I have two chronic illnesses, both of which mess with my body temperature. One lowers my body temperature so I’m usually colder than everyone else in the room. The other one exacerbates the problem so when I do get cold, my fingers, my toes, my nose, my lips, and sometimes my arms and legs will go numb. Oh, and when I get cold, I start to sweat. It’s not pretty.
I also get hot. I’m not immune to heat, and in fact, I can overheat really quickly. So there’s even more sweat. All of this to say, you can trust what I’m about to tell you about wool.
Wool is one of my favorite fibers to wear. At some point it got a bad rep for being hot, stifling, and itchy, but wool can be soft and comforting and cooling as well.
- Wool breathes. The fiber has an uneven surface so when it’s knit up, air pockets form, which allows it to sequester, absorb, and release moisture.
- Natural insulator. Wool can be worn in all seasons, even the summer. If you live in a hot climate and you’re scoffing, you should know that desert dwellers wear wool specifically for this reason: it keeps cool in the heat, and warm in the cold.
- Durable and flexible. Wool fibers can be bent 20,000 times without breaking. This contributes to the longevity of your clothing, lets it stretch (and shrink back to size), and also makes it wrinkle resistant.
- Anti-microbial. When you do sweat, the odor comes from the bacteria on your skin breaking it down, and everything from the material to your deodorant can affect the stench. Wool has a permanent and natural resistance to microbial growth due to the fiber’s uneven and negatively charged surface.
- Mildew and mold resistant. Wool can absorb and repel moisture simultaneously because the outer layer does not absorb liquid at all. It even works as a natural insulator in increasing humidity. Wool absorbs up to 1/3 its weight before it feels wet.
- Non-allergenic. Wool is made of the same protein that your outer layer of skin is made of, which works incredibly well with your body. In fact, allergies to wool are basically unheard of – but you can be allergic to lanolin, which is a wax used to treat wool, or one of the other chemicals or treatments that can be used on the fiber.
- Flame resistant. Wool will smolder and extinguish itself instead of melting, dripping, or sticking to skin as acrylic fibers do when burned.
- Natural UV protection. Testing has shown UV protection of 30+ in various studies on wool.
- Anti-static and stain resistant. Wool doesn’t pick up as much dust as other fibers, and the protective coating helps prevent stains.
- Renewable, recyclable, biodegradable. As long as there are sheep (or sometimes goats, camels, and llamas – just to name a few!), wool will be around naturally. Should you want to toss your wool, the fibers break down by fertilizing the plants with 17% of nitrogen content (compared to 6% in commercial turf products). Additionally, it’s so lightweight that seedlings grow right through it.