I recently stumbled on to a washing instruction tag that read, “Flip inside out, and hand wash cold water so you don’t ruin it like everything else in your life.”
While these instructions provided me with a good laugh, there is some legitimacy to following directions, at least as it pertains to getting the ultimate life out of your SKRE Merino Wool.
SKRE Merino Wool Offerings are designed to be easy to care for. We advise that you wash your SKRE Merino on a standard warm or cool machine wash cycle with regular powder or liquid detergent. Wool detergent is also suitable providing it does not contain softeners and that a normal wash cycle is used (Do not use delicate cycle as this can prevent all detergent from being rinsed from the wool).
Don’t use fabric softener or bleach. The principle of separating lights and darks needs to be followed. Also, do not expose any SKRE Merino garment to high temperature and do not tumble dry.
We have found the best way to get the ultimate life out of your merino wool is air dry. If you air dry in the sun, be sure to turn the garment inside out so your Summit or MTN-Stealth patterns do not fade.
TIP: After your first 2-3 uses, we recommend you wash the garment separately to reduce the appearance of any small fibers from the fabric.
For best results and to extend the life of your SKRE Merino Wool follow the instruction provided below:
- Wash lights and darks separately
- Turn the garment inside out to extend the life of the print
- Close all zippers to prevent snags
- Use warm or cold machine wash on a normal cycle (avoid washing in hot water as this contributes to shrinkage)
- Use regular powder, liquid, or wool detergent. Be certain the detergent used does not contain softeners.
- Use a normal wash cycle (delicate wash cycles do not allow for all detergent to be rinsed out of the wool)
- Do not use bleach or fabric softener at any time. SKRE uses superfine merino wool so you’re not going to make it any softer than it comes naturally.
- It is advised, on occasion, to wash with Jeans (make sure the zipper is closed) This facilitates the removal of loose fibers
- Do not iron prints or labels
- Air-dry garments to extend life. If you must use a dryer, do not use intense heat cycles
OTHER CARE TIPS
What is Pilling & How to Mitigate it.
Pills appear on fabric when groups of short or broken fibers on the surface of the fabric become jumbled together in a tiny knot or ball referred to as a pill. The pills form due to rubbing or abrasion during normal wear and use. The weaker fiber will break, knot around to the stronger fiber, thus creating a pill.
Pilling is a natural process intrinsic to merino and is the result of merino being a natural animal-based fiber. If pilling occurs, it’s the result of shorter fibers working their way to the face of the fabric.
One way to avoid pilling is to wash your new SKRE Merino after you’ve worn it three times. In order to lessen the pilling, we advocate that you wash the garment with a coarser fabric such as denim jeans, however, make sure all zippers are closed to prevent snags. Your SKRE Merino Wool will improve overtime as the shorter fibers are eliminated. I guess you could say Merino Wool is like fine wine…..it gets better with time. We wish we could fit these care instructions on the back of every SKRE Merino Offering.
Bottom line: Follow these instruction and tips and you will extend the life of your SKRE Merino Wool through several hunting seasons.
Merino Wool Versus Traditional Wool
Almost 2 decades ago, while working at a sporting goods store, I purchased a pair of Merino wool socks, on the recommendation from a co-worker. He mentioned that Merino was the best thing since sliced bread and since I’m always up for trying new gear, I laid down the cash and became the proud, but somewhat reluctant, owner of my first merino wool. I was immediately impressed and was pleasantly surprised how comfortable they were and frankly, couldn’t believe they didn’t itch, especially considering my prior experience with traditional itchy wool.
Merino Wool Fiber Size and Structure
It turns out Merino isn’t anything like Grandpa’s surplus army wool. To really understand how soft merino wool is you need to see the structure and size of a merino wool fiber under a microscope. This visual experience allows you to see first hand the source of the soft supple feel you get when you wear Merino next to your skin. In the spirit of Microscopes and Nerds, let's put this information into perspective. Merino wool fibers are so small that they are measured in microns.There are several grades of merino wool, based on the thickness of the fiber:
- 17.5 microns: Ultrafine Merino
- 17.7 – 18.5 microns: Superfine Merino
- 18.5 - 19.5 microns: Fine/Extra Fine Merino
- 19.6 – 20.5 microns: Fine medium Merino
- 20.6 – 22.5 microns: Medium Merino
- 22.6 - <24 microns: Strong Merino
To put these numbers into even greater visual perspective, a human hair is 40 – 50 microns thick, which gives us an idea just how fine –Extra Fine-Ultrafine Merino wool is. Now you know why SKRE uses Extra-fine-Ultra-fine Merino wool in all their Merino offerings. The result is a soft & supple next to skin layer that is ready for work in the Great Outdoors. Grandpa’s old army wool was most likely a low grade mid 20’s micron wool, which explains why it was so darn itchy.
Origins of Merino Wool
It may come as no surprise, that Merino wool comes from…..well a Merino sheep, predominately found in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Merino wool is a natural product of miles of sweet green rolling pastures, plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and sheep crap. Because the wool is harvested from sheep, supplies are somewhat limited which is why merino wool garments can sometimes cost twice the price of a comparable synthetic offering. While synthetics hold a place in the extreme outdoor apparel industry, it’s pretty dang hard to beat merino wool, especially when it comes to base layers that check all the boxes. Believe me Merino wool is worth the extra cost!
Merino Wool - A Renewable Resource
The good news is, Merino is a renewable resource. Each year after the sheep are shorn to a degree of nakedness, they go on with their lives eating green grass, pooping, all the while producing another beautiful crop of soft supple merino gold.
Benefits of Merino Wool
Merino Wool: The Best in All-natural Order-Control
Merino fibers are naturally antimicrobial. Merino fibers create an environment where moisture is naturally drawn away from the body releasing moisture molecules into the air. The result is odor-free garments that require fewer washing cycles allowing you to hunt harder and longer between washings.
Merino performs the same moisture management function whether a Sheep is wearing it or a hunter. We encourage you to only wash your SKRE Merino on a normal cool or warm wash cycle with regular washing detergent. If you must, you can hand wash on extended backcountry trips, however, hand washing should not be your primary source of washing as it can create a residual build-up of perspiration which could create issues associated with odor.
Merino’s ability to manage moisture was…..well…pretty freaking impressive. Merino is a monster when it comes to wicking moisture away from your body where it can evaporate into the cool mountain air. It’s also worth a mention, merino wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water and still feel dry while simultaneously providing insulation. That’s pretty important when you are exposed to either rain or perspiration almost daily.
Another great benefit of Merino wool is Lanolin. So what exactly is Lanolin? Lanolin is a natural wax-like coating that is created naturally by Merino sheep and is found on every single fiber strand of wool comprising its fleece. Lanolin provides a water-resistant barrier to the Merino sheep’s coat. Much like the synthetic DWR used to treat synthetic garments for water resistance; Lanolin is nature’s barrier against extreme climates and also protects the Merino’s skin from infections. Traces of Lanolin cling to the wool fiber during the shearing and spinning, process. As part of your SKRE Merino layers, Lanolin continues to provide the same benefits to you as it did for the Merino sheep from which the wool was harvested. It also provides natural UV protection from the ultraviolet ray of the sun.
My Personal Experience with Merino
What impressed me even more about Merino is you can sweat like a hog in the July sun, without it stinking to high heaven. After a little field use, I became an almost overnight aficionado of Merino. At the time, there didn’t seem to be a lot of Merino offerings or really that many companies promoting Merino in base layers, and T-shirts. If there were companies promoting it, I sure didn’t know about it.
As Merino wool began to grow in popularity, more and more outdoor apparel companies begin offering performance and casual apparel in shirts, base layers, hoodies, jacket etc. It wasn’t long before I had my grubby mitts on 100% merino T-shirt in preparation for an upcoming Alaska backcountry trifecta, where I would be hunting Sheep, Moose and Grizzly with a couple of good buddies. I knew I needed a go-to T-shirt that could handle two weeks of perspiration, dirt and grime. I didn’t want to think about climbing in my bag each night, smelling like roadkill.
Alaskan Moose Hunt
Due to some complications related to weather, our Super Cub pilot was unable to pick us up until day 18. That’s a long time without a bath. My hunting partners and I took 2 full curls rams on that trip, two giant bulls, and a nice mountain grizzly. It was the trip of a lifetime, however, I can’t remember a time during that hunt when we weren’t hauling heavy loads of meat and gear.
By the end of that trip, all of our hunting garments were saturated in accumulated perspiration, dirt, blood, and backcountry grime. You could knock a fly off a gut wagon, with the stench from our hunting layers. I genuinely feel ashamed that our pilot had to endure that vile smell on the bumpy flight back to civilization. This might explain why Alaskan bush pilots are an ornery sort. Inhaling the stench from stinky-ass hunters on a regular basis doesn’t bode, well for having a positive attitude.
Pictured above: My first Merino T-shirt used on my 18-day Alaskan Adventure
Once we arrived back in the land of washers and dryers, I begin sorting my stinky gear for a good washing. Not sure what it is about men, but they have to smell everything partly out of curiosity and partly because they are of the male species. Before tossing my Merino shirt in the washer, I buried my nose in that crusty well-used shirt and much to my surprise there was almost no odor. It’s a good thing because I have a weak stomach.
This Alaskan adventure turned me into a lifetime champion of Merino wool and a convert for life. It’s also important to note, that I never overheated in that shirt, and to say we perspired on that hunt would be a gross understatement. I won’t mention the blood sweat and tears that go into packing out a bull moose let alone two.
Alaskan Sheep Hunt
The sheep hunting portion of this hunt was very strenuous, with a lot of steep ascents in big dangerous country, with rugged glaciers and deep crevasse that could swallow a man whole and shit him out the other side. Sheep hunting is truly a test of mind, body and soul…..and some pretty good merino wool. If hunting gear can survive a sheep hunt, it’s worth its weight in wool.
I also noticed that after a good washing, as outlined at the beginning of this article, the shirt in question showed very little wear. Keep in mind this shirt was exposed to the friction and movement associated with wearing a heavy backpack day in and day out whilst crossing rugged terrain. It was also exposed to excessive blood, dirt and heavy abrasion from crossing glaciers and navigating scree slides. The merino wool fibers ability to bend stretch, and contort 20,000-30,000 times without changing its original shape demonstrates why merino wool garments are ready for work in the backcountry.
It further explains why Merino can take a beating during multiple wash cycles without being worse for wear. Because Merino fibers have excellent shape memory, you don’t have to worry about wrinkles commonly associated with washing or being wadded up and crammed into the bottom of a backpack.
Feel free to use and abuse your SKRE Merino wool. It’s up to the task. However, if you want to extend the life of your wool, follow the merino wool care instructions provided in this article, and your SKRE Merino Wool might be around longer than you are.
Heck, we hope you live long enough to pass along some of your old wool hunting clothes to your grandkids - that doesn’t itch!