Fabrics Database - Wool

Summaries for Wool

Key: Centre (0) Bad        Outer (6) Good

Characteristics / options defined by the above graphs are proportionally represented and approximate, and are only intended as a guide. As such they do not represent any industry standards. Among other things, fabric construction and weight will influence the perceived ranking.

Data Sheet for Wool


Natural protein fibre. A Natural Fibre from the fleece of sheep. The quality of wool will be very dependant on the source with the best quality fibre coming from Merino sheep. Woollen fabrics are versatile and possess a soft handle giving the wearer a sense of comfort. Naturally crease resistant wool is a good insulator, making it an idea fibre where thermal properties are considered to be important. Treatments are often applied to wool to improve the resilience during cleaning.

Available as:

Available as woven and knitted and in blends. As a staple fibre wool can be spun into a range of yarns and converted into knitted or woven fabric. Wool is often blended with polyester for use in suiting materials where 55% polyester 45% wool blends are used. Weights of the fabrics used are typically 290-350gsm, with the lighter weight fabrics often containing up to 2% lycra.


Standard bleaching treatments are not applicable to wool, special processing is required to bleach wool and advice should be sought from specialists in dyeing and finishing wool. Sodium hydrosulphite is widely used to bleach wool.

Wool can be readily dyed using a wide variety of dye types and dyeing conditions.

Dimensional Stability

Can be prone to shrinking especially when knitted. Can be poor if cleaning is carried out incorrectly. Knitted fabrics are more prone to shrinkage than tight woven fabrics Poor treatment during washing can lead to serious changes in dimensions. These are caused by the scales of the fibres locking together and preventing the structures reverting to the original dry state. Dry cleaning prevents the shrinkage from occurring.

Resistance to pilling

Generally resistant. Wool has good resistance to pilling. It has good abrasion resistance and is frequently used as a standard surface in tests for other fabrics.

Moisture regain

High regain up to 20%. Wool will react rapidly to changes in humidity and the level of absorbed moisture will change. This will be accompanied by the absorption or release of energy. Typical regain values are 15-20%.

Care information

Care need when laundering, dry cleaning preferred. Woollen garments will often be "dry clean only" to prevent damage to the clothing. These instruction should be followed. Wools are often treated with chemical finishes to enable them to be hand washed, but care should be taken to avoid damage to garments.


Wide range of garments. Wide range of applications exist for wool and wool blends. The thermal properties associated with wool make it idea for sweaters and warm clothing. Used in blends it is often used in suiting. Examples of use - sweaters, dresses, coats, suits, jackets, trousers, skirts, blouses, shirts, hosiery, scarves

End of life Possibilities

strong>Suitable for many end of life opportunities, though very slow to compost. Re-cycled for example to Third World countries. Knitwear that can not be used for the above (contains holes, soiled) would go in to making shoddy or felts used in bedding and automotive applications. Woollen knitwear would be used for such items as making hanging basket inners, insulation for sewers etc.

Eco aspects

Key environmental impacts of producing wool include:

Pesticides used on sheep which cause harm to human health and water courses both on the farm and in subsequent downstream processing. Traditionally sheep have been dipped to control parasite infection.

The two pesticides most commonly used for dipping are organophosphates and pyrethoids. Exposure to the former is linked to severe nerve damage in humans (notably in the case of sheep dip in farmers). This has led to an increased use of the latter which has given rise to a significant growth in incidences of water pollution as pyrethoids are one thousand times more toxic to aquatic life than organophosphates.

Effluents arising from wool scouring – which are significant in terms of their pollution potential to both water and land (in the form of wool grease sludge). Raw wool like all other natural fibres contains many impurities. It is scoured at hot temperatures in an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and detergent to emulsify the grease. The process produces an effluent with high suspended solids content, high temperature, and high BOD.

Cost scope (economic impact)

Common trade names



Australian Wool Innovation Ltd.,
Little Lane, Ilkley
West Yorkshire LS29 8UG
United Kingdom
Tel +44 1943 601 555
Fax +44 1943 601 521


Oakdene Hollins Limited, 2017 for the CRR Uniform Reuse Project www.uniformreuse.co.uk


The rationale behind the study has been to provide a means whereby current and potential fibres/fabrics for use in the corporate clothing sector, can be compared. Any such comparison will be dependent on a multitude of factors that will influence the choice. Although application is the foremost factor that will be influencing the material selection, service life and cost will also play an important role.

The information contained within the following data sheets is an attempt to draw together some of the salient points that may be of interest at the specification and design stage without trying to be exhaustive.

De Montfort University produces these data on the fibres/fabric groups and blends on a non exhaustive basis. De Montfort University therefore makes no representation, express or implied that any of the fibres/fabric groups or blends will be unaffected by other treatments or processes. Users of these data must address the possibility of any health and safety issues that may arise personally.