Fact vs Fiction: Debunking common myths about wool

Fact vs Fiction: Debunking common myths about wool

In all areas of fashion, separating fact from fiction can be difficult, as we’ve learnt from the rise of greenwashing. And unfortunately, it applies to wool too. There are lots of claims flying around about the natural fibre, but is there any truth to them? Join us as we tackle some of the most common myths about wool.

Fiction: Wool is itchy

Fact: It’s true, some wool is itchy! There are lots of types of wool out there which come from lots of different breeds of sheep. Some wool is coarser than others which can indeed mean it’s itchy and is better suited to things like carpets or furniture. But it’s simply not true to say that all wool is itchy. Wool is measured in microns and the lower the micron number the finer – and softer – the wool. A good brand will choose their wool according to the garment it will be used in. For example, at Untouched World, we favour fine, soft wools such as alpaca and of course merino, for garments which sit next to the skin. A well-designed wool garment made with quality and comfort in mind should never be itchy.

Fiction: Wool is hard to wash

Fact: Wool isn’t hard to wash but depending on the type of wool, it may just need a little extra care. Certain types of merino, pure wool or cashmere, for instance, may need to be handwashed, but it’s not a difficult process – you simply pop it in the sink in some cool water and add a wool detergent. The process takes about ten minutes in total but most of that is soaking time so it’s actually pretty hands-off and hassle-free. And don’t forget, many types of wool are now machine washable. Our Total Easy Care Merino and our Mountainsilk™ merino range are machine washable, making caring for your wool garments easier than ever.

Fiction: Sheep farming is cruel

Fact: The majority of farmers are dedicated to looking after the wellbeing and health of their sheep, which are the heart of their livelihood. They act as caretakers for their flock and stewards of the land. But, like every industry, there are some issues and it’s important that the industry as a whole works to put a stop to them. Mulesing is perhaps the foremost worry and it’s understandable that it has tarnished the industry, but it is now illegal in many countries across the globe, including New Zealand, and is only currently practised by certain farmers in one country. And it’s becoming harder for those farmers to continue the practice as standards such as ZQ, RWS and RMS expressly prohibit it.

While not ignoring practices that must be curtailed, when you take the wool industry as a whole, there is a widespread commitment to animal welfare, as farmers strive to treat their livestock well according to the Five Freedoms and, increasingly, the updated and more progressive Five Domains. As customers demand more transparency, as brands put welfare in the spotlight, and as standards and certifications become a must-have, this only reinforces the industry’s focus on stringent animal welfare.

Fiction: Wool is bad for the environment

Fact: Just like the wider fashion industry, there are positive and negative sides of the wool industry. When wool is cultivated without respect for the environment it can lead to overgrazed land, degraded soils, habitat loss and increased environmental footprint. This is true of any crop or fibre - agriculture is a big and varied industry after all.

But when farmed well, like ours is, wool can benefit the environment greatly. Regenerative wool farming can rebuild biodiversity, help protect native plants and wildlife, and enhance soil quality. Glenthorne Station, where over 90% of our wool comes from, is ZQRX accredited, meaning it upholds regenerative farming principles across its 62,000 acres of land.

In addition to the regenerative potential of wool, it’s also a natural fibre meaning that it doesn’t shed microplastics, it’s not made from fossil fuels, and it will not pollute the earth at the end of its life. Instead it will actually return vital nutrients to the soil. There are plenty of environmental upsides to wool that are worth celebrating.

Fiction: Wool is only good for winter

Fact: Wool is known for being cosy and warm but it’s actually temperature regulating, which means it can help you both stay warm and keep cool. Wool fibres are naturally breathable and they can absorb moisture (at a rate 25% greater than polyester), allowing it to evaporate to keep you cool and dry. When you need to stay warm, wool’s naturally crimped fibres trap pockets of air next to the skin, insulating you from the cold. We all love our woolly winter warmers, but wool is actually a true year-round fibre great for everything from cosy jumpers to activewear.

For more mythbusting, read our journal entry ‘Myths behind ethical shopping’.