Merino wool has many great properties that make it a quality fabric for both summers and winters. It is durable, breathable, and it is very warm. The luxe feeling of merino wool is another positive. But what about merino wool’s itchiness?
If you are thinking of buying a merino wool sweater and have this question in mind, you have come to the right place. Here’s the short answer.
Does merino wool itch?
High-quality merino wool does not itch. It is the low-quality merino wool sweaters, where the diameter of the fibers is larger than 22 microns, that are itchy to the skin. Most merino wool sweaters have fibers that are smaller than 20 microns, and hence they do not itch.
However, this is not all. There are a number of other things that you need to keep in mind in order to not buy an itchy garment.
How To make merino wool less itchy?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to make your merino wool sweaters stop itching.
- Turn the garment inside out and soak it in a bucket of ice-cold water. Add half a cup of white vinegar.
- Add some fabric conditioner (or if you are in a pinch, hair conditioner) to the mix. Let it sit for an hour or so. You don’t want one that has beeswax, so go for a natural conditioner like this one.
- Take your sweater out and rinse it properly under cold water. Make sure that all the conditioner residue is out of it.
- Let the garment air dry. Do not hang it on a clothesline as that might cause it to lose its shape. Don’t throw it in a dryer as that will lead to shrinkage. Just lay the sweater flat on a table under a fan.
- Once it is dry, fold the merino wool sweater properly and put it in a zip-lock bag. Keep this bag in the freezer for 24 hours.
- Once you go through all these steps, you would find your merino wool garment to be much softer. And it will be a lot less itchy too!
Why Is Merino Wool Itchy?
Merino wool tends to be itchy if its fibers are over 22 micros in diameter. But this happens with only low-quality merino garments, as most merino wool pieces have fibers that are less than 20 microns in diameter.
Now, if you are not obsessed with clothes (that is, you are not me) you must be thinking what the hell is a micron?
A micron or micrometer (μm), is a unit of measure of length and equates to one-thousandth of a millimeter (.000039 inch). For reference, the diameter of a human hair is 50 to 75 microns. And these microns are the main reason for wool’s itchiness.
Basically, the larger the diameter of the fibers, the more itchy the garment is going to be. Merino wool is referred to as an ultra-fine fabric because its micron count is quite low. Here is the breakdown of the size of the wool fabric in terms of microns.
|Grade of Fabric||Size (In Microns)|
Depending upon how sensitive your skin is, anything over 20 microns might start to feel a bit itchy to you. For reference, regular wool is around 30 microns. High-quality merino wool is around 15 microns thick.
Does Washing merino wool make it less itchy?
Washing Merino wool can help to soften the fibers and make them less itchy. The process of washing and wear can cause the individual fibers to slightly felt and tangle together, which can make the fabric feel softer and less prickly.
The washing method is also important. Merino wool should be washed in cold or warm water using a gentle wool-specific detergent. And, it should be washed on the gentle cycle. Avoid using regular laundry detergents, bleach or fabric softeners as these can damage the fibers, and make the wool less soft.
Hand washing or using a gentle cycle of the machine in a delicate bag can also help to reduce pilling, and prevent shrinkage. And, it’s important to avoid wringing or twisting the wool when you’re washing it, as this can cause the fibers to become misshapen.
After washing, Merino wool should be dried flat, and avoid hanging it to dry as it can stretch the fibers. It’s also important to avoid exposing the wool to direct sunlight, as this can cause the colors to fade.
It’s worth mentioning that some people with particularly sensitive skin may still find Merino wool itchy, even after it has been washed and worn. If this is the case, it may be best to look for clothing made from other natural fibers, such as cotton or silk, which are less likely to cause irritation.
Is Merino Wool Good For Sensitive Skin?
Merino wool is good for most people that have mildly sensitive skins. But if your skin is extremely sensitive, then you might need to avoid wool products in general.
As I stated before, it is the microns of a fabric that are responsible for its itchiness. Most people that have sensitive skin start feeling itchy if the fibers of the fabric are over 20 microns in diameter. Thus, merino wool would still work if you have slightly sensitive skin.
And it will also do a great job of keeping you warm.
But if you have an extreme case of skin sensitivity, then you might need to skip woolen fabrics entirely.
Merino wool is the finest wool that is available in most places. If even that feels itchy, then you might have to migrate towards cotton, which has an even lower micron count.
Alternatively, you can also go for merino wool blends. The merino wool and silk blend is particularly smooth and great for people with sensitive skin.
Basically speaking, if you find cotton itchy, then you are probably going to find merino wool itchy too.
Can A Person Be Allergic To Merino Wool?
Yes, a person can be allergic to both merino wool and wool in general. These are both relatively common allergies and can be the reason for itchiness.
The best way to find out if you have an allergy to wool or merino wool in particular, would be to go to a dermatologist and have a consultation. But we both know that you are absolutely not going to do that.
The second best method is as follows: Take a pair of cotton socks and put them on. Now take one merino wool sock and one regular wool sock and put them on the left and right leg respectively, over the cotton socks. Wear for 15-20 minutes.
If your feet develop redness on the left leg, then you probably have an allergy to merino wool. If both your feet show signs of irritation and redness, then you probably have an allergy to all kinds of wool.
Low-quality merino wool sweaters are itchy to the skin. The woolen fibers in these sweaters usually have a diameter larger than 22 microns. High-quality merino wool sweaters do not itch, as the diameter of their fibers is less than 20 microns.
If you buy from popular brands such as Icebreaker and Uniqlo (and other brands whose names you have heard), then you don’t have to worry much about your sweaters being itchy. All these brands use fibers less than 20 microns in size, and are going to work for most skin types.
It is the no-name cheap brands that you need to avoid, as most of them will use low-quality merino wool and would lead to itchiness.
My name is Alex Higson and I am the founder of Magic Of Clothes. I have worked in the fashion industry for many years, and clothes and style are a huge part of my life.