Wool. It is a mysterious natural fiber that many love and some hate. While it has benefits, many complain of the itch it gives. Is this you? Are your wool sweaters so uncomfortable you can’t wear them? Is there a way to make it softer? Well, we have some good news for you! Read on to hear more!
The fiber that wool is made out of is similar to human hair, and just like human hair can split, so can wool. This is what causes wool's common itchy feeling- not the rare case of an allergy to wool fibers. The itchiness of a wool piece also depends on the type of wool as well as the quality and how it was processed. For example, merino or angora wool is softer, because the fibers are much finer than regular wool and do not poke your skin like traditional wool. As far as processing goes, if the wool is finer, it should not need to be treated. If the wool is a thicker fiber, it usually goes through the process of being washed in an acidic bath which smooths out some of the natural roughness of the wool. But what if you receive that lovely wool piece, and that just isn’t enough? Thankfully, there are many ways to soften your wool piece to your liking! Now, this also depends on the person's preference, but overall, here are some tried and true tricks:
- Regular washing will eventually soften the wool up a bit. Although this seems elementary, the washing process does slowly break down the fibers enough over time that they will soften up. Although maybe not as fast as other methods, if you have the patience, it works!
- Washing your wool piece with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and enough water to cover the piece will act as an acidic bath and help soften the fibers. Just make sure to get all of the vinegar out!
- Put a cup of baking soda in with a normal load of laundry. Baking soda is known to be a natural fabric softener and doesn’t include any of the harsh chemicals!
- Use a good quality condition to soften up the fibers. This does require elbow grease, but just as you would use conditioner to soften up your hair, you can with wool!
- Making sure your piece is 100% dry, tightly package your piece, put it into a plastic bag, and put it in the freezer overnight. This works to soften wool because the freezing temperatures force the fibers to lay flat and not stick out and poke you!
- Don’t wash your wool pieces on the warm/hot setting, that will possibly shrink it! Cold is the way to go!
- Wool is water-proof to a point because of the lanolin in it. Lanolin can also soften up the wool, but the more you wash it, the more lanolin comes out of the wool. You may want to look into putting more lanolin into your wool if you feel that it becomes itchier the more you wash it!
- The more wool breaks down, the softer and weaker it gets. It is kind of a happy medium, so when you are working on softening your wool, make sure to take good care of it!
- If all else fails, layer another shirt underneath it. And I know you are worried about breaking into a terrible sweat! But fun fact- wool takes in the heat around it and that heat sits inside the little pockets inside the wool fibers! Although we usually think of wool as only being a colder weather fiber, wool is great to wear in the summer because it takes in heat and does not let the hot air (or sweat) back onto your skin! The same goes for if you are layering a turtleneck underneath it- if you are warm, it is because the wool is storing any body heat inside of it!
In Part 2 of "What's Up With Wool?" We will try out several of these tricks on one Shay Shacket and compare it to one that has not gone through any of these methods. Stay tuned for updates!
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