The Benefits of Wool
A naturally smart fabric with amazing properties
Properties of Wool
Apart from keeping the body comfortable and warm, medical sheepskin possesses many unique properties that you may not be aware of.
Wool helps the body regulate temperature by both insulating from the cold
and dissipating heat. This is thanks to efficient airflow between the fibres
enhanced by the natural crimping of un-spun wool. In cold conditions,
warm air is distributed through the sheepskin, keeping the whole body
equally warm. Sheepskin is a wonderful material to sleep on in hot
weather too. The University of Sydney demonstrated this in their sleep
research, which found that participants sleeping on wool in hot conditions
(29° Celsius) slept for significantly longer, had faster sleep onset and woke
up less frequently during the night than participants sleeping on a mattress
covered only by a sheet (Woolmark, 2011).
Wool has the natural ability to wick moisture, and is known as a hydrophilic
material for its ability to absorb moisture without actually feeling wet. Wool
can carry almost one-third of its own weight in water before feeling wet to
the touch, making it a popular fabric for traditional-style reusable diapers.
Wet skin is very uncomfortable and over time can cause maceration and
weakening of the skin, so this ability to wick moisture is a great benefit for
both comfort and skin protection.
Reduces Shear and Friction
The outermost layer of protein on a fibre of wool makes it very smooth – making it easy for the fibres to move against each another
and accommodate movement. This means that your skin moves across the surface with less resistance, keeping the shear and friction
forces to a minimum. These forces can be a contributing factor towards a feeling of discomfort when seated or lying down.
Improved pressure redistribution is a proven quality of medical sheepskins. Every wool fibre acts like a tiny spring, absorbing pressure
without flattening out and becoming solid. In pressure mapping images you can see the difference that a Shear Comfort Cushion-It
makes in reducing peak pressure points compared to resting on a non-cushioned surface, see the evidence here.
References: The Woolmark Company, 2011, [online] Available at http://www.merino.com/Content/en-GB/Media/Sleep_Research.pdf (Accessed 21/03/13)
What is Shear Comfort?
Shear Comfort products use specially selected wool from a specific cross-breed of sheep to give it the optimum properties for pressure care and microclimate control.
You have heard of Merino Wool, this is very commonly used in clothing as it has the finest fibre size, making it very soft. However, this also means it doesn't perform quite so well as a pressure redistribution tool as the fibres compress too easily. So by crossbreeding a Merino sheep with an English Ram with coarser wool we can produce a wool that’s beautifully soft to touch, yet offers brilliant pressure redistribution at the same time. Most of our products are made of our unique XD1900 material, manufactured out of medical grade sheep's wool which has been woven onto a different backing in order to achieve a higher fibre density. Thanks to the treatment process our wool goes through all Shear Comfort™ products can be washed up to and over 80°C, plus our XD1900 material can be washed using normal household detergent as it doesn’t have the natural leather backing. All our products are made to exceed the Australian Medical Sheepskin Standard which guarantees their exceedingly high quality and therapeutic properties.
Australian Medical Sheepskin
All Shear Comfort products meet and surpass the Australian Medical Sheep Skin Standard AS4480.1 This standard stipulates that the wool needs to be of a high enough quality to perform as a medical device for pressure distribution purposes by meeting the
Be well trimmed and pre-washed
Have wool pile of uniform length and density, well-defined staple and crimp, straight to light curl in appearance that is free from pilling and vegetable matter.
Possess a Wool fibre diameter of 26-34 µm (microns) and be 25- 30 mm long
Stay flat when laid down- at all times, the product should be able lie flat on a horizontal surface with minimum curling around the edges.
HiTemp Medical Sheepskins must have a minimum shrink temperature of 110°C and the size should not decrease more than 5 cm after 50 wash cycles.
Our Commitment to Wool Quality
We source the finest quality wool for superior pressure redistribution and comfort.
Firstly, real wool comes from real sheep. Synthetic 'wool' products will not
contain the same properties as sheep’s wool and are merely a cheap
imitation. Synthetic fibres compress far more easily than natural wool,
and do not spring back as fully, compromising the pressure-distribution
quality of any synthetic 'sheepskin'. Because of this compression, airflow
to the skin is reduced and the temperature-controlling and insulating
properties of real wool are lost.
Synthetic fibres such as polyester are hydrophobic, and do not possess
the moisture-absorbing capabilities of wool. Synthetic sheepskins were
brought to the market because they were cheap, and could be washed
at high temperatures. Shear Comfort Natural carries the Australian
hi-temp UR stamp, which guarantees the product can be washed at
80°C without shrinking, keeping the wool hygienically clean. Synthetic
sheepskins may look nice, but are most certainly a waste of money for
any other use – only wool can do what wool can do.
This is measured and expressed in microns, a measurement of the
average fibre diameter. There are different applications for wools
with different micron measurements for example a micron average
of 11-30 is ideal for clothing where the softness and smoothness
are important, a micron of 30+ is ideal for a rug or coat as it is
particularly hard wearing. The fibre size is determined by the breed
of sheep, for instance merino wool has a low micron measurement
and is widely used in clothing. We use a wool from a Merino-English
ram cross breed with a micron of 30 as our research has found this gives
our wool an optimal balance of pressure redistribution and softness.
This is the length of the individual fibres and effects the pressure
distribution properties of a sheepskin. The longer the fibres, the
thicker the sheepskin. All our products have a pile length of 30mm,
except a few items of footwear where slenderness takes priority over
pile length. This is the higher-end of the pile length permitted by the
Australian Medical Sheepskin Standard, making the sheepskin thick
enough to distribute pressure but not so long that the fibres to get
tangled amongst each other.
Fibre density is very important in relation to the sheepskin’s ability to
redistribute pressure, the more fibres you can pack into an area the
better the pressure redistribution is going to be. The best that a high
end medical grade natural sheepskin can achieve is 1200gsm, whereas
we have honed a manufacturing technique to be able to pack in 1900gsm
– this became our XD1900 material. Be careful though, as many cheaper
products in the marketplace use skins with a density more like 800gsm.
Take a look at this pressure map to see the difference this makes