5 Uses for Raw Wool Fleece On Your Homestead

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Raw wool fleece is a topic that isn’t often covered. Consequently, most articles refer to sheep wool uses only after it has been cleaned. Today I am going to talk about raw wool and give you 5 Uses for Raw Wool Fleece On Your Homestead.

What Is Raw Wool?

So what exactly is raw wool? Raw wool is the untreated, shorn fleece from a sheep. The raw wool has not been cleaned and remains in its natural state. Raw wool fleece should, however, have already had the dung locks and grease tags cut off it. This step is also called the cull clip. It is usually done by the shearer. If this has not been done, you want to do this before using your fleece.

Common Uses For Wool

When thinking of what is wool used for, most people think of wool yarn. Wool fleece has many other uses, however.

Wool has many uses that have spanned the globe for thousands of years. The most common use is in clothing and blankets. But did you know that wool is now being used residentially to insulate houses? It makes an eco-friendly alternative to fiberglass insulation. Pads found on the bottom of furniture are made from wool. And the pads on piano keys are also made from wool.

Because of its ability to absorb and retain moisture, wool is also used to clean up major oil spills. But all of these uses require the wool to first be cleaned and then processed.

Are There Uses For Raw Wool?

Raw wool fleece, in its natural state is unwashed and contains lanolin and dirt from the sheep.

Not everyone has the time or care to clean and process raw wool. Consequently, a lot of people end up throwing the shorn fleeces away. Before you throw your fleece away, I want to talk about what raw wool can be used for.

There are numerous uses for raw wool! It does, however, take some creativity and a basic understanding of raw wool. Because raw wool has not been cleaned, all of the lanolin remains on the fleece.

What Is Lanolin?

All sheep produce lanolin. It is a waxy substance that coats the wool. Not only does it protect the sheep’s skin, but lanolin helps to protect the wool as well. Because sheep spend most of their time outside, the production of lanolin helps to waterproof their wool, thus allowing them to shed water. 

Is The Lanolin On My Raw Wool Fleece Okay?

When cleaning raw wool to prepare it for processing, some people choose to scour the wool, which removes the lanolin from the wool. However, most people choose to leave most of the lanolin on their wool. Because scouring removes the lanolin, it leaves the wool fleece dry and sometimes hard to spin.

Because we aren’t cleaning our raw wool, all of the lanolin will remain intact. In fact, aside from the dung locks and grease tags, anything the sheep wool came into contact with will remain intact, too.

Raw Fleece Should Not Be Used For This

As mentioned, sheep wool has many uses.  However, raw wool fleece should NOT be used for the same applications as washed wool. The following is a list of items you cannot use raw wool fleece in.

  • Bedding
  • Clothing
  • Spinning
  • Felting
  • Stuffing

I Tried Using Raw Wool To Make This And I Failed

Raw wool cannot be used to make dryer balls as the dirt prevents it from fleecing in the dryer.

The number one thing I was excited to try and make with my raw wool was wool dryer balls. This is what I did.

I took my raw fleece, stuffed it into a pair of nylons and tied off my ball shape. Next, I repeated this until I had four balls in each nylon. I then washed them in the washing machine on the hottest setting possible. Finally, I dried them in my clothes dryer, using the highest heat setting. I ran the nylon balls through the dryer several times until they were completely dry.

When I removed the balls from the nylons, they would not hold their shape. While the dryer balls were felted to a degree, they would flop open and not retain a ball shape.

Raw Wool Cannot Be Used To Make Dryer Balls

So what was the problem with my raw wool dryer balls, then? Why wouldn’t they hold their shape and felt completely?

As mentioned, most wool fleece does still retain most of its lanolin. I believe there was simply too much dirt, and combined with the lanolin, it prevented the wool from felting completely.

Now that we’ve ruled out dryer balls for raw sheep wool uses, I would like to talk about 5 uses for raw wool fleece on your homestead.

Raw Wool and Transplants

Because wool helps soil to retain moisture, this makes it a wonderful companion when planting trees, shrubs or transplants. Not only will the wool help the plants to stay moist longer, but wool will also help to keep the the soil at an even temperature.

Raw sheep wool has many uses, including for planting and mulching shrubs.

When planting trees or shrubs, wrap a thin layer of sheep wool around the ball of root mass. Then finish planting as usual.

If you’re using raw wool fleece when transplanting flowers or vegetables, place a small amount of wool in each planting hole. Then finish your planting as you normally would.

This method is especially helpful when container gardening. Because container gardens lose moisture at an increased rate, adding wool to the soil will cut down on your watering frequency.


Sheep farmers, or those living close to a wool textile mill have used wool in the garden for hundreds of years. When wool fleece comes in contact with moisture in the soil, the wool will begin to decompose. During decomposition, wool produces nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash.

It’s important to note that wool can take up to two years to compost. To help keep the composting process moving along, you should separate the wool, which will help eliminate clumping. 

As a Weed Barrier

Using wool as a weed barrier is a great way to mulch your garden rows, or even your raised garden beds

In order to use the wool as a weed barrier, you will need to use your hands to separate the fleece into manageable clumps. Then place the wool around your plants, in your garden rows, or on your raised garden beds.


The Amish community still widely use wool as insulation. It is, however, more common practice to use raw wool to insulate an outbuilding or chicken coop. 

To insulate a chicken coop, you would place the wool in a breathable fabric, like an old burlap feed bag. Use your judgement for how thick the burlap insulation bag needs to be. Then stitch or tie off the top of the bag. Next, nail or staple the bag to the wall, ceiling, or area where insulation is lacking.

Animal Bedding

Hen nesting boxes are a great place to tuck some wool fleece. You can use all wool, or a combination of wool and straw. 

This spring, my neighbor’s dog orphaned week old rabbits. We took the bunnies home, and using sheep wool fleece, we created a nest in a small box for the kits to stay warm and live in. 

Final Thoughts on Raw Wool

Two unshorn sheep wait to be sheared of their wool fleece.

I hope these 5 uses for raw wool fleece on your homestead inspires you to use raw wool. Maybe it will even inspire you to come up with your own sheep wool uses. 

Let me know in the comments is you have ever used raw wool for any of the uses I listed. And let me know if you find another unique way to use up your raw fleece!

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4 thoughts on “5 Uses for Raw Wool Fleece On Your Homestead

  1. To make good felt you have to wash it.. Ive used it in all ur suggestions.. Also line a hanging basket with it. But most of all i spin it. Makes wonderful socks. Jumpers etc.. Just havent got the farm😄

    1. I definitely agree about washing the wool to make good felt. I love your idea for lining a hanging basket with raw wool! I’m going to tuck that idea in my hat and give it a try this spring when I put my baskets together. Thanks, Rene!

      1. Raw wool has been used in the Scottish isles for centuries for clothing particularly fisherman’s sweaters. Historically wool was not often hot washed to remove the lanolin, it was washed in cold streams to remove the urine poop suint(which attracts moths) and dirt. Then was picked and carded often by the kids in the family to be prepared to spin. The lanolin repels water so the sweaters stay warmer and drier. I and many other spinners use “in the grease” wool to spin for use in many hand made items. It makes drafting the fibers easier. Putting raw wool in nest boxes is a horrible idea. It gets wound up around their feet and can easily amputate toes and the whole foot in not removed quickly. I have had to catch several of my birds to remove wool off their feet because they have found bits of wool in the yard.

        1. Hi Yolanda, thank you for sharing your knowledge on wool and lanolin. I have not experienced any problems with my poultry getting wool wound around their feet. However, I do appreciate your insight and sharing your experience with our community.

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