Merino Wool vs Virgin Wool

As winter approaches and the temperatures begin to drop, we all reach for our favorite woolen sweaters to keep us warm and cozy.

But have you ever stopped to consider the difference between merino wool vs virgin wool? Is one better than the other, or are they simply the same?

Understanding the unique characteristics of these two types of wool can help you make an informed decision when selecting your next winter garment.

So, let’s see the differences between the two by looking at their properties and benefits.

merino wool vs virgin wool

What is virgin wool?

We already talked about what merino wool is in our previous article so in this section we will only define virgin wool.

Virgin wool is wool that has never been processed before. It should not be confused with lambswool which is obtained from the first shearing of a lamb. 

Virgin wool comes directly from freshly shorn sheep and has not been recycled or blended with any other fibers.

The term “virgin” in this context means that the wool is in its natural, raw state and has not undergone any chemical or mechanical treatments.

Virgin wool is sometimes referred to as pure wool although the two are significantly different.

Pure wool refers to any wool that has not been blended with other fibers such as synthetic or plant-based fibers. This can include both virgin wool, which has never been processed before, as well as recycled wool, which has been processed from previously used woolen items.

Difference between merino wool and virgin wool

These two types of wool are quite popular and have different characteristics and use that highlight their differences.

Here’s a table summarizing the key features:

Feature Merino Wool Virgin Wool
Source Comes from the merino sheep breed Comes from any breed of sheep
Texture Fine and soft Coarse
Moisture-wicking Yes, absorbs and releases moisture quickly Holds moisture
Thickness Less durable than virgin wool More durable than merino wool
Hypoallergenic May be less likely to cause skin irritation May be more likely to cause skin irritation
Price Often more expensive than virgin wool Often less expensive than merino wool
Examples of clothing items Base layers, running shirts, sweaters Winter coats, blankets, heavy sweaters

1. Moisture-wicking capabilities

The fibers in merino wool are naturally porous and can absorb up to 30% of their weight in moisture before feeling wet to the touch.

This means that when you wear clothing made from merino wool, sweat is quickly pulled away from your skin and evaporates into the air, helping to keep you dry and comfortable.

This is why merino wool is often used for athletic wear and outdoor activities, as it can help regulate body temperature and prevent chafing and discomfort.

In contrast, virgin wool is not as effective at moisture-wicking as merino wool. While it can still absorb some moisture, it doesn’t have the same level of breathability as merino wool and can feel damp and heavy when wet.

So virgin wool clothing tends to be quite uncomfortable in situations where you’re sweating or exerting yourself, as the dampness can make you feel chilled.

2. Texture

The texture of merino wool and virgin wool can vary quite a bit, with merino wool generally being finer and softer than virgin wool.

Merino wool has a luxurious feel and is often described as silky or cashmere-like. This is because the fibers of merino wool are much finer and softer than those of virgin wool.

When you run your fingers through a piece of merino wool clothing or fabric, it will feel smooth and almost silky.

difference between merino wool and virgin wool

On the other hand, virgin wool has a coarser texture that can feel rough or itchy to some people because it has not been processed or used before and can contain more natural impurities.

3. Thickness

Another significant difference between virgin wool and merino wool is thickness.

Merino wool is generally thinner and lighter than virgin wool with fibers that are finer in diameter.

This makes it ideal for layering in cold weather as it won’t add too much bulk or weight to your outfit.

Its thinness also makes it easier to wear in a wider range of temperatures as it can be comfortable in both hot and cold weather.

Virgin wool on the other hand is thicker and heavier than merino wool with fibers that are coarser in diameter.

The thickness makes it a great choice for heavy-duty winter wear since it provides more insulation and can help keep you warm in even the coldest temperatures.

However, the thickness of virgin wool also means that it can be more cumbersome to wear in milder weather, as it can feel bulky and heavy.

4. Hypoallergenic properties

When it comes to hypoallergenic properties, merino wool is known to be naturally hypoallergenic due to its ultra-fine fibers, which can be as fine as 18 microns in diameter.

So it is less likely to cause skin irritation and itchiness than other types of wool.

Additionally Merino wool also contains small amounts of lanolin, which is a natural oil that can help to soothe and moisturize the skin. This makes it a good choice for people with sensitive skin or allergies.

Virgin wool may not be as hypoallergenic as merino wool.

While it is still a natural fiber, it can be coarser and rougher than merino wool, which can cause skin irritation in some people.

Also, virgin wool does not contain the same natural oils and lanolin as found in merino wool, which means it may not be as soothing or moisturizing for the skin.

5. Price

When it comes to price, there are some noticeable differences between merino wool and virgin wool.

Merino wool is often considered to be premium wool due to its fine fibers and high-quality properties. As a result, it tends to cost more than other types of wool, including virgin wool.

In contrast, virgin wool is generally more affordable than merino wool, as it is a more common type of wool that is produced in larger quantities.

The price of both virgin and merino wool can also vary depending on factors like the quality of the wool, the processing method used, and the brand.

6. Uses

Merino and virgin wool have different uses due to the unique properties of each wool type.

Merino wool for instance is often preferred for activewear and base layers due to its excellent moisture-wicking properties and breathability.

The ability of the clothing to wick moisture helps to regulate body temperature and keep the wearer comfortable during physical activity.

For this reason, it is a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers who need warm and lightweight clothing that can withstand harsh conditions.

Virgin wool on the other hand is often used for more heavy-duty applications such as in coats, blankets, and rugs due to its thickness.

This type of wool is also commonly used in carpeting and upholstery due to its natural ability to repel stains and resist wear and tear.

FAQs

Is virgin wool soft or itchy?

The softness of virgin wool can vary depending on the breed of sheep it comes from and how it is processed. While some types of virgin wool can be soft and smooth to the touch, others can be more coarse and itchy.

Is merino wool warmer than regular wool?

Yes, merino wool is generally considered to be warmer than regular wool due to its finer and more densely-packed fibers. The dense packing of the fibers helps to trap body heat more effectively making it a great insulator.

Is virgin wool good for summer?

Virgin wool is generally not the best option for summer because it is a warm and insulating fabric. Virgin wool is designed to keep you warm during colder weather, so wearing it in summer may cause you to overheat and feel uncomfortable. Instead, it is better to opt for lighter, breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen during hot weather.

Is virgin wool warm?

Yes, virgin wool is warm because it has never been used or processed before so it retains all of its natural insulating properties. The wool fibers naturally trap air, which helps to regulate body temperature and keep you warm in cold weather.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both merino wool and virgin wool have their unique characteristics and benefits.

While virgin wool is a versatile and durable fabric that offers excellent insulation, merino wool is softer, lighter, and more moisture-wicking, making it a popular choice for activewear and outdoor clothing.

Ultimately, the choice between merino wool and virgin wool depends on the intended use and personal preference.

If you are looking for warmth and durability, virgin wool might be a great option, but if you want a softer and more breathable fabric, then merino wool might be the better choice.

Whatever your choice may be, wool remains one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly materials, making it a great option for conscious consumers looking for high-quality and environmentally-friendly wool clothing.

 

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