Why is raw wool more sustainable than industrial wool?
Many people are not aware of the differences between the Raw Wool & Processed Wool, or as we call it industrial wool.
Wool is an amazing fiber that has numerous benefits. It is odor-resistant, anti-microbial, fire-resistant, long-lasting, and temperature-regulating. Wool does not need to be (and should not be) washed as frequently as other fibers. The problems begin to arise, however, when industrial processing facilities seek to pre-soften wool and to make it easier to work with by adding toxic chemicals to the process.
Raw wool is an ecologically and ethically sound product. It is a naturally grown and compostable fiber. However, the increased desire for consistency in production, together with the pursuit of maximum return on investment have led to some pollutive and unethical practices within the farming and production of wool.
While our raw wool comes from local free-range flocks, kept by small-scale traditional shepherds, industrial wool comes from the wider, more harmful industrial agriculture industry. The overuse of pesticides by wool fabric manufactures to control parasite-infection, for example, has led to water, soil, and air pollution. Farmers and animals alike are suffering due to the chemical substances used for farming, sheep shearing and processing. Such “highly toxic organophosphates have been linked to nerve damage in humans.” Furthermore, traces of these chemicals can be found on final products as well, and “the health dangers to the environment and the consumer are only compounded with the conventional production of fabrics and garments from conventionally grown wool.”
After wool has been sheared from sheep, raw wool is simply washed using water and organic soap. However, industrial processing facilities have turned to harsher scouring agents, some of them banned substances. With each new regulation, the wool industry finds a new chemical workaround, but even the most recent “replacement dips, using pyrethroids have also been suspended from sale, because they were found to be 1000 times more toxic to aquatic life than organophosphates, and linked to the [rapid] increase in water pollution.” The industrial wool garment manufacturing process typically employs harsh scouring agents and bleaches to clean and whiten the wool, formaldehyde, polyester, foams, dioxins, conditioners, moth-proofing synthetic chemicals, harsh chemical dyes, and other, often toxic, additives to finish the fabric and garments.
When it comes to adding color, industrial wool is no better. While our raw wool relies exclusively on un-dyed natural colors (hence our abhorrence of using bleach to remove such beautiful shades!) or from local organic plant dyes. Industrial wool processing, however, uses synthetic chemical dyes, which “frequently include toxic heavy metals such as chrome, copper and zinc, and sometimes contain known or suspected carcinogens.”
As opposed to industrial wool, raw wool goes right from the farm through the manufacturing process without exposure to any harsh chemicals. You can recognize such pure wool for its coarseness. The coarseness of wool is both very normal and a sign of quality! The reason commercial wool is soft from the point of sale is because it is pre-battered with chemicals and bleaches to soften and strip the wool. This is counterproductive (and environmentally disastrous!) because wool miraculously softens over time and improves with age, but these chemicals reduce the protective aspects of wool and cause it not to last as long.
This is why we see so much wisdom and beauty in raw wool and the traditional processing method. It might be more difficult and time-consuming, but what is a little more effort to keep our air, soil, and water clean and safe for our communities?
Do you think raw wool is worth the extra challenges and expense? Do you have any heirloom items made of pure raw wool? Let us know below!
Love & Light,
The TŪNIQ team