out all your suint. But since your vat seemed to start it’s process it sounds like there was suint in there. Put an opaque top on it or cover it with a black plastic bag. I’ve never had algae affect my vats, so I’m not sure whether the algae will continue to grow. My guess is that you’ll definitely need to add more fleece to get it stronger. The more salts the less can survive in the vat. Good luck! 🙂

  39. Chase says:

    Thanks, Moz!
    The fleece was definitely not rinsed — I know the shepherd, who does his own shearing, and have seen his flock. Coated, yes, but he doesn’t rinse. The lid is opaque, although yellow, and I too thought of a black plastic garbage bag and have put that on top. I’ve had a couple of other thoughts, if you can stand my going on about this. I originally used a 30-gallon vertical container, dark green, opaque grey lid. Because there was quite a bit of water in it, the sides bulged out and the lid no longer fit. In fact, it kept falling off. I live in the country, there are flies…so rather than have them laying eggs on my fleece, I bought a more horizontal container with a better-fitting lid, transferred the vat and was happy. In the meantime, the weather changed from cool and overcast to hot and sunny. I thought that was great. But I’m thinking that just as algae forms more quickly on a shallow pond, it formed in my much more shallow container. The water was very warm compared to the temp of the water in the original container. Of course I don’t know if my “shallow pond” theory is true, but I’m thinking that I’ll move the container to a shady place or to the barn — and I’ll start another batch in the vertical container and be sure to cover the top with some screening. I’m rich in unwashed merino fleeces to use for fermentation, so I’ll compare results. And keep dumping in other fleece when the merinos have done their job. i’ll definitely report back.

    Thanks again.

  40. honeystrust says:

    I started my Suint mix in October and it is brilliant. I now simply put a small amount of fleece in a net bag and soak for 2 days, hang it above the drum for day or two to drain, and then start the wash process without rinsing. My suint mix is really ripe!

    • Moz says:

      Sounds fantastic. It’s just that easy sometimes. I have a vat in the back that I just let sit. Been there a couple of years now….oh, just realized I have a small batch of Merino I can put in there! Best get on that….and hang the sheets out to dry while I’m at it. Thanks for the post!

  41. Deanna says:

    I have been searching everywhere for info on this. Hard to find. This answered so many of my questions. I will pass on a link to others. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all down. I bought 24 lbs of unknown type of wool fleece for a great price. Turned out to be a great deal. I love surprises. Loads of lanolin and I thought this would be a great time to try out FSM. I bought black rubber trash cans with tight fitting lids. I already have 3 drums of rain water. I started my first batch yesterday. I only put in a few lbs to start. I think I might add a few more lbs today. How many gallons water should there be to how many lbs of fleece? Also, what about skirting first? Is it ok to add the poopy areas into the vat? I had seperated it out but I don’t know how good of a job I did. The muddy areas looked the same as poopy areas. I started them in their own bucket.

    • Moz says:

      So glad to be of help. My 20 gal container was 3/4 full of rainwater and I started it with 3-5 lbs of high grease Rambouilett fleece. It’s important to get a lot of suint into the first batch, because you want it to be heavy in the potassium salts. That’s what helps the process and also keeps algae from blooming and mosquito larvae from finding a place to breed. The first batch of wool is usually not something you’re worried about getting clean, you just want to get the suint in there. But subsequent batches you want to have less so that the liquid can move around the fibers better and get the work done. You can put the first batch of wool through again if you want. I do skirt first, but don’t worry about little bits of poopy areas. Most of the time those are grease tags and not really sheep poop, but I do try to keep most of that out. Good luck! 🙂

  42. Marie says:

    I am so grateful for this detailed article and for you continuing to answer questions and share your experience, thank you. I am eager to try this as I have several fleeces to wash. Can you recommend which would be best to start my suint vat with? I have: BFL, Border Leicester, Wensleydale, Cotswold … all dirty and needing a good cleaning! ~ so many thanks!!

    • Moz says:

      Sorry not to get back to you sooner! Hopefully you’ve moved forward by now, but my suggestion is to always start with the fleece that feels like it has the most grease. More grease=more suint 🙂

      • Teri says:

        Ok. This is my question. I start a vat and used it all summer. It was VERY RIPE!! I have it setting on my back porch and we have already had a few good freezes. Once thawed next spring will it be good to go again?? Or should I just dump and start over?? Many Thanx.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Moz says:

        I’ve not had experience with any of my vat’s actually freezing so I couldn’t tell you if this would affect the vat’s or not. I would say it is worth a try to add a fleece to the vat and see. It certainly can’t hurt it.

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  51. Jeannie Pham says:

    I did this method this past week and it worked BEAUTIFULLY with the exception of the smell. Maybe the initial raw wool I used did not have enough suint (I put Fresian raw wool in). This second batch will be a shetland fleece. Hope that comes out drying and smelling less sheep-y. 😉 It doesn’t smell terrible, the first Fresian wool batch, but it definitely is odorous!

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  55. I love this method so much! I blogged about it myself and included a link to your site. You can read it here: https://thenorthglass.com/2016/04/25/home-grown-insulation/

    Thanks so much for the method!

  56. hannah says:

    Have you ever tried this method with alpaca or llama fleeces?

    • Moz says:

      Hannah, you need suint in the fleece in order to create the vats, so your alpacas/llamas won’t work to create the vat. If you have an existing vat there are those that have put alpaca/llama fibers through it. I would look to another method for alpaca/llama fibers. That being said, I think that an overnight soak of alpaca/llama would be beneficial as with most fibers, quite a bit of the dust and silt in the fleece tends to fall out with a cold water soak.

      • Kim says:

        If I start a vat with sheep wool, let it do its thing then process as normal, after removing the sheep fleece can I put in a fleece from a alpaca or llama?

      • Moz says:

        You can. The vat won’t be very strong with only one fleece through it, but with alpaca or llama your are really only removing dirt, not grease, so three days through the vat should do a good job of fretting the dirt out. If you’re going to keep the vat going do get more fleece through the vat to strengthen it. You could also just do an overnight cold soak for the llama and alpaca. It might do just fine.

  57. Would it be OK to use distilled water? One might have to wait a while to fill a rain bucket.

    • Moz says:

      I’ve heard of people using distilled water with success. Also….try gathering your rainwater from a downspout…it’s a bit faster than open barrels in the yard 😉

      • johngriswold says:

        Indeed. I was considering the rather severe drought we are having in the NorthEast USA right now. I did manage to fill a few buckets in a couple of showers that we had, and have washed several fleeces. I think it’s going well. I’m on about the fourth fleece.

        Thanks for a great tutorial!

  58. Charlei Scott says:

    I’m super fascinated by this, and would love to try it, however, I live in Florida, so I can imagine the high temps would make this a no go anytime during the summer months (and I have 2 fleeces now I’d love to try with). Ahh well, I’ll put this on the books to attempt later. Thanks for the info!

    • Moz says:

      Try it in the cooler months then? Room temp is the ideal temperature so strive for that. I did my first one in early spring after gathering the winter rainwater.

  59. EllyWendy says:

    Might I suggest doing part of a fleece? Maybe the less desirable portions? Even in hot summers, the FSM has worked fine for me; it just works faster. Of course, I don’t know if you have rainwater, how much room you have to dissipate the fumes which would be greater in the heat, whether you have a shady spot where the vat could sit, nor how precious your fleece is. Certainly you’d have to keep bugs out. But it might be worth a test.

  60. Libby says:

    I understand why tap water would give mixed results, but shouldn’t well water be ok?

    • Moz says:

      The reason you want rainwater is because it is a soft water without a heavy mineral load like our tap waters and well waters contain. Some have done it with other sources of water, but the suint mix makes a soap, not a detergent, and soaps do not clean as well in hard water as they do in soft. Still, you’ll find it gets a lot of the dirt and grime out of the fleece, not so much the grease. Hard waters also leave a grey residue on your white fleece. Since the method was developed for low grease fleece often we use a final hot water scour on many of the fleece, so this greying will come out with a final detergent scour. I try to keep most of the info on the FSM page centered around using the method as is, so I don’t often go into any steps beyond this technique. Good luck!😀

  61. Patty says:

    I took some greasy, very dirty meat sheep wool and used rainwater to start my suint fermentation. I let it set for ten days. After removing the wool and rinsed until clear. I noticed after it dried the will still looked very dingy and dirty. I decided to use a little soap and water on a bit of wool and a ton of dirt came out. What am I doing wrong? The suint smelled to high heaven and is dark brown from all the dirt that was in the wool?

    • Moz says:

      Patty, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. Your vat will get stronger with each fleece you put through it. The first fleece usually doesn’t get as clean as the subsequent fleece will. That being said, I’d put the fleece through your vat again in smaller batches so the fibers can float more freely in the FS mix. If you are rinsing with tap water (which I do as well) that can contribute to the dingy color before a final scour. I also have found those meat sheep stay quite dingy without a final scour. Their fleece can hold more dirt than many other breeds. I often let the fleece sit in rinse water to let some of that dirt settle out, then do my final rinse. You want to get the fiber clean enough to work with. Once you spin and wash your yarn it will be bright. Good luck 🙂

    • Moz says:

      Glad to know the method is working for you. I don’t advise the first fleece sit more than 5 days and subsequent fleece 2-3 days.

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  63. Thanks for the great article! Unknowingly I was already doing this but then throwing out the water when I should of been saving it! So now with your help here, next go around is going to be so much better! Thanks again!

  64. Carol Cripps says:

    I only have one fleece to clean, a Rambouillet. I can’t forsee getting more raw fleece for a couple of years since I only have a spindle. I was wondering if the FSM would be used for the vegetable garden. We’re in the middle of a drought here and wouldn’t want to waste the water.

    • Moz says:

      Yes, Carol, Perfectly fine to use it in the garden, the plants love it. Your vat won’t be very strong as it is the first fleece through it, but leaving it for the 7-10 days will still be a bit better than a simple cold soak. You might cram in as much as you can in the vat then let smaller amounts sit for the 2-3 days soak. The smaller amounts allow more of the “soap” to flow around the fibers and do a better job cleaning. You will still need to do a hot water detergent scour on a Rambo fleece in order to spin it without being too sticky. Good luck.

  65. JBW says:

    I use a succession of five 60-litre black boxes (with lids). The first one is my fermentation vat, which is never emptied, and the other 4 are my subsequent rinse vats. I do my processing once a week and start with the cleanest water, take the bag of fleece out and drain it (then it goes for spinning and drying). I top up the next dirtiest rinse from the last one, and use the rest of the water on the veg. Then I get completely clean water for my final rinse. I work ‘back’ up the containers in succession, and top the fermentation vat up from the first rinse water – so all I ever really use is one tub of clean rainwater. I have 5 bags of fleece on the go at any given time and am getting through my fleece backlog nicely.

    • Moz says:

      Love this. It is the ideal set up. I did something similar when I started the process with the 20 lbs of fleece I had accrued. If you do a web post about this do let me know. Would love to link you. 👍👍👍

  66. fggardens says:

    Thanks Moz for taking the time to post your experiences with the FSM process.
    A fiber geek friend vaguely described this method and in my searches, I ran across your blog. Among my results, yours was the most informative and inspired me to go ahead and try it. Since I have rain water collection already, and since I’d been gifted several free fleeces I didn’t see the harm in trying. This method is very successful and since starting my vat in early spring 2016, I have processed at least 5 whole fleeces through it. In my searches for more information regarding the FSM method, I ran across a patent abstract for “Cleaning Raw Wool” by anaerobic fermentation [1956] on a commercial scale. I believe the FSM process is a bacteriological process and does not make a “soap” per se’, but is done by active bacteria alone. (and why it smells like a waste-water treatment plant!) Since I believe that its done by bacteria, I make sure that there is a “boiling water” wash & rinse somewhere in the process to kill any bacteria that may remain on the fibers.
    Anyway, I’m happy to say that it takes far less time to get fleeces clean with this method, no matter what the condition of the fleece. I’ve even used it on the less desirable bits that I would otherwise discard after skirting. It works pretty well even on those. If I could post before and after pictures I would! Thanks again!
    P.S. Here’s a link to the patent abstract: https://www.google.com/patents/US2864746

    • Moz says:

      Thanks for the feedback on my FSM info and the link. While I agree about the fermentation. I still believe there is a natural soap being made by the grease and the potassium salts. I have never used any boiling water on any of my wool, nor would I want to put my fleece through any of these extreme temps. I’m sure the dried fiber is fine once rinsed, although I do scour many of my FS cleaned fleece before spinning, but not all of them, especially not the Primitive breeds. Thanks for your input.

  67. fggardens says:

    I guess I’ve been lucky, I haven’t seen any noticeable harm to the fibers with a hot water wash. I make an effort to keep the agitation at a minimum and don’t shock the fibers with a huge temperature swing. If there is any fulling/felting happening, I don’t seem to get it. I’ve done a hot water wash with both fibers, spun & fleece, just depends on how nice the fleece comes out of the FSM vat. Sometimes I deem it clean enough to spin first and then wash. So far, I’ve used the FSM on Shetland, Romney and some unidentified breeds with no issues after a hot water wash. If I note a significant difference with another breed, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, I like that the fibers are squeaky clean and free of any beasties when I’m done.

    • Moz says:

      i know I’ve got my temps up higher than I’ve wanted once or twice by not watching my temp settings. I hear one can produce super wash fibers this way. I’ll have to test felt a sample sometime.

    • Moz says:

      I don’t have problems with hot water washes any more. But in the beginning, I couldn’t not agitate the fibers. Now I am much better at it. Not only that but I realize that I don’t need to replace the soapy water with clean soapy water for each batch. It all comes clean with that dusty looking wash water. Squeekie!

  68. Brooke says:

    Can I boil down the bath to get lanolin?

  69. Hello, what can I do with this FSM- water when I don’t want it any more? Can I use it in my garden as a liquid fertiliser for my plants? Thank you for your answer.

  70. Moz says:

    John, I wouldn’t see a point on adding a dye to a cleaning vat.

  71. Back again with a question. FSM worked pretty well for me last season. I overwintered a tub of suint on the porch, and wonder whether it’s OK to use as-is, or should I gather more rainwater and start over – e.g. will the organisms in the suint survive the winter?
    Thanks for a great tutorial (and super feedback replies!)

  72. Moz says:

    It should work fine, John. I do this all the time and it still works. 🙂 Thanks for the compliments!

  73. Leonor says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’m living in a house with a garden for the first time in my life and I decided to give the FSM a try. Wowza, it really does stink! I have quite a few fleeces to wash so I’m hoping I can get them all done before the cold weather sets in. My only issue currently is that I can’t leave the container open whilst draining the water from the fleece, because the smell would definitely reach my neighbours. I’m working on a solution for that, but in the meantime, I’m loving trying a different method to process my wool!

    • Moz says:

      You are very welcome….and the smell doesn’t carry as far as you might think 😉

      • Leonor says:

        Oh, the smell! I’m definitely doing something wrong. It doesn’t go away 😩 I kept a fleece out for days (it was so dry it was stiff) but the smell lingered on. I had to wash it a lot afterwards and I swear I can still smell the stench… Any ideas?

      • Moz says:

        I have never had this be a problem in my years of using the method, that being said, there are a few who make this complaint and I have yet to find any reason for it. My pat answer is that the fiber isn’t fully dried. But no matter what, the fiber shouldn’t be stiff. The fiber should be soft and supple before and after the soaking. Share a few more details of your process. How you started, how long the soak was, how you rinsed. 😊

      • Leonor says:

        Ok, so with more detail: used filtered water, as I had no rain water. My water is very hard here (London) so I was prepared for some greyness in my white fleece (and yes, it happened.)
        I chose a fleece with a high grease content and left it inside a plastic container I bought on IKEA. It’s dark, opaque, and airtight. Left the fibre in for about a fortnight as the water didn’t smell at all the first week.
        When I took it out, I dried it and placed another one in for 5 days. When I removed the latter, I also dried it. Believe me, both were completely dry when I brought them in, and they stank to high heaven. The last fleece, a dark and curly one (breed unknown, but like a Shetland) was stiff. The rest of this fleece I washed as I normally do and the curls are soft and gorgeous.
        When I got the fibre wet again, I could smell the awfulness again! 😩 So I caved in and washed them with Unicorn Power Scour. The first fleece was ruined because in my desperate attempt to make the smell go away, I over washed it. Gah.

        So here’s my story. I don’t know whether to dump the water and try again with bottled water, or whether to give up altogether. Any ideas? And thanks so much for reading! 🙏

      • Moz says:

        Hmm. Hard water does make it difficult for the “soap” to form and do it’s job, so using filtered might help or not depending on how hard it is after filtering. Airtight isn’t necessary and can cause problems, but I’m thinking you had a snap on lid that isn’t seriously air tight. Did you notice if the suint mix foamed at all? That would indicate that the cleaning process was happening. I don’t think I would keep this vat. You really need to have soft rain water to make this work. Ultimately this method is for farmland areas where massive amounts of wool are being processed and you don’t have to worry about neighbors. Truthfully, damp air will keep fiber from becoming fully dry and it is very possible your fiber is still not as dry as you think it is. And I’m worried that if your vat isn’t properly working the smell you are getting is not the FSM smell, but some other situation that isn’t pleasant.

      • Leonor says:

        Thanks for getting back to me on this. I think I’ll give up on this method, since I’ve no way to know how hard my water is after filtering… I’m not sure I got a lot of foaming either, and if my container can’t be too airtight that might also be an issue because of neighbours. Ah, well, I tried! Thanks again for such a great tutorial and helping out 😀

      • Moz says:

        Everything is worth one try, right? 🙂

      • Leonor says:

        Absolutely! Now I’ll have no regrets 😀

    • fggardens says:

      I’ve experienced some residual stinky funk in the first FSM fleeces I processed. It was discouraging. I tried letting it dry right out of the rainwater bin after draining and/or 1 wash and they still had a funky smell. I’ve found that a thorough drubbing rinse on a screen with the garden hose after its drained and still wet out of the bin, makes all the difference! I also allow it to dry in full sun before eventually doing a boiling water wash. As long as there is a super hot wash and rinse in the process someplace, my FSM fleeces don’t smell when dry. Since then, I’ve noticed that depending on how dirty the fleece is going in, it makes a difference in the funk afterward.
      If I intend to hand-card and spin, the lanolin level after FSM and the on-the-screen rinse is usually fine to work with, but if I plan to drum-card, I need a hot water wash to keep the drum-carder happy. Even after spinning, everything gets a boiling water wash!

      I got to process 3 more free (Suffolk) fleeces this week, since its hot & dry and perfect for FSM. Woohoo!

  74. I have 90 fleeces to wash and have been fearing the process. I’m looking forward to cooler temps this fall, so I can get started.

  75. Nancy Heintzman says:

    I’m guessing you won’t be able to repurpose that bin or vat after this process, correct? I imagine the smell would be permanently embedded in the plastic.

    • Moz says:

      I don’t know, Nancy. I keep my vat dedicated to the FSM and going for many months so it’s not something I would have to consider. You most likely can find these bins cheap.

  76. Joan says:

    Hi there, can I use this method to wash mohair? I Just spent half a day washing 1/2 a prime fleece in the sink, looking for a more water and time saving way. This seems brilliant, so hopefully it works on mohair!

    • Moz says:

      Greetings, Joan. The grease in mohair is very stubborn and takes high temps to remove. It can never hurt to run your mohair through a cold water soak before going to a full on hot water scour though.

  77. Sharon says:

    Since I didn’t collect rainwater until the outside temps were well below 72, I put my two tubs (18 gal Rubbermaids) in an old chest freezer in the barn and put a heating pad in-between them. After a few days, the temp in there stayed between 69-72 while the barn temps were in the 30s and 40s. Here are my questions: You say to start with a greasy fleece like a Romney and then you can do lower grease fibers, but is this method recommended to do a lot of Romney wool? That’s all I have, so I just did about 40 lbs in batches of 3-4 lbs each, and I would not say that it seems clean yet. I’m a total novice with wool, so could you recommend a link for how to clean it the rest of the way without felting it? Also, some of my wool seems to be somewhat felted. Is it possible to felt the wool using the FSM method? Or could it have gotten felted on the sheep, before shearing?

    • Moz says:

      Greetings Sharon. It is not uncommon for wool to felt on the sheep. Especially if you live in an area that get’s a lot of rain and then hot weather. I have a black Shetland fleece that was raised in central Oregon where those conditions were just so and the whole back of that fleece is felted into a rug. I’ve kept it to use as doll hair if I ever do something like that. As far as scouring your wool to remove the rest of the grease. There are many methods to use that are pretty safe from felting. I have an electric oven roaster oven that I fill with water and dawn that keeps a nice temperature. The secret is not to agitate the wool. One nice way to do it is to make little tule packets of your locks and set those in the hot water. I then take my packets out of the hot water and let them drain, then spin them dry. Once I have finished with that part, I replace the wash water with clean water and put them through again to get the remaining soap out of the fibers. The nice thing about using the FSM first is that most of the silt will fall out of the fiber and you’re now just dealing with the remaining grease. I recommend this DVD by Judith Mackenzie that covers a whole slew of cleaning methods for wool. https://www.interweave.com/store/three-bags-full-download-in-hd.

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