Merino Wool FAQs

  1. What is merino wool?
  2. Sheepish Facts
  3. What does merino wool mean?
  4. What is merino wool made of?
  5. How is merino wool harvested?
  6. Is merino wool good quality?
  7. Where does the best merino wool come from?
  8. Is merino cashmere?
  9. Why merino wool base layer?
  10. Benefits of merino wool clothing
  11. Is merino wool good for running?
  12. Is merino wool soft? Is merino wool itchy?
  13. Can merino wool be washed?
  14. How to wash merino wool
  15. Does merino wool stretch?
  16. Can you iron merino wool?
  17. How to remove deodorant stains
  18. Does merino wool get less itchy after washing?
  19. How to unshrink a merino wool sweater?
  20. Can you wear merino wool clothing in summer?
  21. Is merino wool warmer than lambswool?
  22. Which is warmer, cashmere or merino wool?

What is merino wool?

Merino wool is a natural fibre, grown all year around by a bred of sheep called Merino.

It is an exquisite, finely spun fibre that cannot be matched when it comes to insulating the body from the cold—and incredibly, the heat, even when it’s wet.
Merino has been around for centuries and has only more recently come into its own as a thoroughly modern performance textile, one that moves and breathes as do the very animals who wear it to begin with!

Although not certified organic, Merino wool is in demand for its sustainable production and a variety of qualities that sets it apart from regular wool.
Merino wool qualities include regulating body temperature; wicking moisture(sweat) away from the body and cancelling out odours. You will always be dry and sweat free with merino!

Merino wool is often more expensive, but for good reasons! Wool is measured in microns. It is the diameter of the follicle (through a microscope) which is measured. The smaller the micron count, the softer and more expensive the wool. Wool with the some of the finest micron count comes from Merino sheep and is used for high quality, soft fabrics, making it a high value yarn and fabric for fashion houses.

Sheepish Facts

  • Did you know that the UK has more sheep breeds than any other country in the world? 
  • It is not known how many sheep breeds there are exactly in the world, as many are not registered, but it is thought there could be up to a 1000 distinct sheep varieties worldwide, of which the Merino is one of the oldest.
  • Merino sheep typically have one or two lambs a year and live about 10 to 15 years.
  • Most sheep breeds do not have horns, though in a few varieties, both male and female sheep have horns. Only the merino male sheep has horns.
  • Merino sheep are raised in nearly every country worldwide, however the bulk of Merino wool—about 80 percent of it—now comes from Australia.

What does merino wool mean?

Merino is a specific breed of sheep, so the wool fibre taken from young merinos is called merino wool.

Merino wool is incredibly soft and non-scratchy, working really well for garments worn next to skin, such as base layers and sportswear. It is also used in sleepwear.

With its body temperature regulating, non-odour and wicking properties, Merino wool is first choice for sportswear, particularly where you need to layer up, such as skiing, cycling, hiking. It is also a great option for running in winter as it is warm when you first go out into cold weather, then as the body temperature rises, it keeps you cool!

What is merino wool made of?

Merino wool is simply wool that comes from the merino sheep. Forget the scratchy jumper’s granny used to make! Merino sheep produce incredible soft wool and can sometimes be softer than cashmere and smoother than silk.

How is merino wool harvested?

The process starts by shearing the sheep. Despite high industry standards, there is controversy on the Mulesing practise of sheep, particularly merinos. Mulesing is done to reduce flystrike and involves cutting skin from the buttock region. This is generally done without anaesthetic.

When buying wool and in particular merino wool, look for standards and certifications that ensure the sheep have been treated well. This could be the Responsible Wool Standard; ZQ Merino Standard and in the UK the Soil Association Organic Standards.

Is merino wool good quality?

Merino sheep produce Merino wool, which is known for its amazing properties of softness, breathability and regulating body temperature.

As mentioned previously, wool fibre is measured in microns (the diameter of the follicle (through a microscope)). As a rule of thumb, it is generally the smaller the micron count, the softer and more expensive the wool. As a point of comparison, human hair varies from 40-90 microns, merino wool 10-21.5 and lambswool usually no more than 25 microns, depending on the age and health (or nutrition) of the sheep.

Where does the best merino wool come from?

Merino wool comes from the breed of sheep called Merino.

Originating in North Africa, the Merino sheep are believed to have arrived in Spain in the 1100’s and were named “merino” in the 1400s after the royal sheep inspectors “merinos”. The breed was then introduced to Australia. Although this breed of sheep had already developed a fine fibre, Australian farmers selectively breed bred further and produced the authentic Australian Merino wool with even finer fibre.

Merino sheep are sheared once a year between September and November. The sheep have been bred to continuously grow wool, so the animals feel well from being sheared.

Is merino cashmere?

Merino wool comes from the Merino sheep, whereas Cashmere wool is taken from goats, such as the Cashmere or Pashmina goat and is softer than sheep’s wool.

Cashmere is produced mostly in China and Mongolia, the name originating from its association with the Kashmir shawl. Collecting these fibres is a laborious task that must be done by hand in the spring. The goats produce a double layer of wool, the underlayer being the soft fibre that is collected for clothing. The top layer is courser, being grown for harsher winter months and is shed in the spring. The difficulty involved in collecting cashmere, is why it is more expensive and considered a luxury item.

As an example, it takes at least two goats to make a jumper, whereas the wool from one sheep can be used to make four or five jumpers.

Lucy Siegle: ‘It takes the combed hair of five goats and a year of growing to make a top-quality cashmere sweater.’

Cashmere is finer, stronger, lighter, softer and approximately three times more insulating than sheep wool. It is however considered to be unsustainable as, through poor land management and overgrazing to increase production, there has been decimation of grasslands, which have become deserts in Asia, increasing local temperatures and causing air pollution.

Photo by Trinity Kubassek from Pexels

Why merino wool base layer?

Merino wool is lightweight, fine and soft, making the perfect thin layer. Merino wool properties of being breathable, antibacterial, warm and wicking moisture away from your skin, make it a great material for base layers which are closer to the skin.

Additionally, Merino does not itch! Making it really comfortable!

Benefits of merino wool clothing

The properties of Merino being breathable, antibacterial, warm, and non-itchy make it a great material for a wide variety of clothing.
Merino is naturally able to draw perspiration away from the skin, so you stay dry when working out! It is the perfect layering garment for skiing, cycling, hiking and also great for the gym or yoga.

Merino sheep are reared in harsh weather conditions where most sheep could not survive, so the fibre is a natural guard for extreme conditions. The softness of the material makes it a cosy, lightweight and warm for sleepwear too!

Is merino wool good for running?

Merino is excellent for running! The lightweight and insulating properties of the material not only keeps you warm when starting your run, it will take the moisture away from your body when you start working up a sweat!. The perfect companion for either a summer or winter run, as the material will adapt to the body temperature. Merino is one of the most sought-after materials in the outdoor gear world.

Is merino wool soft? Is merino wool itchy?

Merino wool is an incredibly soft yarn because it is so fine! This yarn is not all itchy or scratchy to the skin, unless you are super sensitive to wool. Technically, the diameter of wool fibre is measured in microns. The lower the micron, the finer and softer the yarn is. Regular wool can be up to 40 micron count, whereas Merino ranges from 11 micron to 25 micron.

Can merino wool be washed?

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Merino wool garments are really easy to take care of as they are naturally antibacterial and do not hold odours. They therefore require less washing than a lot of other fibres and fabrics.

Merino wool is also highly resistant to stains.

Always follow the manufacturers recommendations, though you can machine wash merino wool pieces on a cold cycle or use a wool wash/delicate option if available.

Always check the garment label for specific temperature guidelines and hand wash the garment if the label states this.

How to wash merino wool

You can machine wash merino wool on a cool/cold cycle, or use a wool wash/delicate option if available.

Always check the garment label for specific temperature guidelines.

Do not use fabric softener as it will coat the merino fibres, limiting the wool’s natural ability to actively manage your moisture and body temperature.

Foxology’s manufacturer recommends hand washing, in cool or warm water with mild laundry powder and line/flat dry, for the best way to wash Foxology products and ensure a long life.

However, if you trust your machine, you can wash on a cool/cold wool or hand wash, gentle cycle with a spin of no more than 600rpm. Reshape whilst damp and dry flat away from direct heat (not on an AGA!). Heat is what will shrink your merino or Geelong lambswool garment and spinning too fast can also result in the garment shrinking beyond repair - look after your knitwear and it will look after you!

Dry cleaning is harmful to wool and the environment, so best not to! Equally do not use bleach or fabric softeners, as these chemicals can stain your woollens.
If washed by hand, do it in a basin with warm water, but avoid soaking for too long as this can cause shrinkage. Be careful to not stretch the wool!

Carefully dab stained areas with a cloth.

Dry in a flat surface and on an absorbent fabric like a towel.

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Does merino wool stretch?

If you look at a single Merino wool fibre under a microscope, you’ll notice that it resembles a tightly coiled spring – this is called the ‘crimp’.

Pull on the crimp then release it and it will recoil back into shape every single time. It’s this elasticity that gives Merino wool its luxurious-feeling stretch. What that means to those of us without microscopes is, you can stuff it into a backpack or carry-on case and it comes out looking ready-to-wear.

The garment will however stretch and lose some of it’s ‘crimp’/elasticity if you wash/wet and stretch it, as it dries. To avoid this, it is best to reshape after you have washed the garment and allow it to dry naturally.

Can you iron merino wool?

You shouldn't need to iron your merino garment, after washing, you decide it needs an iron, then make sure the iron is in a wool or cool setting. You can avoid ‘glazing’ (leaving a shiny mark), by ironing with a damp cloth, or with a steam iron.

How to remove deodorant stains from merino wool?

Merino wool is naturally odour-resistant, so you can wear it again and again before it needs to be washed.

If, however you do get underarm stains, the easiest way to remove them is to wash it by hand, sinking the garment in warm water and mild detergent, then gently massaging the stained area. Some detergents are specially made to wash Merino wool.

If you want to machine wash, make sure to use a wool/ delicate cycle.

Does merino wool get less itchy after washing?

Merino wool is soft and smooth. It's popular for being non-itchy fabric. However, it will get softer after the first wash.

Ditch the itch with Merino wool!

How to unshrink a merino wool sweater?

This depends on how badly the garment has shrunk. If not too severe then try this: 

  1. Fill a bathtub with lukewarm water.
  2. Make sure the garment is fully immersed in the water.
  3. Take your hair conditioner and add a generous amount to the water.
  4. The secret here is that the conditioner will relax the wool yarns and loosen them.
  5. Gently keep kneading.
  6. Gently drain the water.
  7. Fill the sink again, and do the same procedure only with clean water to rinse the garment.
  8. Finally, carefully take the garment from the water and press against the bathtub gently to remove excess water.
  9. Lay flat to dry over a towel, and press gently with another piece of absorbent fabric on top to keep removing excess water.

Can you wear merino wool clothing in summer?

If you think Merino wool is only for winter months, think again!

Merino keeps you cool in warm weather, helping you regulate your temperature. The fibres also absorb moisture, so sweat is drawn away from your body.
Merino wool is odour resistant, making it great for summer months, as well as a breathable fabric, leaving you without odours.

Another property of merino that is often missed, is the major added benefit, during summer months, of being a natural UV barrier, so your skin is protected.

Merino is incredibly fine and lightweight for summer.

Is merino wool warmer than lambswool?

Lambswool is generally warmer than merino. Wool is a great insulator, being used to make winter clothing, however with lambswool you get the added softness.

Crimp is an important feature of wool fibres. It is the natural crinkle, or waviness of the fibre, giving it elasticity and making it soft and springy to touch. It also adds bulk and traps a large volume of air between the fibres, giving it good insulation properties. In general, the more crimp there is, the smaller is the diameter of the fibre, i.e. the lower the micron count. Finer wool with more crimp such as merino creates fabrics that drape better than coarser wool with little crimp. Merino has up to 100 crimps per inch, more than either cashmere or lambswool.

Which is warmer, cashmere or merino wool?

Cashmere wool is goat hair and is softer and lighter than sheep’s wool. It has a higher loft, which gives plush, luxurious fabrics with a silky feel. It also drapes beautifully and cashmere garments can give an elegant look on more formal occasions.

Merino wool, on the other hand, is softer and more refined than regular wool. It comes from Merino sheep and bred to produce very fine wool fibres. Merino wool is an excellent material for performance clothing, as it is warm, yet lightweight and breathable and especially given its moisture wicking properties.
Cashmere wool provides excellent insulation and can be 7-8 times warmer than merino wool.

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