What is the difference between conventional wool and merino wool?
Wool is one of the oldest materials used by mankind in the production of clothing. It has been used for centuries, especially in the production of clothing such as winter coats, sweaters and suits, but also, for example, in the production of warm blankets.
It is a natural fibre that is most often obtained from the fleece of sheep, although it can also come from goats, llamas or alpacas. However, not all wool is the same, even when comparing two types of sheep's wool.
In the case of this article, conventional sheep's wool, compared with wool from the merino sheep breed.
What is conventional sheep's wool?
Conventional (ordinary) wool is obtained from sheep and is one of the most popular materials in the textile industry as a whole.
The main advantage of conventional sheep's wool is its strength and durability. It is a very durable material which, with good care, can last for many years, making it a very suitable choice for outdoor clothing. In addition, sheep's wool has excellent insulating properties that help to keep its wearer warm even in really cold weather, thanks to the ability of the wool fibres to trap air in their structure and create air bubbles, which then work as thermal insulation. Wool also has the natural ability to effectively wick moisture away from the body into the structure of the material, from which it then evaporates, helping to regulate body temperature even in warmer conditions and keeping the wearer dry.
Conventional wool, however, is not without its drawbacks. Sheep's wool can have quite coarse fibres, which can make it uncomfortable to the touch, especially for people with sensitive skin, and can scratch, itch and, in worse cases, cause irritation. In addition, although conventional sheep's wool is a durable material, its weakness is water. Very specific washing procedures must be used, as exposure to water, especially hot water, can cause it to shrink.
What is merino wool?
Merino wool is a type of wool that comes from the Merino sheep breed, bred most commonly in Australia and New Zealand. Merino sheep have been selectively bred over many generations to produce fine, soft wool that is highly prized for its quality and versatility.
One of the main benefits of merino wool is its soft texture. The fibres of merino wool are much finer than those of ordinary wool, making it exceptionally comfortable to wear, it doesn't shrink or scratch. Merino wool is also hypoallergenic, making it suitable for people with sensitive skin.
Merino wool, like regular wool, has excellent insulating properties, which also makes it a great choice for warm clothing for cold weather. It also has great thermo-regulating abilities, effectively wicking away sweat and keeping its wearer dry.
What are the main differences between conventional wool and merino wool?
We've already outlined some of the differences when describing the two materials, but let's take a closer look at how the two types of sheep's wool differ from each other.
As we've already mentioned, regular wool can be uncomfortable, especially for people with sensitive skin; they may experience scratching, "biting" and itching. Wool is therefore often blended with other materials or is more commonly used in layers that do not come into direct contact with the skin, such as the suits, coats and sweaters mentioned in the introduction.
Merino wool is very soft and pleasant to the touch compared to ordinary wool, so it is not a problem to wear it directly on the skin. Therefore, it is often used as a material for base layers of clothing such as T-shirts, underwear, but also accessories such as neckerchiefs or beanies.
Wool as such is an excellent thermal insulator, but merino wool goes a little further than ordinary wool. Wool fibres are excellent at trapping body heat and creating tiny air bubbles that act as a thermal insulator, but as merino wool fibres are finer than those of regular wool, its abilities in this regard are a level above.
Ability to wick away moisture
Merino wool has fantastic parameters when it comes to moisture wicking. This makes it an excellent choice for active movement, as it keeps its wearer dry even under more intense exertion, but at the same time, this property also makes it a suitable material for hot summer days.
Wool also has the ability to wick away moisture effectively, but merino wool is no match for it in this respect.
Another significant advantage of merino wool compared to ordinary wool is its easier maintenance. While normal wool can shrink or deform due to water or high temperatures, merino wool is much more durable and much less likely to lose its shape or texture. It can be machine washed without any problems, and although it does require a little extra care, it's not rocket science.