Merino wool is one of my favorite fabrics for both summer and winter. It lends so much to an outfit; the texture, the drape, the warmth. And did I mention that it looks bloody good?
But one thing that needs a bit more thought is the relation between water and merino wool.
There is not a lot of information on the internet regarding this aspect of merino wool, so I am going to break it down completely in this guide.
Here’s the short answer.
Merino wool can get wet, that is, it is not waterproof. But getting wet does not harm merino wool, as it is a very sturdy fabric that can hold up to 30% of its weight in water. And the great thing about merino wool is that it manages to provide heat to the wearer even after being wet.
But this is not all. You may also be wondering about the relationship between merino wool and water and the ancillary questions surrounding it. Don’t worry, because I am going to cover all the questions you may have in this guide.
Can You Wash Merino Wool That Says Dry Clean Only?
Yes, you can wash merino wool that says dry clean only. But make sure to only hand-wash the merino wool garment, as machine washing can lead to fabric degradation.
Most of the time, the tags say dry clean only as a safety measure. They know that nothing wrong is going to happen if you hand wash it, but they still don’t want to deal with complaints in the rare case that an issue does come up.
By deferring the duty of cleaning merino wool to dry cleaners, they ensure that angry customers do not come back to them with complaints. Think about it. If you send a garment to the dry cleaner and it comes back slightly out of shape, would you register a complaint with the brand or the dry cleaner?
Thus, merino wool garments whose tags say “Dry Clean Only” can also be washed. Hand wash them in cold water for the best results.
Is Merino Wool Waterproof Or Water Resistant?
Merino wool is naturally water-resistant. Most merino wool garments are extremely absorbent, and can hold up to 30% of their weight in water before they begin to leak. Merino wool that hasn’t been processed and still contains the fatty linonen from the original animal is almost waterproof.
Water resistance is a key feature of premium wools like merino wool (which explains its high costs), however, the degree of resistance varies from maker to manufacturer. Wool sweaters from fast-fashion brands are less water-resistant than clothing from high-end, premium brands.
In my personal experience, my 100% merino sweater from H&M gets wet way more easily than my J.Crew merino wool sweater.
This occurs because premium firms can afford to purchase only the highest quality wool, which is a luxury that most fast fashion brands can’t have.
How To Make Merino Wool Waterproof?
If you’re concerned about waterproofing merino wool since you’ll be wearing it on mildly rainy days, don’t fret. Wool, and especially merino wool, is a resilient material that can withstand becoming wet.
However, if you’re planning for a severe downpour, you’ll need to put in a little more effort.
The simplest way for a layperson to waterproof merino wool is to simply spray it with Scotch Guard waterproof spray. Because some merino wool clothes are sensitive to it, do a small spot test in an inconspicuous place before spraying your coat or sweater.
However, I strongly advise you to avoid waterproofing merino wool at all costs. Wool, as I discussed in previous sections, does not become difficult to deal with when wet.
You can very much avoid waterproofing your merino pieces unless you’re going to be standing beneath a waterfall.
Does Merino Wool Absorb Water?
Merino wool is a water-absorbent material. It has the ability to absorb up to 30% of its body weight in water. Some merino wool clothes are pre-treated to absorb even more liquid. This can happen by chemical processing or by blending merino wool with synthetic fabrics.
The advantage of absorption is self-evident. A fabric that absorbs water will not become dripping wet. As a result, merino wool does get wet, but not to the point that it dripping.
You may believe that raincoats are a superior alternative to merino wool because they do not absorb any water, and you would be correct. But keep in mind that I’m discussing this fabric in relation to other naturally occurring materials like cotton and silk.
The second consideration that must be made is that of warmth. Merino wool, because of its natural characteristics, can keep the person warm even when it is wet. There is no other natural cloth that performs this function in the same way.
Can Merino Wool Be Washed?
Merino wool can be washed, and most merino wool garments do not shrink when wet. But some merino wool items that are not subjected to proper chemical processing cannot be machine-washed.
So, how do you know if you can wash your merino wool?
Just look at the label.
Every half-decent manufacturer will affix a tag to your clothes instructing you on how to clean them. If you look at that tag, you’ll be able to tell whether your outfit is washable and whether you should wash it by hand or by machine.
The majority of producers will even advise you whether the merino wool should be washed in cold or hot water. So all you have to do is follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.
If the garment’s tag does not mention what temperature it should be washed at, hand wash it in cold water. This is the most effective approach to prevent your merino wool sweater from shrinking.
Pure, unprocessed wool was commonly used to manufacture sweaters and coats in the past. However, as time has passed, producers have begun to chemically alter wool in order to make it machine washable. But this is not the case with merino, as it generally handles water better than other types of wool.
Merino wool can get wet, but it does much better in insulating the body when wet compared to other fabrics. In fact, merino wool can hold up to 30% of its weight in water. Merino wool is water-resistant, however, it is not waterproof.
So don’t think twice before wearing taking your merino wool for camping or hiking. There is no other natural fabric that is going to serve you better in terms of durability and water retention and resistance.
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.