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Fulling or tucking or walking ("waulking" in Scotland) is a step in woolen clothmaking which involves the cleansing of cloth (particularly wool) to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. The worker who does the job is a fuller, tucker, or walker.[1] The Welsh word for a fulling mill is pandy, which appears in many place-names.



Fulling involves two processes—scouring and milling (thickening). Originally, fulling was carried out by literally pounding the cloth with the fuller's feet (hence the description of them as 'walkers'), or hands, or a club. From the medieval period, however, it often was carried out in a water mill.

These processes are followed by stretching the cloth on great frames known as tenters and held onto those frames by tenterhooks. It is from this process that we derive the phrase being on tenterhooks as meaning to be held in suspense. The area where the tenters were erected was known as a tenterground.


In Roman times fulling was conducted by slaves standing ankle deep in tubs of human urine and cloth. Urine was so important to the fulling business that urine was taxed. Urine, known as 'wash', was a source of ammonium salts and assisted in cleansing and whitening the cloth.

By the medieval period fuller's earth had been introduced for use in the process. This is a soft clay-like material occurring in nature as an impure hydrous aluminium silicate. This seems to have been used in conjunction with 'wash'. More recently, soap has been used.


The second function of fulling was to thicken cloth by matting the fibers together to give it strength and increase waterproofing (felting). This was vital in the case of woollens, made from short staple wool, but not for worsted materials made from long staple wool. After this stage, water was used to rinse out the foul smelling liquor used during cleansing.

Fulling mills

From the medieval period, the fulling of cloth often was undertaken in a water mill, known as a fulling mill, a walk mill, or a tuck mill. In Wales, a fulling mill is called a pandy. In these, the cloth was beaten with wooden hammers, known as fulling stocks. Fulling stocks were of two kinds, falling stocks (operating vertically) that were used only for scouring, and driving or hanging stocks. In both cases the machinery was operated by cams on the shaft of a waterwheel or on a tappet wheel, which lifted the hammer.

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