The Ultimate Guide to Merino Wool

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The Ultimate Guide to Merino Wool


The world can be scorching hot, bitingly cold, wet, arid, demanding, relaxing – and everything in between. But Mother Nature has an answer for whatever the world throws at you: Merino wool.

Merino’s benefits are numerous and diverse. Whether you’re just heading into the office or trekking to the remote corners of a Central American rainforest, Merino wool will revolutionize the way you dress, and even change the way you think about clothing altogether.

We want to help you understand everything there is to know about this incredible fiber. So, let’s get started – this is the ultimate guide to Merino wool.

LET’S TAKE A TRIP BACK TO THE DAWN OF CIVILIZATION

Our Merino wool apparel is the product of over 3000 years of refinement and innovation. Seriously: Humans have been herding sheep and harvesting their wool since approximately 1100 BCE. That’s a lot of sweaters.

Early clothes and blankets were thick and coarse. Sure, the material was great at keeping humans warm, but it was itchy, bulky, weighty, and not exactly fashionable. It was more of a necessity than a luxury.  Luckily, wool has come a long way since then.

When people think of wool, they tend to still think of those chunky sweaters, blankets and scarves. But Merino isn’t like the rest.  By comparison, it’s soft, smooth to the touch, and luxuriously light – a testament to thousands of years of selective breeding, a lineage of resilient sheep, and nature’s innovative streak.


As you can see, the Merino fiber is much slimmer than that of traditional wool. That's because it’s sourced exclusively from Merino sheep.

BEHIND EVERY UNBOUND MERINO WOOL FIBER, THERE’S A MERINO SHEEP

Merino sheep are like the heavy-weight champions of the sheep world: Big, resilient, and able to stand up to just about anything nature throws their way.

The earliest Merino sheep on record came from Spain, but today most Merino are raised in Australia and New Zealand, where shepherds found them to be perfectly suited to the ever-changing weather. They’ve been selectively breeding Merino for over a hundred years, refining their wool into what it is today:

Nature’s highest performing natural fiber.


Look at all that wool. You’d think Merino sheep would be in agony during the sweltering summer months of the Aussie Outback. But you’d be wrong: The fleece of a Merino is naturally breathable in the hot summer months, keeping the sheep airy and comfortable. And during the cold snaps of New Zealand’s inland alpine area? Nature has the answer for that too, as Merino fleece is also naturally insulating in chilly weather. As an added bonus, the sheep secrete lanolin from their sebaceous glands, which naturally wards off infections with its antibacterial properties.

All this is to say, the hard part of our work was completed through centuries of refinement. Making great Merino wool clothing is simple, because Mother Nature’s already figured out the hard part. All we have to do is spin this incredible material into shapes fit for humans instead of sheep. In our case, that’s an ultra-stylish, ultra-comfortable line of essentials, including men’s T-shirts, our womens merino wool t-shirt, socks, and underwear.

THE BENEFITS OF MERINO WOOL

When you spin Merino wool into clothing, you transfer all of its high-performance qualities to the garment. Is Merino wool itchy? No. Is Merino wool bulky, sweaty, smelly? No, no, no. Just as the wool protected those sheep against the elements, it’ll protect you too. Here’s how.

1. MERINO IS LIGHTWEIGHT & SUPER SOFT

The “itchy sweater” feeling of traditional wool comes from its thick, coarse fiber.

The fibers of Merino wool, on the other hand, are much finer, resulting in wool that’s softer, lighter and more flexible. A Merino wool garment flows with your body’s natural movements in a way that just feels right.

2. MERINO IS BREATHABLE

Throughout the day, your body produces heat and vapor. That’s not an insult, it’s just biology. When that heat and vapor can’t escape, it condenses, and you wind up with sweaty clothes. Garments made from blends and synthetics trap moisture.

However, with Merino, your body heat can pass through the space between fiber, and even the fibers themselves, to get out. Even better, it’s a two-way street: the fiber lets in the cool surrounding air, keeping you cool and dry.

3. MERINO MANAGES MOISTURE

Being breathable is all well and good, but what happens when you’re on a hike deep in Peruvian jungle? At that point, your body is creating more sweat and heat than the air can effectively evaporate.

Not to worry: Merino fiber can absorb up to a third of its weight in moisture while still feeling comfortable and dry to the touch.

The fibers of merino wool also naturally move absorbed moisture away from your body, where it can continue to evaporate. This process is called “wicking,” and it’s a lifesaver in hot, humid environments. You could walk a mile through the infamously muggy streets of a Bangkok summer wearing the best merino wool long sleeve shirt, and still feel comfy and dry. (You might have to contend with some envious stares).

4. MERINO IS ANTIBACTERIAL

Every fiber of a Merino sheep’s coat has an oily, waxy coating called Lanolin. It helps repel water during rainy months and also guards the sheep against infections.

The yarn used to make Merino wool clothing maintains some residual Lanolin – and its benefits. It’s a safeguard against mildew, mold and odor-causing bacteria.

5. MERINO IS ODOR RESISTANT

Taken together, Merino wool’s abilities to stay breathable, manage moisture, and fight odor-causing bacteria add up to one thing: It smells fresh, no matter what you put it through. When properly cared for, a garment will stay clean and scent-free for weeks, or even months, without washing Merino wool.

Seriously. Our customers have put it through a battery of stress tests – long-haul flights, crowded trains across India in the summer, sweaty Berlin nightclubs, stressful border crossings, you name it. And the testimonials are unanimous: These clothes last a long, long time between washes, smelling no worse for wear.

Your travel partner/seat partner/the general public will thank you.

6. MERINO WOOL IS WRINKLE RESISTANT

If you look at a single Merino wool fiber under a microscope, you’ll notice that it resembles a tightly coiled spring. The pros call this a “fiber crimp”.

Pull on the crimp, and it will recoil back into shape every single time. It’s this elasticity that gives Merino wool its luxurious-feeling stretch. What that means to those of us without microscopes is, you can stuff it into a backpack or carry-on and it comes out looking ready-to-wear.

It goes from bottom-of-a-bag to fancy-dinner-on-the-town in no time.

7. MERINO WOOL IS ORGANIC & RENEWABLE

Between Australia and New Zealand, there are about 70 million Merino sheep producing this miraculous fiber year-round, raised on a simple diet of grass pasture. Each year, the Merino produce a brand-new fleece, making this natural harvest of wool completely renewable and sustainable. All while creating a thriving, multi-generational industry in both nations.

The fabric is also relatively biodegradable. If you lose your shirt (we won’t ask how) it’ll break down into the soil within a few years. You’ll be down a shirt, but at least you won’t be littering.

Below, we’ll see how this process stacks up against other popular fabrics (spoiler: it’s far easier on the earth).

NERDING OUT ON MERINO WOOL

“That’s all well and good,” you might be saying, “but where’s the dry, scientific explication of Merino’s technical qualities and ester compounds?” No worries – we’ve got you covered. Let’s nerd out on Merino wool by putting its microns and lanolin under the microscope.

WHAT IS A MICRON?

The circumference of the fiber in a strand of raw wool is measured in microns- a unit of measurement equal to one thousandth of a millimetre. For reference, the average human hair is about 45 microns thick. Unbound uses Merino fibers that are 17.5 microns, a classification known as “superfine wool.”


Another measurement used to describe the coarseness of wool is grams per meter squared (g/m2). When using this measurement, the lower the figure, the softer and lighter the wool.

WHAT IS LANOLIN REALLY?

Lanolin is a completely natural wax-like coating of sterol esters that covers every strand of a Merino sheep’s coat. It helps repel water, forms a natural barrier against harsh climates, and protects the sheep’s skin from infections.

Traces of lanolin remain on the wool fiber from shearing to spinning, so the clothes made from the resulting wool get the same benefits.

Lanolin helps every Unbound Merino garment:

  • Repel Water
  • Resist Stains
  • Feel luxuriously soft to the touch
  • Stay elastic
  • Resist mold, bacteria and mildew.

HOW TO CARE FOR MERINO WOOL

“Can you wash Merino wool” is an oddly common search topic online, so let’s dispel some myths. Yes, you definitely can!

Merino wool care is easy, and its waxy Lanolin coating helps resist stains. But should you ever feel like your clothing is ready for a wash, Merino wool is completely machine washable, and it air-dries quickly. Here are a few ways to (finally) do your Merino wool washing.

MACHINE WASHING INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Throw your Merino wool clothing in the wash with the rest of your laundry.
  • You can use your usual detergent on the normal wash cycle.
  • IMPORTANT: DO NOT TUMBLE DRY MERINO WOOL.

HAND WASHING

  • Make sure your sink is clean.
  • Fill it with warm water.
  • Add a few drops of mild detergent.
  • If you don’t have detergent on hand, regular liquid soap will do the trick.
  • Throw your Merino wool clothing into the soapy water and let it soak for 10-20 minutes depending on how soiled it is.
  • Gently agitate the water from time to time.
  • Drain the sink and rinse your clothing with fresh warm water.
  • Do not wring-out your Merino wool

DRYING

  • The best way to dry your Merino wool clothing is by laying it flat on a towel and flipping it from time to time. This takes a little longer, but it’s the best way to take care of your clothing so it can last a ridiculously long time.
  • Alternatively, you can hang it to dry over a chair or banister.
  • WE REPEAT: DO NOT TUMBLE DRY MERINO WOOL.

PREVENTING PILLING

Pilling is a natural process that occurs when the shorter fibers in Merino wool work their way to the surface. To prevent this from happening:

  • Wash your clothing after the first 4 wears.
  • Should pilling occur, throw your clothes in the wash with a pair of jeans. (just make sure to close the zippers)
  • Over time, the shorter fibers which cause pilling will pull away on their own.

PACKING UNBOUND MERINO FOR A TRIP

Think about your where your travels will take you and pack accordingly.  For short hauls or weekend escapes, often one T-shirt, a pair of underwear and socks will get you through with nothing more than the clothes on your back. For women, our lightweight travel dress, or Merino leggings and shirts, are the ideal package deal for a breezy trip abroad.

For long trips, specifically to hotter climates, pack at least two shirts, shorts, pants and/or dresses so you can alternate between wears. This will keep everything fresher longer because you’ll be able to air out your clothes every single day.

The best way to pack your Merino wool shirts and underwear is by doing the military roll. Here’s a quick how-to guide.

TRAVEL TIPS WITH UNBOUND MERINO

  • If you plan on hand-washing your Merino wool, bring along a universal sink-stopper.
  • Got a room with central air or an air conditioner? This is a perfect spot to quickly air-out or air-dry your T-shirts, socks or underwear.

THE UNBOUND DAILY RITUAL

  • The best way to make sure your clothing stays fresh between washes is by airing it out every single day.
  • Simply hang it in a well-ventilated space over a chair or banister before you hit the hay.
  • In the morning it will be ready for your daily wear.
  • Repeat daily between washing. 

It’s as simple as that: Wear. Air out. Repeat.

THE BENEFITS OF LIVING UNBOUND

The benefits of Unbound go beyond travel. Having less (but better) clothing will not only simplify your life abroad, it will unclutter your life at home.

Here are just a few of the things that will happen when you Live Unbound:

YOU’LL BARELY EVER DO LAUNDRY

With a wardrobe full of clothing that rarely needs to be washed, you’ll save time, money and energy.

IT’S ONE LESS THING TO THINK ABOUT

You have enough to worry about. When you’re stocked with our simple, classic looks, you’ll spend less time fussing over what to wear, so you can keep focused on the things that really matter. Like where to book your next trip.

YOU’LL ALWAYS LOOK GREAT

Our styles are tried and true, and perfect for almost any situation. Throw on one of our Black V-Necks or a merino wool tank top, and you’ll be dressed perfectly for a hike through the Grand Canyon AND a nice dinner out after. Since our garments don’t need to be washed after every wear, they keep their form and fit. It’s like the first time you put it on, every time.

YOU’LL OWN CLOTHING WITH REAL VALUE.

A lot of clothing purchased today is basically disposable. It’s designed to deteriorate after a few wears. While it may seem like a cheaper option at first, the cost of constantly buying new clothes adds up fast. Not to mention the human and environmental cost. Choosing products that are built to last creates more value in the long run, by every measure.

YOU CAN LESSEN YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Taken together, the long-lasting durability, timeless style and renewability of Merino wool makes it a compelling environmental choice.

Compare that to other common fabrics. Cotton produces a well-documented excess of waste water. Polyester “creates pollution along its entire value chain,” eventually leeching toxins into the soil when it hits the landfill. Producers of so-called natural options like rayon and bamboo viscose have been lambasted (and sued) recently for “green-washing” their use of toxic chemicals. The list goes on.

By contrast, Merino is simple. It grows on sheep who graze on existing grassland. It’s sheared. It regrows. It eventually biodegrades.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Now that you know all there is to know about this natural wonder, check out our merino wool clothes for women and men. You’ll find everything you need for a trip around the world – or a lazy day at home – from hoodies and button-ups to a merino wool dress and merino wool tights for women.

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