We here at WoolLand Norway get a lot of questions about merino wool.
Does merino wool itch? Is it durable? How soft is it compared to other wool? Why should I wear wool instead of cotton? How do I wash merino clothing? And the list goes on.
But rather than answer these questions individually we thought we’d create the ultimate resource covering everything you need to know about merino wool.
In this article you’ll learn about the unique properties and benefits that make merino wool the perfect choice for you and your family.
So what makes merino wool so warm and comfortable in cold weather and what makes it the fabric of choice for athletes, businessmen and smart parents alike? What makes it so special and unique? Read on to find out!
Soft and luxurious
So what makes merino wool so soft? Well there are a few factors involved. The first has to do with the incredibly thin diameter of the fibre, as the thickness of the fibre determines how easily it will flex and bend when pressed against the skin. With each merino wool fibre only being approximately 1/10 the width of a human hair, the result is a luxuriously soft fabric.
Strong, Durable & Elastic
Remarkably, even though merino wool is very fine and soft, it is also incredibly strong. In fact, merino wool fibres can bend over 20,000 times before breaking! That’s 17,000 times more than cotton and 18,000 times more than silk.
In addition to being durable, merino wool is naturally elastic. Seen through a microscope, merino fibres look like super fine coiled springs, meaning they return to their original state when pressure is released. Because of this, merino wool works in harmony with your body. It’ll stretch, bend and flex with you and then return to its natural shape. So no matter how many times it is worn and washed it’ll keep it’s form without sagging.
“You can actually get something that will last four times as long and is more likely better made in a lot of ways and costs half the price if you just put away the cashmere and look for the wool merino.”
- Clara Parkes
Normal sheep's wool is infamous for being an itchy fabric. It’s not the most comfortable fabric to wear. Merino wool however, now that’s a different story.
The main reason merino wool clothes don’t feel as itchy as normal wool is the same reason for their silky soft feel. Merino wool fibres are extra fine when compared to normal wool fibres. Larger, broader fibers are stiffer and don’t bend as easily, which results in a prickly feeling when pressed against the skin, causing the sensation of itchiness.
Dry and Breathable
Merino wool breathes and manages moisture better than any other fiber - this is great for athletes, parents and little kids.
But how and why is it so dry and breathable?
Here is a simple animation showing how merino wool transports moisture away from your body through the fibre.
Merino wool pulls moisture away from your skin to the surface of the fabric where it can easily evaporate. So as your body heats up, the moisture vapors will be absorbed by the wool fiber, and released to the drier environment outside of the fabric, preventing clamminess and keeping you dry and comfortable. Amazingly, merino wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture before you even start to feel wet! Synthetic fabrics can feel wet once they’ve absorbed less than 7%.
Merino wool is smart. What we mean by that is it’s an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature. So it’ll help keep you or your kids at an optimal temperature – warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot.
How is this possible? Well let’s think about the sheep for a minute. When they get cold they can’t just put on another layer. And when they get hot they don’t just throw on a cotton t-shirt. No, they’ve got one outfit and happily mother nature has provided them with a perfect solution that keeps them comfortable all year round.
In cold temperatures merino wool uses a process called “heat of sorbtion” that absorbs moisture from the environment to generate heat. Also, the crimped (wavy) merino wool fibres contain millions of tiny air pockets that trap body heat and act as a buffer against the cold air, keeping you nice and toasty.
In warm temperatures, merino wool helps keep you warm by storing moisture within the fibre. Once your body heats up, the moisture locked within the wool fibre begins to evaporate, cooling the air between your skin and the fabric. The hotter you get, the more evaporation takes place and the larger the cooling effect.
This is why is merino wool is a favourite among desert tribes, mountain climbers and mothers with babies alike.
While merino wool is capable of absorbing up to a third of its weight in moisture, the surface of each merino fibre has also has a waxy protective coating that naturally repels liquids. This means water droplets on the surface of Merino will bead and roll off instead of being absorbed into the fabric further helping to keep you dry.
Merino wool is naturally odour resistant and can be worn for days even weeks without needing a wash. This may sound too good to be true but this is because merino has a far greater capacity than other fibres to manage moisture and the chemical structure of the fibre is naturally antibacterial.
Basically, because of this ability, odor-causing bacteria don’t have the environment they need to thrive. You can wear wool during intense activity and over extended periods of time without having to worry about it getting smelly. This means less washing and longer lasting clothes for you.
Dust mites are the primary cause of allergy and asthma. Nobody likes dust mites but happily dust mites don't like merino wool! They like hot and humid environments that are common in synthetic and down products. Remember, merino wool is highly breathable and good at removing moisture. Great for you, bad for dust mites. Also, merino repels dust and does not contain the harsh chemicals found in most other products. All this combined makes merino wool hypoallergenic and a great choice for people with asthma and allergies.
Merino wool has a natural resilience that makes it a truly “easy-care” fabric. Merino is stain resistant, mildew resistant, quick drying and machine washable. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
One of the great features of Merino wool is its ability to self clean. But despite merino wool being antibacterial and self cleaning it will need to be washed eventually. When the time comes you can feel confident that all WoolLand Norway merino wool products are completely washable.
To wash, simply place your machine on the wool setting at 30C or lower. Use a detergent that is wool friendly and you’re ready to go (as a best practice always read the label before washing).
The time it takes a fabric to dry is controlled by two main factors: 1) the amount of liquid held between the fibres when it starts to dry and 2) the temperature and humidity of the surrounding area.
Generally speaking, the thicker the clothing is, the more moisture it can retain and the longer it takes to dry. Because WoolLand Norway clothes are so fine and light, combined with merino wool's natural breathability, our products dry as fast as many synthetic performance fabric.
Besides keeping you dry, merino wool’s famed water wicking properties also naturally inhibits mildew. In addition, wool has built in antimicrobial properties thanks its unique fibre structure. Bacteria like smooth positively charged surfaces like those found in synthetic fibres rather than the neutrally charged, scaly surfaces of merino fibres.
Thanks to the thin wax like coating on merino wool, clothes made from merino wool are naturally water repellant. This prevents spills from being absorbed and allows liquids to be wiped away before they stain. Even if they are not wiped before drying, wool is less prone to staining compared to many other fabrics like cotton and synthetics.
Because each merino wool fibre is essentially a tiny coiled spring, It’ll automatically return to its natural shape after being bent. This not only makes merino strong, durable and flexible, it also means merino wool garments are naturally resistant to wrinkles and don’t require ironing. Thumbs up for time saved!
It is ideal for globetrotters and people who want to wear wrinkle-free clothes.
– Deccan Herald
I know you've probably never heard anyone call merino wool "safe". That sort of wording is usually reserved for kevlar vests and space suits. However, merino wool has some special properties that make remarkably safe compared to other common fabrics.
Yes that’s right, merino wool is flame resistant and self extinguishing! Merino wool has the highest natural fire resistance of all commonly encountered textile fibres. It is for this reason firefighters have wool uniforms and natural bedding manufacturers use wool in their products to meet fire codes. Wool is even a preferred choice among military personnel and is a highly trusted fabric in public areas like hospitals and airplanes.
"Astronauts catch on to wool's fire resistant qualities"
Natural UV Protection
Compared to other fabrics, merino wool clothing provides great protection from the sun. In fact it has a UVP factor between 30 - 50 UPF. How you ask? Well, having evolved over millions of years to protect sheep against the harsh elements, merino wool absorbs UV radiation, making it a great choice for outdoor activities like skiing.
Merino wool’s chemical structure and ability to hold moisture is also the reason it is static resistant. The retention of moisture within the wool fibre prevents a build-up of static electricity stopping that annoying spark or “cling” you get with many other fabrics. This might seem like a small feature, but it is especially important when making protective safety clothing for situations where it’s necessary to prevent sparking.
Good for the Planet
Merino wool is a natural, biodegradable, renewable and environmentally sustainable product.
Wool is grown year round in Australia (where WoolLand Norway gets its merino wool) by over 71 million sheep sustained by a simple diet of grass, air, water and lots of sunshine. Every year the merino sheep grow back their wool fleece making merino a renewable resource.
Because merino wool is a natural fibre, when it’s eventually disposed of, it naturally decomposes in only a few years, releasing valuable nutrients back into the soil.
And did you know that it takes about 2500 litres of water to produce enough cotton for a single T-shirt. On the other hand, a whole metric ton of wool can be produced with only 500,000 litres making wool production a much more environmentally friendly process.
There you have it! Everything you ever wanted to know about merino wool and more. You’ve probably heard lots about merino wool over the last couple years and now you know why. The extraordinary properties of this super fibre are why we at WoolLand Norway choose to make our clothes from the finest merino wool and why we choose it for our own families every day.