If you think this wool stuff sounds too good to be true, you are in the same camp that we were. That’s why we called up a fiber scientist to get a better explanation.
These are the four main reasons why wool is the well endowed fiber:
Durable: 6x More Than Cotton
- Laboratory tests have shown that wool fibers resist tearing and can bend back on themselves more than 20,000 times without breaking. Cotton breaks after 3,200 bends, silk fibers break after 1,800 bends, and rayon fibers break after just 75 bends. (Lackman)
- “Wool is the most resilient fiber to wrinkles because it has a natural crimp that helps it keep its shape. Wool fibers can be stretched and still bounce back to their original shape.” (Lackman) Crimp is the natural waviness of the fibers.
- It can be stretched to as much as 30 percent and will spring back to size when the tension is released. (Gabby)
- While sweat itself has no odour, if it remains on the skin in time bacteria develop and create unpleasant body odours. Wool reduces the opportunity for odors to generate because it is more efficient than other textiles at absorbing sweat and evaporating it into the air. (Adams)
- “Wool, composed mostly of a protein, is naturally antibacterial, usually for the life of the garment. Can be worn on consecutive days with minimal odor buildup.” (Woods)
- “Wool also has natural anti-microbial properties because bacteria tend to be attracted to smooth positively charged surfaces like those of synthetic fibres rather than the scaly, neutrally charged surface of the wool fiber. Hospital studies have shown that bacterial colonies are common in cotton sheets while not present on wool blankets subjected to the same environmental conditions. Unlike synthetic fabrics, wool does not retain odors and will freshen just from airing out.” (Aebi-Magee)
- Wool is a natural insulator to keep you warm in winter and naturally breathable to keep you cool in summer.
- It starts with wool being able to absorb between 27 and 36% of its own weight in water or sweat. (Woods) When the external temperature drops, wool tends to absorb moisture from the surrounding environment resulting in a rise in body/garment temperature. This is known as “heat of sorption”. Conversely, when the external temperature rises, wool fibers supplement your body’s natural cooling system by absorbing sweat. The sweat naturally evaporates with air, movement, and/or sunlight. This helps maintain normal body temperature. (AWI - Breathability)
- “Wool is a hygroscopic fiber. As the humidity of the surrounding air rises and falls, the fiber absorbs and desorbs water vapor. Heat is generated during the absorption phase, causing the temperature of the fiber to rise. Conversely, desorption results in a temperature drop. This heat of absorption is substantially greater for wool than for any other fiber.” (Stuart)
- Tests conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia showed that merino wool was twice as effective at absorbing and releasing sweat as an equivalent polyester fabric.
- Studies conducted at both the Polytechnic Institute of Wales, and the Hohenstein Institute in Germany have shown that “sleeping with untreated natural wool actually slows the heart rate and helps regulate body temperature, making for a more comfortable, more re-freshing sleep.”
- "It keeps you warm when you’re cold, but insulation also works both ways – Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes to keep the heat out. And it does not cling to the skin, allowing for air circulation next to the skin." (Patty)
- “Even after vigorous exercise Merino garments remain fresh. This is because merino fibre is able to lock away odour molecules, which are only released upon washing” (http://www.woolmark.com/working-with-wool/sports-activewear)
Wool doesn’t stop there either:
"Stain Resistant: The thin waxy coating on Merino wool fibers makes wool water resistant. This allows time for liquid spills to be wiped from a Merino fabric before they can cause permanent staining. Even if they are not wiped before drying, wool is less prone to stain than many other fabrics. Wool also has a very low degree of dry-soil pick-up compared to most other fibres. One method for cleaning wool clothing is to simply brush the fabric." (Aebi-Magee)
Colorfast: “wool is hydrophilic—it has a strong affinity for water—and therefore is easily dyed.” (Patty) “Wool absorbs many different dyes deeply, uniformly and directly without the use of other chemicals. Because of this ability, wool is known for the beautiful, rich colors that can be achieved.” (Sheep-USA)
"Insulates When Wet: The inner core of wool fibers can absorb 35% of its own weight in moisture. Not until wool is saturated with 60% of its own weight will it feel wet to the touch." (Aebi-Magee)
Fire Resistant: In tests conducted by both the US Forest Service and Commonwealth of Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, wool proved to be the fiber most resistant to fire.” (Csiro) (FS.FED.US)
If you’d like to read more about wool and other natural fibers, Eco Textiles is credible and unbiased.
All the Sources
Adams, Stuart. “IMerino ::.” IMerino ::. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
Aebi-Magee, John. “What Makes Wool So Special?” Wool Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
Alan, Don, and Will. “Comfort and Moisture Transport in Lightweight Wool and Synthetic Base Layers.” BackpackingLight.com. N.p., 25 July 2005. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.
"AWI - Breathability." AWI - Breathability. Australian Wool Innovation, n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2013. <http://www.wool.com/Wearing_About-Merino_Proof_Breathability.htm>.
Broudy, Berne. “What Happens to an Icebreaker Wool T-Shirt When You Wear It for Two Weeks Straight?” OutsideOnline.com. N.p., 22 May 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. <http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-gear/two-weeks-one-wool-shirt.html>.
Gabby. “Fabric Mart Fabricistas: Resource Library: From Nature to Clothing.” Fabric Mart Fabricistas: Resource Library: From Nature to Clothing. N.p., 4 Dec. 2012. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.
Lackman, Michael. “Organic_Clothing.” Organic Clothing. N.p., 8 Nov. 2005. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.
Patty, and Leigh Anne. “Wool.” ECOTEXTILES. N.p., 9 Jan. 2010. Web. 5 Jan. 2013. <http://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/wool/>.
Ryan. “Long Term Review of the Icebreaker BodyFit 150 Merino Wool Short Sleeve Shirt.” Desk to Dirtbag. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2013. <http://www.desktodirtbag.com/review-icebreaker-bodyfit-150/>.
Stuart, I.M., A.M. Schneider, and T.R. Turner. “Perception of the Heat of Sorption of Wool.” Textile Research Journal 59.6 (1989): 324-29. Print.
Woods, T. D. “Underwear (Base Layer): How to Choose.” REI.com. N.p., 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.