How to Make Merino Wool less itchy

Merino wool is not always itchy or scratchy. In fact, it’s one of the most luxurious and comfortable fabrics out there.

However, if you have sensitive skin, you may have experienced that persistent itchiness that won’t go away when you wear a sweater or base layer made from merino wool.

I understand this can be quite frustrating. But before you give up on this incredible fabric altogether, it’s important to understand why it can cause irritation or scratchiness and what you can do about it.

So in this article, we’ll look at how to make merino wool less itchy by exploring some tried-and-true methods so that you can enjoy the benefits of merino wool without the itch.

How to Make Merino Wool less itchy

What makes merino wool itchy?

Wool itchiness is quite common as it affects many people.

However, the extent of itchiness varies depending on the individual’s sensitivity and the quality of the wool.

Some people may experience only mild irritation while others may find the itchiness unbearable.

That said, several factors cause your merino wool sweater, t-shirt, socks, or base layer to become itchy. These are;

  • The diameter of wool fibers

One of the main culprits of itchy wool is the diameter of the wool fibers themselves.

On average, the diameter of merino wool fibers is around 20 microns or less making them finer than other types of wool.

However, the fibers can still become coarse and scratchy if they’re not processed properly. Poor-quality merino wool for instance tends to have thicker and coarser fibers compared to high-quality wool.

This is attributed to the fact that poor-quality wool is usually harvested from older sheep or from areas of the sheep that have more coarse fibers.

These thicker fibers can feel rough and irritating to the skin leading to discomfort and itchiness.

  • Presence of lanolin

Lanolin is a natural wax that is present in the wool of sheep, including merino sheep.

It is produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin of the sheep and helps to protect their wool and skin from the elements.

In merino wool, lanolin can contribute to water resistance and softness of the wool making it less likely to cause itching.

Despite making the wool softer, some people tend to be allergic to lanolin so it is often removed during processing.

However, traces of lanolin in the wool can cause itching and irritation to people who are sensitive or allergic to it. Also, lanolin is one of the things that cause merino wool to smell when wet.

In these cases, it may be helpful to check with the manufacturer or retailer to find out if their merino wool has been processed to remove the lanolin completely.

  • Harsh chemicals used during processing

Another possible cause of itchiness in merino wool is the presence of harsh chemicals used during production.

Some processing methods used to make merino wool products, such as superwash or chlorine treatment, can involve the use of harsh chemicals that may be irritating to some people.

Superwash is a process that involves treating the wool with a chlorine-based chemical to remove the natural scales on the fibers. This makes the wool smoother and less likely to shrink.

While super washing can make the wool more machine-washable and durable, it can also strip away some of the natural oils and lanolin that make the wool soft and comfortable.

Chlorine treatment is another process that may be used to bleach the wool or remove impurities, but it can also be harsh and potentially irritating.

  • Brand

The specific brand of merino wool product you choose can also affect its quality and potential for irritation.

Some brands may use higher-quality merino wool or more sustainable and eco-friendly processing methods, while others may prioritize affordability or speed of production over quality.

So when selecting a merino wool product, it can be helpful to do some research on the brand.

Check the brand’s reputation, customer reviews, and any certifications they may have, such as Oeko-Tex or Bluesign, for environmental and social responsibility.

Additionally, some brands may offer information on the specific type of merino wool they use, such as the micron count or origin of the wool. This can provide additional insight into the quality of the product you want to purchase.

How to make merino wool less itchy

The following are a few things you can use to make merino wool feel less itchy or irritating:

  • Wool conditioner (hair conditioner)
  • Vinegar
  • Lanolin-based products (wool wash)
  • Wool shampoo
  • Cornstarch powder
  • Baking soda
  • Glycerin
  • Freezing

1. Wool conditioner

Well, one way to remove the itchiness from your merino wool clothing is by using a wool conditioner.

This fabulous product can help to restore the natural oils and lanolin that may have been stripped away during processing, leaving your wool feeling oh-so-soft and comfortable against your skin.

Some people opt for hair conditioner as it serves the same purpose of softening the wool fibers and making them less itchy.

To use a wool conditioner, simply add it to the rinse cycle after washing your merino wool product with a gentle natural detergent. Once your wool is dry, you’ll be amazed at how silky and smooth it feels.

Now, if you are wondering where to find this marvelous product, there are many wonderful brands out there that offer high-quality wool conditioners, such as Eucalan, Kookaburra, or Unicorn Fibre.

Just be sure to choose a product that is safe for wool and doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or additives that could cause irritation.

How to soften wool to make it less itchy

2. Vinegar

Another product you can use to soften itchy wool is white vinegar.

Vinegar is a natural and gentle acid that can help to remove any residual soap or detergent from the wool fibers, which can contribute to itchiness.

It also has a softening effect on the fibers, making them feel more comfortable against the skin.

However, it’s important to note that vinegar should be used in moderation as using too much can cause damage to the fibers or affect the color of the wool.

A half cup of white vinegar is typically sufficient for a regular-sized load of merino wool. You should add it to the rinse cycle after washing the wool with a gentle natural detergent.

If you’re washing your Merino wool product by hand, add a half cup of the vinegar to the rinse water before adding your item and letting it soak for about 5 minutes.

Once done, remove it from the water and gently press out any excess water before laying it flat on a towel to dry.

3. Lanolin-based products

Lanolin-based products are those that contain lanolin, a natural oil extracted from the wool of sheep. It is a wax-like substance that helps to protect sheep’s wool and skin from harsh elements.

While some people might be allergic to lanolin, using lanolin-based products to wash wool is not necessarily a bad idea. This is because lanolin can effectively soften and condition wool fibers making them less scratchy.

One product you can use is a wool wash detergent, which contains lanolin and is specifically designed to clean and soften wool garments including merino wool clothing, blankets, and accessories.

This detergent works by gently cleaning the wool fibers while also replenishing the natural lanolin oils that are naturally present in wool.

This helps to restore the softness and suppleness of the wool fibers, reduce itchiness, and make the wool product more comfortable to wear.

You can also use a lanolin spray to soften and condition wool fibers. Simply spray it onto your Merino wool product and let it dry to help reduce itchiness.

Alternatively, get a lanolin cream and apply it to your skin before wearing your Merino wool product to protect your skin from scratchy wool fibers.

4. Wool Shampoo

You can also use a wool shampoo like Diana Wool & Silk Shampoo.

Unlike Wool wash detergents, wool shampoos are typically formulated to be gentle on wool fibers since they are pH-balanced and do not contain enzymes.

You don’t want enzymes in your wool cleaning products since they can break down the natural proteins in wool fibers and cause them to become weak, brittle, or even disintegrate over time.

Additionally, most wool shampoos contain natural ingredients such as lanolin or other oils to help restore moisture to the wool fibers and keep them soft and flexible.

So, washing your Merino wool with shampoo can help to soften the fibers and make them less irritating to the skin.

To use it, simply add a small amount of the shampoo into a basin of cold water and agitate the water to create suds. Add your wool product and gently swirl it around in the water to distribute the shampoo. Rinse the garment thoroughly in cool water and lay it flat to dry.

5. Cornstarch

Another home product you can use to soften merino wool and reduce its itchiness is cornstarch.

Its effectiveness is attributed to its ability to absorb moisture and oils that cause the wool fibers to stick together and feel scratchy.

When using cornstarch to soften your Merino wool sweater or other items, use a small amount as using too much can leave a visible residue on the sweater.

If your sweater is particularly itchy, you may want to dampen it slightly before applying the cornstarch to help it adhere to the fibers more effectively and result in a softer feel.

After letting the cornstarch sit for a few minutes, be sure to brush off any excess thoroughly. Leaving it on the sweater can lead to a buildup of oils and dirt over time, which can make the sweater feel even itchier.

6. Freezing

Freezing your wool garment is another home remedy that some people swear by to reduce the itchiness of wool.

The idea behind this method is that;

  • Freezing the garment can kill off any bacteria that may be causing irritation on the skin
  • It helps to remove any loose fibers or debris that may be contributing to the itchiness

To try this method, you should place your wool garment in a plastic bag and seal it tightly then place it in the freezer for several hours or overnight.

After freezing, remove the garment from the freezer, let it thaw completely, and then shake or brush off any ice crystals, which are usually loose fibers. Then proceed to wear or wash the garment as usual.

Please note that while some people may find this method helpful, there is limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness.

Additionally, freezing your wool garment may not be suitable for all types of wool or wool blends as it may cause damage to some fabrics.

7. Glycerin

Glycerin is a moisturizing agent that can help to soften and hydrate wool fibers.

While it is not commonly used to reduce itchiness in wool, some people have found that applying a mixture of glycerin and water helps to soften the fibers and reduce irritation.

To use it, you need to first dilute it in water in the ratio of 1 part glycerin to 4 parts water. Put it in a spray bottle and shake well before spraying the solution lightly onto your wool garment.

Gently massage the solution into the fibers and allow it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing with cool water.

You can also add a tablespoon of glycerin to a sink filled with cool water and soak your Merino wool garment for 30 minutes before rinsing.

8. Baking soda

Baking soda is a versatile household product that can be used for a variety of purposes, including softening wool fibers.

This is because it has alkaline properties that help break down any buildup or residue that may be causing the wool to feel rough and scratchy.

If you choose to use it on your merino wool clothing, create a simple solution by mixing a quarter cup of baking soda with a quart of warm water.

Gently agitate the mixture until the baking soda is fully dissolved, and then soak your wool garment in the solution for about 20 minutes.

After soaking, rinse the garment thoroughly with cool water and lay it flat to air dry.

Baking soda is abrasive and alkaline so use it in moderation as excessive use can damage the fibers over time making them weaker and more prone to breakage.

What to wear under an itchy wool sweater

If you find that even after using various methods to soften your wool sweater, it still feels too itchy to wear comfortably, there are a few things you can wear underneath to help reduce irritation.

  • Cotton T-Shirt: Wearing a cotton t-shirt underneath your wool sweater can create a barrier between your skin and the wool fibers reducing direct contact and friction.
  • Silk Camisole: Silk is a soft and lightweight fabric that feels great against the skin. A silk camisole can provide a comfortable layer between your skin and the wool sweater.
  • Lightweight Base Layer: Consider wearing a lightweight base layer made from moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or nylon. These fabrics are designed to keep you cool and dry while providing a barrier between your skin and the wool.
  • Seamless undergarments: If you don’t want to add an extra layer, consider wearing seamless undergarments that won’t add any bulk or texture to your wool sweater to reduce the chances of irritation.

FAQs

Is 100 Merino wool itchy?

Merino wool can be itchy for some people, even if it is 100% merino wool like Meriwool. However, many people find merino wool to be less itchy compared to other types of wool.

Is merino wool good for eczema?

Merino wool is known for being soft and gentle on the skin and for some people with eczema, it can be a good choice of fabric. It has a fine texture and is naturally moisture-wicking, which can help keep the skin dry and prevent irritation. Also, it is hypoallergenic so it’s less likely to cause an allergic reaction or trigger eczema flare-ups.

Does wool soften over time?

Yes, wool fibers can soften over time with wear and washing. As the fibers rub against each other, they can become less stiff and feel softer.

Will fabric softener make wool less itchy?

No, fabric softener does not actually soften wool fibers but rather coats the wool with chemicals that can make them feel smoother. This coating can cause the wool to lose its natural properties such as moisture-wicking, insulation, and breathability.

Does merino wool get less itchy after washing?

Yes, washing merino wool can make it less itchy as it can help to remove any dirt, oils, or residues that can cause irritation and soften the fibers.

How do you soften a wool blanket with vinegar?

To soften a wool blanket with vinegar, add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle when washing the blanket. The vinegar will help break down any residue that may be causing the wool fibers to feel stiff and itchy. Additionally, vinegar has natural fabric-softening properties that can help make the blanket feel softer and more comfortable.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while merino wool is not considered to be itchy, some people may still experience some level of discomfort or irritation when wearing it, especially those with sensitive skin.

However, there are many ways to soften the wool and reduce the itchiness of wool such as using specialized wool detergent, adding vinegar to the wash, or wearing a layer underneath. You can also use natural home remedies like cornstarch and baking soda.

Additionally, wearing the right undergarments or layering with a non-wool fabric can also help alleviate discomfort.

It’s important to remember that wool is a natural fiber and may require special care and attention to maintain its quality and softness.

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