A Guide to Caring for Wool and the Science Behind It

Concerned about Shrinkage?

First things first, wool is made up of amino acids. As you might remember from high school science class, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The protein in wool is hardened during its development and growth on sheep during a process called keratinization. The wool fiber is surrounded by flat, overlapping scales, and like the ends of our own hair, are always pointing away from the body of the sheep while it’s growing. After shearing the sheep, these fibers are processed and mixed into random alignment causing the scale edges to point in all different directions. When the fibers are woven or knit into fabric, the positioning of the scaled edges is completely random.

When wool fabrics are exposed to tension and moisture, the fibers react by sliding past each other. Unfortunately for those of us who let a wool sweater slip its way into the laundry machine, once the scaled edges come in contact with each other, they lock the fiber into position and do not allow the wool fibers to slide back to their original state. Because of the thorough processing of the wool, along with the kintting or weaving of the fiber, it’s not as simple as locking one or two fibers –hundreds of fibers have locked and caused your garment to shrink.

But have no fear, in order for a wool tie or suit to shrink, the wool must be exposed to hot water and plenty of heat.  Keep your garments out of your washer and dryer and you’ll be good to go! You can hand-wash wool in cold water with a gentle cleansing agent and rinse with cold water. Lay the garment out flat and press with a towel, ensuring most of the water is gone, and hang to dry.


Because wool has a similar protein structure as fingers nails and hair and are forms of keratinized proteins, it has all of these amazing properties: Permanent press, durable, water repellent, resists staining, absorbs odors, controlled felting, outstanding handle and drape, notorious softness and comfort, sweat removal, insulating, breathable, sound proofing, holds color, fire resistant, elastic, wrinkle recovery, and anti-static.

GuidesPeter Field