Explaining the system. There are 3 metal tubs, each with a propane burner underneath. Each one has a thermometer to keep an eye on. There are a series of screens to help drain and carry the wool to the next spot. We have a wash, a rinse, and a final rinse. But first we prep the wool by "opening it up", or fluffing.
Then wearing special heat resistant gloves we dunk it into the wash with detergent to melt and wash away all of the "grease", or natural sheep lanolin. I think the wool soaks for about 15 mins. in each tub, but I don't remember for sure. I think we figured out we could do a pound per hour.
The wool is drained on a screen inbetween each tub. And it's run through an old fashioned clothes ringer before the final rinse. This keeps the wool from being felted from too much agitation.
And then we get the glorious product of our labor!! The beautiful clean soft fluffy wool that we spread out on large screens and hammocks in the sun and the breeze to dry.
The day was a huge success and it took us two days to recover.....we were exhausted. We completed several pounds and now each of us has enough wool to keep us busy felting and spinning for quite awhile!!