Wool fibres can manage moisture which prevents the build-up of bacteria growth.
Wool fibres have a hydrophilic (water absorbing) core that can absorb up to 35% of its own weight in moisture. When the environmental conditions become drier, the retained moisture will vaporize and provide a cooling effect and comfort from sweat perspiration.
Normally, human sweat has no odour but unpleasant sweat can build up over time as bacteria develops causing body odour. Wool fibres are naturally odour-resistant due to wool fibres’ natural ability to wick moisture away so bacteria cannot readily grow.
Wool fibres are naturally fire resistant and will char then self-extinguish when exposed to a flame, unlike synthetic materials that will ignite causing the material to melt and stick.
Wool fibre is structured such that it requires more oxygen than is available in the air to become flammable. Its cross-linked cell membrane structure will swell when heated forming an insulating layer that prevents the flame from spreading. This makes wool an excellent material for improving safety and mitigating fire risks.
Wool is widely known for its flame resistance, with benefits that include:
• A very high ignition temperature of 570-600°C
• A high limiting oxygen index - the measure of oxygen required to sustain combustion
• A low heat of combustion - the measure of heat energy released in the burning process
• Does not melt or stick
Wool fibre grows naturally on sheep and is made of protein called keratin, the same protein in human hair. When left in damp environments such as soil for prolonged periods of time, wool will decompose.
A previous study conducted by AgResearch in New Zealand showed that knitted and woven wool fabrics lost 95% of their weight on average over 15 weeks, and fully degraded after 9 months when left in damp soil. Additionally, wool fibres were also found to contain a high percentage of nitrogen during the decomposing process, giving it good slow-release fertilizing effects.
A circular economy is a target for the wool industry. Wool fibre provides a great opportunity to deliver multi-functional products to the market that are also biodegradable and sustainable.
For more information about the biodegradability of wool, visit the International Wool Textile Organisation website.