I remember my mum trying to convince me to wear my woolen sweaters while I was complaining of feeling itchy with it. Today I am a complete fan of natural wool. No matter how good synthetics are today nothing compares with natural wool and here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about it.
- Wool fibers — made mostly of alpha-keratin, which is found in all mammalian hair as well as horns and claws — stick together easily. The cells of their outer layer, or cuticle, have evolved to overlap like tiny shingles, creating spots for one fiber to catch on another as they are twisted.
- That itch from your warm winter woolies? Most likely it’s sensitivity to thicker (and coarser) fiber diameter or fiber ends, not a wool allergy, which is practically unknown.
- Wool has been a valuable commodity across cultures and centuries. When Richard I (the Lionhearted) was captured in 1192, Cistercian monks paid their part of the ransom to the Holy Roman emperor in 50,000 sacks of wool (a year’s clip).
- Besides clothing, wool has quite a few industrial uses, from piano dampers to absorbent pads for those baaaaad oil spills.
- Wool is also biodegradable. It breaks down slowly, fertilizing the plants with a generous nitrogen content of a whopping 17 percent compared with the 6 percent nitrogen in commercial turf products. And it is water-retentive.
- In a seeming paradox, wool can absorb and repel water simultaneously.
- The outer surface of wool fiber is made up of fatty acid proteins and does not absorb liquid. However, structural features in the fiber’s interior, called salt linkages, can sop up copious amounts of moisture in vapor form.
- In short, wool hates liquid but loves vapor.
- But wait, there’s more: With a high natural ignition point of about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit, wool is fire-resistant. And unlike nylon and polyester, wool does not drip or melt when it does catch fire.
- These qualities recently attracted the interest of the U.S. Army, which is researching wool’s potential in clothing designed to protect combat troops from explosive blasts.
Source: discover magazine