Lanolin in your wool-wash detergent: a good or bad idea?

If you Google how to best take care of your woolen clothes, you get a lot of different opinions. One piece of advice that keeps popping up is that you should choose a wool-wash detergent which contains lanolin – or even give your woolen items a lanolin treatment.

We disagree when it comes to wool underwear. Why? That is what we would like to explain with this blogpost.

Lanolin in your wool-wash detergent: a good or bad idea?

What is lanolin?

In short, lanolin is surplus fat from the skin of the sheep, which protects the wool (and thus the sheep) from the elements. Lanolin is extracted from wool sheared from sheep. It has been an ingredient in different skincare products for centuries, since lanolin has a water repellent effect that – in addition to protecting the sheep from the elements – also prevents moisture from leaving the skin, thus keeping the skin nice and soft. This leads us to the purpose of this blogpost, i.e. why lanolin should not be in your wool-wash detergent when you wash wool underwear.

A bad idea: lanolin for the base layer

The wool underwear from DILLING does not contain lanolin, since the water-repellent properties of lanolin makes it difficult to treat and dye the wool. The water-repellent effect makes it difficult for the dyes to penetrate the wool fibre. The lanolin is therefore completely washed out before the dye process starts. If lanolin is added to the wool again through wool-wash detergent, the wool once again becomes water repellent, making it difficult for the wool to absorb moisture and sweat from your body. This is a pity, since wool has the incredible ability to absorb up to 33% of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet. This is one of the abilities that makes the wool fantastic for sports and outdoor leisure, since wool keeps the body dry and warm, even during breaks. But this ability is only maintained if you do not add lanolin. We therefore recommend you to use wool-wash detergent without lanolin for your base layers.

A great idea: lanolin for the outer layer

But as you are not supposed to wash your wool underwear with lanolin, why is this advice repeated? We would like to make it clear that lanolin is not always a bad idea for your woolens. Wool-wash detergent containing lanolin is excellent for wool products worn as outer layers. For instance, it can be really good to have the water-repellent effect if you are wearing a big sweater or a wool jacket to protect yourself from the elements.