For years, if you mentioned wool I would think about itchy, scratchy sweaters and socks that I had to wear when the weather turned cool. I couldn’t stand to have it next to my skin because it was so uncomfortable.
Little did I know that not all wool is the same. The wool products from the memories of my youth were made from coarse wool fibers. My family wasn’t wealthy, so we kids wore what the family could afford…and those were the cheap sheep.
In the quest to find allergy friendly products, I learned about Merino sheep and Shropshire sheep and how comfortable wool can be! Merino wool is incredibly soft.
I first learned about Merino wool when we were approached by a company that produced Australian wool bedding products. Merino sheep are the most commonly raised breeds in Australia and their wool is both strong and fine.
All wools have scales that cover the individual fibers (or hairs so to speak) just like the cuticles of our own hair. However, some wool is “scalier” than others. Merino doesn’t have long scales. The scaly wools are the ones that itch and scratch and give me flashbacks to my youth.
By the way, these scales are the reason wool “shrinks” when washed. When the wool is on the sheep, the scales are all facing the same direction and they don’t tangle and mat with each other. It can rain all day and the sheep doesn’t shrink.
However, once the wool comes off the sheep and is woven, those scales are facing all different directions. When agitated with water and heat the scales cling and mat to each other. This process is known as felting. So, washed wool actually felts, but because the felted product looks smaller, we say it shrinks.
I also discovered that wool wicks moisture away from your body. I didn’t see how anyone would ever sleep on wool in the summer heat without getting too hot. I didn’t understand that this wicking effect keeps you cool while you sleep.
It is the reason so much of the high end athletic wear has some merino wool in it to keep the athlete cool. Wool is also coated with lanolin. This is a natural substance that sheep produce.
Lanolin is created when the sheep’s wool is exposed to ultraviolet light, or in other words, when the sheep goes outside. Lanolin has wonderful antibacterial properties that makes it perfect for baby bedding and adult moisture pads.
How to Care for Wool
So, while most wool can’t be washed, it can be refreshed by placing it in sunlight. With proper care, wool products can last for years. Wool is also a renewal resource.
A grown Peppin Merino ram can produce about 40 pounds of wool a year. Need more? Don’t worry, all you have to do is shear the sheep and they will grow more making wool an eco-friendly product.
My first wool product was a reversible natural wool mattress pad. As I said before, I was skeptical of getting too warm when sleeping in the very warm months. But I found that the wool was not hot, did not make me itch, and conformed to every curve of my body.
Because the pad was shearling wool on one side, I thought that once I slept on the pad a few times the wool would crush down and the comfort would be lost.
Boy was I mistaken. When it comes to wool, it is not the length of the pile that gives you comfort it is the density of the wool. The more dense, the more comfort. My wool pad is years old and still giving me the same level of comfort as on the first night.
Wool is Good for Pets
My second wool product as a bed for my cats. I am always the skeptic and I didn’t think a single one of my three cats would think twice about sitting on it. Boy was I surprised. In fact, it became an object of considerable contention as everyone wanted to use it at the same time. Finally, they worked it out among themselves.
What I found most interesting was that one cat would go to the pet bed when she was stressed and just knead the wool. After a bit, it seemed to relieve whatever tension and or anxiety she was having and then she would happily trot off. She never slept on the bed, she just used it for emotional therapy.
Maybe that is why I love wool so much. It reminds me of a nest!
Dust Mite Proof Wool for Allergies?
When we first started selling Sleep & Beyond wool bedding, I was told by almost all the manufacturers that wool is resistant to dust mites and doesn’t require any special covers. You know me, always the skeptic so I had to research it myself.
I found that while the lanolin and fiber structure might repel dust mites, wool still collects the feces and body parts of dead dust mites. Not taking any chances with my shearling wool pad, it went under my mattress encasement. I get all the comfort of wool and am totally protected against any allergens that might collect on the pad.
My third wool product was the Merino wool comforter. I decided to test the ability of wool to stay dust mite allergen free myself. When I put the wool comforter on the bed, I didn’t use a dust mite cover on the comforter.
However, within about 6 months, I noticed that I was getting a return of my allergy symptoms. I quickly put a 100% cotton cover on the comforter and the symptoms went away. The all cotton cover didn’t add additional weight and still allowed me to enjoy all the benefits of the wool.
Recently, I learned about Shropshire sheep. This is a very old breed of sheep that has a particularly fine and very soft wool. It is also a wool with very little of the scaling I mentioned earlier.
That makes this wool a perfect candidate for washing without felting. With the addition of an extra washing treatment (called BioWashing) Shropshire wool can be safely laundered.
We are now offering a Washable Wool Comforter that is filled with this Shropshire wool and covered in a cotton ticking. While the wool isn’t certified organic like our merino wool products, this item does have the benefit of being washable.
So, the battle of the fibers continues in our home. I am loving the sheep and my husband is loving the silkworms. He has decided that he is crazy about the silk that comes from silkworms that are fed on a diet of mulberry tree leaves.
But that is another post.
Until next time! Baaahhhh
P.S. Allergy elimination is about eliminating the allergy-causing substance in your home the best you can. To learn more please click here to download your free copy of" You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living.