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What is SUPERWASH wool

date: 15/02/2021


"Superwash" is a term that you increasingly see on the label of wool yarn and wonder what exactly it means. Is wool natural and is it wool at all? I will reassure you at least to some extent. Yes, superwash wool is processed wool for washing in the washing machine. No worries and wondering whether to enjoy the warmth of a wool sweater or use yarn that won't be so difficult to maintain and wash.
Raw wool has scales on the fiber, just like human hair, which are held together and felted. The same happens when untreated animal fibers are under the influence of heat and moisture. And here comes to the aid of human ingenuity - with two ways to get superwash wool.

In one, the fiber is coated with a polymer or resin that seals the fibrous flakes and prevents them from rubbing and sticking. If the wool has been treated in this way, do not wash it in very hot water, as the coating may melt. Alternatively, the fibers are immersed in chlorine to remove flakes. This "smoothes" the wool permanently, making it resistant to higher temperatures. Such wool is suitable for knitwear that needs more serious washing, such as baby clothes.

You are probably already convinced: superwash wool is your yarn. You get two in one: a natural material that can be easily washed and maintained. But let's also see its shortcomings.


Some are related to technology, others to side effects.

Harmful chemicals are used. The raw materials used to produce wool processing chemicals and the technology itself are highly toxic.

Toxins enter wastewater. When chlorine reacts with organic compounds (such as wool), it creates toxins that enter the wastewater. They are extremely dangerous to humans even in small concentrations and in many developed countries the technology is banned.

High carbon footprint from transportation. Due to these restrictions, wool is often exported to countries with less stringent environmental regulations. It is then transported back and sometimes sent to a third party for further stages of processing, such as spinning or dyeing. This increases the carbon footprint of the final product.

Compliance with environmental regulations is difficult to monitor. The further the products are transported from the country of origin, the more difficult it is to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, labor laws and human rights. For example, there have been cases where an entire river in China has turned red due to the discharge of dye or other pollutants into the water.

It is covered with plastic. Superwash wool may not contain toxic residues, even if hazardous chemicals are used in the process. But the polymer resin used in the technology is basically plastic. That's why you often see a fine sheen on such a yarn. This yarn is not biodegradable, ie. cannot be composted.

These are the facts about the superwash wave - like anything, and it has advantages and disadvantages. Each of us is free to make our choice whether to become a real superhero.


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