We occasionally get emails from customers that read: "Why does merino wool get holes?"
Rarely, a hole will come about due to a QC issue with the product. Rarely, though, and our customer reviews (4.9/5 stars out of 600+ reviews) support this.
There are 3 main reasons why merino wool gets holes—or you might ‘spring a leak’ as we put it. And this, of course, isn’t just our products. This is with all merino products from any brand. (Though, our customers do tell us ours is the most durable they’ve worn. Hehe.)
Here are the top 3 causes of holes in merino that we see, some tips for how to prevent getting holes in merino wool:
1. Moths & Silverfish
Merino wool contains keratin, a protein that moth larvae and silverfish enjoy noshing on. What’s more, add to it some food stains, body oils, and sweat and it’s a delectable Michelin-level treat they can’t resist.
Moths like to lay their eggs, which hatch into the larvae, in dark environments. Such as your wardrobe. Silverfish on the other hand love cool environments and emerge under the cover of night, and prefer the likes of your bathroom or laundry.
Store your merino dirty in the wardrobe, you’ve created a veritable dining room for those newly born moth larvae. Leave your dirty merino on the laundry floor and you’ve set a table for your silverfishy housemates.
Image Credit: Chris Bitmead
“But Ottie, I’m meant to be able to get multiple uses out of my merino tee between washes. What should I do?” Of course, after all merino wool is antibacterial and odour resistant—that’s why people consider it a wonder fabric. Between uses, store your merino on a clothes airer, or on the back of a chair, or on the clothes line. Keep it off the ground, don’t keep it scrunched up, and let it breathe a bit. It’ll be much fresher when you put it on next time, and you’ll save it from those ravenous moth babies and silverfish.
Clean merino stored in the wardrobe is generally pretty safe. However, if you’re concerned or have a bit of a moth problem, consider storing your merino in plastic airtight containers or ziplock bags, or popping some cedar in your wardrobe to ward them off. There are a million and one other moth remedies out there too, I’m sure.
2. Enzyme Detergent
Using an enzyme or ‘bio’ detergent for merino wool is a big no no. At the very least they can compromise the structural integrity of wool fibres leading your garment to wear out more quickly. At most, your merino item will be demolished—you’ll have pretty much fed your garment to the detergent. We’ve seen photos of this and it ain’t pretty.
To get the longest life out of your merino use a wool friendly detergent. Earth Choice does a decent one, as does Softly, and they’re readily available at your local supermarket.
As part of our rigorous product testing program we’ve tried all sorts of detergents with our clothing and most of them are perfectly fine. Omo, Surf, Radiant… They all worked perfectly fine and didn’t damage the garments in any way. But, to get the best life out of your merino you should wash them with a wool-friendly detergent, and on a cold cycle.
We've even written a big 'ultimate guide' style blog on how to care for your merino.
3. Wear & Tear
Hiking takes us to some pretty rugged places. Our boots get bashed up. Our packs get scuffed. And sometimes our clothing will catch on things and holes will form.
Merino is a great, durable fabric, but it ain’t bulletproof. There’s a reason we don’t hike in heavy, cotton ‘tradie’ wear. It’s hot, uncomfortable, will stink to high heaven after a bit of sweat, and doesn’t contain all the fabulous benefits of merino. But sure, it’s built to be pretty indestructible.
Choosing merino is a bit of a balancing act. On the track, we want all of those qualities it provides, but we just need to be a bit careful before we storm right through that thicket of blackberries.
Likewise, we need to be mindful of friction. Backpack straps, hip-belts. Also make sure there are no sharp bits on your buckles as these will easily can and wear through most fabrics.
End of the day, through solid wear you will eventually get some holes in your merino. Do what you can to prevent this from happening, but when you do ‘spring some leaks’ look at them as character—they’re a reflection of the fantastic adventures you’ve been on. Pick up the needle and thread and feel free to do a little mending. We want to do a blog on this topic soon in fact.
For more info on caring for your merino, check out our merino care guide here.