Sustainability | Environmental

Choosing A Rug Material: The Natural Benefits Of Wool And Its Sustainability

Dec 08, 2021 | Rohit Viram

When making a rug, different materials offer different features and textures. Materials often used to weave are Wool, cotton, silk, jute, and even synthetic fibers such as polyester, polypropylene, and acrylic. Some offer resistance against wear in high foot traffic areas, whilst others offer the ability to accommodate incredibly complicated designs.

Here we look at the most primitive of all rug materials, Wool.

Wool is a 100% natural and biodegradable fibre grown on sheep's bodies as coats to protect them from the elements, especially in winter, keeping them warm. It has been used in rug-making since humans began weaving flat woven fabrics

The Advantages 

I have compiled a list of reasons why you might choose wool rugs to source for your business:

Colour - Wool can absorb different dyes deep into the fibre and uniformly. For this reason, it is an excellent medium to present an infinite array of colours. 

Flame retardant - high nitrogen and water content give Wool its property of being hard to ignite. Moreover, the wool fibres don't melt or drip, so it's used in protective clothing.

Flexibility - A wool fibre can be bent back on itself more than 20,000 times without breaking, compared to 3,000 times for cotton and 2,000 times for silk. This makes woollen fabrics resistant to tearing. Additionally, the outer skin of wool fibre acts as a protective film giving wool cloth improved abrasion resistance.

Energy-efficient - Good insulation properties help to reduce heat transfer and waste, thus lowering heating costs 

Cleaner Internal Air - Its unique natural cell structure allows Wool to absorb pollutants in the air and permanently store them. 

Natural elasticity - Wool has a unique crimp providing it with a natural elasticity allowing fabrics to return to their natural shape, allowing it to resist wrinkles and creasing

UV protection - has a natural UV protection factor of 30+ in more than 70% of cases, offering much higher security than its synthetic and cotton counterparts.

Breathable - can easily up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. The ability of Wool to absorb moisture makes it comfortable in both warm and cold conditions. By absorbing sweat, Wool enhances the body's cooling system and helps keep the skin dry. 

Hypoallergenic - Wool is resistant to bacteriamould and mildew that can trigger allergic reactions in people. Wool also has microscopic pores that respond effectively to changes in humidity, making it unfavourable for the growth and breeding of the house dust mite, whose allergens are one of the triggers of asthma attacks.

Easy to care for - The outside surface of wool fibre consists of a series of overlapping scales, meaning dirt sits on the surface, making it extremely easy to remove with simple vacuuming. 

The Disadvantages

Expensive - Wool is a luxurious fibre and, as a result, a significantly more costly material compared to its synthetic counterparts, such as polypropylene. For example, you can purchase a wool rug anywhere between £15 - £50 per square metre or around $5 - $30 in the United States. 

Spills and stains - Due to Wool's excellent properties to absorb in dyes, it performs the same whenever something is spilt on it, and this can leave stains to set in and make it difficult to remove. For this reason, it is essential to deal with a spill on a wool rug as soon as possible. 

Fibre Distortion is prone to the original design looking distorted when it experiences excessive wear and tear or agitations, especially under heated conditions. This can often lead to jet streaks and wand marks. 

Felting - Wool is sensitive to alkaline chemicals above the pH of 9.5 and does not react well. It can make the Wool brittle and appear somewhat discoloured. This is evident when using bleach-based chemicals to clean the rug. It is recommended to use a cleaning solution below a pH of 5.5. 

Sourcing Sustainably

For these reasons, Wool is a very eco-friendly and vital material to use for sustainable rug making. However, knowing your Wool is sourced sustainably is equally as important. 

For a business to be sustainable, it must have close relations with its supplier, who can offer them information and guarantees on the nature and origin of their goods. Thus it is essential to do thorough research and a background check when looking for a supplier. 

Animal welfare is essential to look out for if you choose the path of sustainability.

To prevent animal suffering, there are animal welfare values set in place. 

These are called The five animal freedoms:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst 
  2. Freedom from discomfort 
  3. Freedom from pain & disease 
  4. Freedom from fear and distress 
  5. Freedom to express normal behaviour 

Furthermore, below are some essential factors to consider further when picking a supplier to help your source more sustainably:

  1. Fully traceable - records that track new wool consignments from the farms that grow the Wool itself 
  2. Farming practices - Free-range, pasture-fed, compliant and adherent to strict animal welfare codes such as the ones mentioned above
  3. Quality control - Wool is carefully inspected using samples from wool bales. 
  4. Environmentally scoured: Wool is cleaned using only eco-friendly detergents and free from bleach usage to maintain the natural colour. 

In conclusion, a circular economy inherently takes a holistic approach, and the same process must be carried out when sourcing materials for textile manufacturing. If your business primarily relies on Wool, it is essential to know where it comes from and its life.

I Understand

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