What is Merino Wool?
You’ve probably come across frequent mention of Merino wool but what are the real benefits of it, and more importantly, what is it?
Merino wool originates from a particular breed of sheep which is traditionally reared in harsh environments where most regular sheep couldn’t survive. What sets the Merino sheep apart is their dense, insulating coat of wool that traps heat inside.
You have no doubt come across merino wool if you have browsed any of our products as it is a common fabric used in place of synthetic wools.
Merino wool is responsible for making clothing highly insulating and highly wicking, which has made it somewhat of a staple in winter clothing.
What is Merino Wool Used For?
Merino wool is used for base layers, fleeces, jackets, hoodies and much more. Essentially, any item that may require synthetic wool can use merino wool instead.
The wool is commonly used for ski and winter clothing as its high insulation regulates the body temperature and naturally locks in heat, while still offering breathability.
Often used for sports and exercise clothing, the fabric offers lots of great properties for active pursuits due to its versatile nature. It can also be used for thermal underwear due to its antibacterial properties.
Where Does Merino Wool Come From?
Merino wool originates from a particular breed of sheep that is traditionally reared in harsh weather conditions where most regular sheep could not survive.
Therefore, the wool is a natural guard from extreme conditions that provides many unique benefits that synthetic wool cannot provide.
Merino Wool vs. Regular Wool
Merino wool is more expensive than synthetic wools due to its natural benefits and properties. It is generally much more insulating than other ‘regular’ wools and so it comes at a higher price.
In saying that, its popularity is a testament to its quality and durability. One purchase will likely last more than just a few years if handled with the care it requires.
Not only is it a warmer fabric but its breathability is known to be far superior to cotton and other man-made fabrics.
The wool can vary in thickness, meaning that when it is ultra-fine it can be blended with delicate fabrics like silk to create luxuriously soft garments. It is also often blended with cashmere.
Merino Wool vs. Cashmere
Despite the fact that they are often blended together, merino wool and cashmere are two very different fabrics.
Both materials are natural materials that have achieved their longevity due to the sheer quality they provide that synthetic alternatives cannot.
Where merino wool comes from sheep, cashmere comes from goats. For whatever reason, the goats do not grow cashmere anywhere near as quickly as the merino sheep grow their wool, which explains the fact that cashmere tends to be considerably more expensive than merino wool.
Cashmere also requires very specific washing and care, whereas merino wool is a little more flexible. While it is important to never cycle wash merino wool, it can be washed in both cold and hot water, and it is totally fine to spot clean. Due to this, merino wool tends to be more durable than cashmere.
How to Wash Merino Wool
The general consensus is that wool is a high-maintenance material which presents a challenge to wash. True – you shouldn’t just chuck woollen clothing or accessories into the washing machine without a second thought, but wool’s reputation for being difficult to wash is a tad unfair. Garments and accessories made entirely out of Merino wool or with a percentage composition of Merino wool tend to be fairly straightforward to take good care of.
Merino wool is naturally anti-bacterial and highly resistant to odours caused by normal body perspiration or sweating. The superior advantages of Merino wool compared to regular wool or other materials are its high resistance to stains, high natural wicking ability and generally good durability.
Merino wool clothing can either be 100% pure or be mixed with other materials to make the garment even more durable. This combination is typically 80% Merino wool and 20% polyester, although it can vary. Merino wool mixes tend to be less itchy than their pure counterparts, in addition to washing better and lasting longer.
- Do wash Merino wool items separately, where possible. If not, try to wash Merino wool with ‘harder’ fabrics – such as denim – instead of softer ones like cotton, as these will increase piling.
- Do machine wash on low to medium temperatures (up to 30˚C). Wash Merino wool items on a cold cycle or use a wool wash or delicate fabric option if these are available. Pay attention to the washing instructions on the garment’s label and adhere to these.
- Do hand wash your Merino wool items if the label says so, and ideally always. Soak the clothes in warm soap and water but don’t leave the fabric steeped for too long as it might start to shrink.
- Do wash Merino wool garments inside out. This is especially true if the clothing is printed – this tip will prevent bobbling and discolouration.
- Do wash similar colours together. Although Merino wool items are generally colour fast, it’s always wise to separate light- and dark-coloured items to prevent bright pigments bleeding into light garments.
- Do dry on a flat surface, preferably a towel. Merino wool garments can become weighty when wet, so drying them from a line or a hanger can cause them to lose shape.
- Don’t dry clean Merino wool clothing or use bleach. Most bleaches contain chlorine, which damages Merino wool fibres. Certain dry cleaning procedures may also prove too harsh for the delicate nature of the fabric.
- Don’t use any fabric softeners when washing Merino wool items. This is because the chemicals in fabric detergents will form a coating on the wool, restricting the material’s ability to provide waterproof protection and actively manage your body temperature. Fabric softeners can also worsen bobbling by causing fibres to move to the surface more easily.
- Don’t wring out garments. This will deform and stretch the wool, which will have a negative impact on its look and performance.
- Don’t dry on or near heat or direct sunlight. Air drying in a temperate environment is highly recommended as this is the least damaging option. Sources of heat may cause the Merino wool garments to shrink.
- Follow these measures and you can rest assured that your shiny, new Merino wool garments will look and feel like that for a very long time. The high quality of the natural material means that every piece is an investment. For more hints, tips and guides on outdoor clothing, visit our walking advice section.