Wool existed thousands of years ago and always will. But what makes this natural fiber so special? And most importantly, how can it compete with synthetic alternatives? For us at ANGELCAB, sheep’s wool is a true gift from God. When we started our company, our main goal was to create strollers that were completely free of questionable plastics. In our search for suitable materials that naturally bring desirable properties, we naturally stumbled very quickly upon the fascinating raw material sheep’s wool. In this article, we take a closer look at it.
Numerous sheep line the green hills. You can hear only their bleating and plucking grass. A dog guards them attentively. These are precisely the perfect conditions for our favorite renewable raw material. Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated in Mesopotamia about 10,000 years ago. Different societies have attributed different values to them and therefore they have been bred with different characteristics. Nowadays, all over the world we can find a wide variety of sheep and wool. Sheep’s wool naturally impresses with a whole host of excellent properties that cannot be achieved with synthetic fibers. To bring it briefly to the point: Wool is antibacterial, low odor, water and dirt repellent and also provides cozy warmth in winter and pleasant freshness in summer. And of course for excellent moisture management.
ANTIBACTERIAL AND LOW ODOR
Wool is antibacterial thanks to the surface structure of wool fibers, and thus at the same time low odor. While synthetic fibers are smooth, wool fibers have a scaly structure. Figuratively speaking, they are reminiscent of roof tiles. For this reason, it is difficult for bacteria – and thus also unpleasant odors – to adhere to the fiber. In addition, wool wicks moisture away quickly, so that less sweat accumulates on the skin and odor does not form in the first place. The protein molecule keratin, which is contained in wool, also plays its part in the odor-inhibiting effect by breaking down bacteria. Furthermore, the fiber makes use of a mechanical self-cleaning process: The fiber core consists of two different cell types that absorb different amounts of moisture and therefore swell unevenly. This creates constant friction and the fiber cleans itself over and over again.
With our sheep wool we try to further implement regional value creation. 80km away from our production, together with our partner sheep farm “Belzner”, we take care that sheep wool is transformed from a pure “waste product” back into a real raw material.
Further processed with innovative manufacturing processes directly in Dinkelsbühl, our pure wool becomes a real high-tech fiber from Franconia.
EXCELLENT TEMPERATURE REGULATION IN SUMMER AND WINTER
However, what we appreciate most about wool is its excellent moisture and temperature regulating properties. In winter it keeps your offspring comfortably warm, in summer it provides pleasant freshness. Wool warms, among other things, due to its insulating effect. Did you know that air can account for up to 85% of the total volume of crimped fibers? The crimping creates air pockets that retain body heat instead of transferring it. Air is thus a poor conductor of heat, but an excellent insulator. By the way, the well-known onion look is also based on this principle!
So sheep’s wool does not warm by itself, but because it does not allow body heat to escape. But the air serves not only as an insulating layer from the cold in winter, but also from the heat in summer. Incidentally, double-walled windows also make use of this insulation principle: The air trapped between the panes has an insulating effect in both summer and winter.
The thermoregulating properties of the natural fiber are maintained even in contact with rain. In other words, even when it gets damp, wool – unlike down – still feels pleasantly warm. The wool fiber is constructed so that moisture moves into the fiber core while the surface remains dry. Nature has also endowed wool with a special warming mechanism. Through an exothermic process, the fiber actively heats up when it absorbs moisture. When the polar wool fibers collide with water molecules, they release absorption heat. This can increase the temperature by up to 10 degrees. This continues until the substance is saturated with water molecules. However, even a soaked wool fabric can still provide warmth, as mechanical frictional heat is generated during movement. Tip: In case of heavy or long rain, you should still use your included rain cover.
BEST MOISTURE REGULATION
But let’s get back to the moisture thing. We have already indicated that the wool fiber conducts moisture inside and thus has a unique moisture management. The figures on this are truly remarkable: the fiber interior of wool can absorb up to 35% of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet. In comparison, synthetic fibers can only absorb less than 10% of their dry weight.
The wool fiber owes this property to its hygroscopic structure: the surface remains dry because it repels water. The interior of the fiber, on the other hand, can bind a particularly large amount of water vapor especially quickly. This phenomenon is extremely practical not only in the rain; the fiber network also quickly conducts sweat inside through the smallest channels. Thus, the wool fiber can compensate for fluctuating moisture levels in its environment particularly well thanks to its structure.
Speaking of sweat, there is one more feature worth mentioning. We have already learned that insulation is not the only thermal mechanism that wool has. It is the same with cooling in the summer. When the ambient air is warm, the sweat absorbed evaporates more quickly on the outside of the fabric. However, energy is required for this evaporation process. These extract the molecules from the sheep fiber in the form of heat. The wool fibers cool and evaporative cooling occurs. By the way, thanks to its hygroscopic structure, wool also keeps dust mites away. After all, they need a humid climate to feel comfortable. It also prevents asthma attacks that can be triggered by dust mite allergens.
DIRT AND WATER REPELLENT
Not only its antibacterial and thermoregulating properties make wool an ideal fabric for strollers: wool also repels dirt and water better than other fibers. So you can easily spill something and quickly wipe up before permanent stains appear in the fabric. This dirt- and water-repellent behavior is made possible by the wool grease lanolin, which is found on the surface of the fiber. This protective shield keeps water and dirt particles on the surface and prevents them from penetrating the interior of the fiber. The strong crimping of the fibers also creates a kind of lotus effect: The water droplets have only a very small attack surface and simply roll off due to their surface tension.
Wool is also anti-static, so dirt, dust or lint will not be attracted to it. In addition, virgin sheep’s wool is a very durable and robust material that can withstand even intensive use. The fibers can be bent up to 20,000 times without breaking, making them ideal for strollers. The natural fiber also does not tend to wrinkle. Wool fibers, even when stretched by 30%, retract to their natural shape. Its complex sinuous structure provides the necessary elasticity so that the wool does not become flat and hard. Another plus: wool is flame retardant. This means that the temperature at which it ignites is very high and wool does not burn, but chars. So, for example, if a cigarette comes into contact with the fabric, only a single burn mark is created.
If you look at the natural UV protection of different materials, wool also performs very well. Only polyester offers a higher integrated sun protection factor. After that already come wool, polyamide and silk, while cotton, viscose and linen bring up the rear. So if you consider only the natural fabrics, wool has the highest light protection.
Moreover, wool is sustainable, as it is of course a renewable resource, and thus fits perfectly with the ANGELCAB philosophy. Compared to synthetic fibers, the extraction of sheep fibers is more environmentally friendly and conserves resources. Synthetic fibers are in fact produced on the basis of petroleum. This requires not only a lot of energy, but also many chemicals. Also, unlike synthetic fibers, virgin wool is biodegradable once it has done its job. Synthetic clothing, on the other hand, takes at least 30 years to decompose.
Wool as a material is incredibly fascinating and has an exciting history that spans 10,000 years. Natural fiber will continue to play a major role in the future and is already an indispensable material for us at ANGELCAB. This is not only due to the natural properties of wool as a functional material, but also because it is easier to recycle than other materials and is very diverse in its applications.