Is Wool Waterproof?

The rave for waterproof items is steadily increasing as the world advances. You want to go out in the snow or rain with your gadgets, shoes, or clothes, all the while wanting everything to remain dry or intact.

Wool is growing to become one of the most common clothing material choices, used to make sweaters, socks, neckties, suits, dresses, and more. Naturally, the question about its waterproof abilities arises.

Whether it’s for your coat, your bag, or shoes, you want to be sure that it can keep the water out, keeping you and your properties dry and warm.

Where Wool Is Commonly Used

Australia produces 25% of the world’s wool, making them the world’s number one country in wool production. They are closely followed by China and then New Zealand.

Australia is mostly known for the production of the merino type of wool. Furthermore, the use of wool fabric is also more flexible and dynamic than just clothing. Manufacturers now use wool in other diverse ways.


This is the most prominent area where wool is a raw material. From activewear to outerwear to suits, wool has become a top-of-the-line product for cloth manufacturers. The growing list also includes uniforms requiring resistance to high-temperature effects like shrinking, melting, or odors. So, this fabric isn’t just for your wool coat anymore!


Wool is a frequently used material for carpet underlays. They are used to pad the underneath of high-quality carpets for interior works.


Upholsteries are other ways manufacturers use wool. You can see them in household furniture, both for stuffing, covers, bedsheets, blinds, table mats, etc.


Before synthetic insulators saturated the market, manufacturers primarily used wool because of its R-value and excellent thermal possessions. Also, because wool is a natural product, there was no need for protective gear when installing it.


Using wool on the farm to fertilize crops is probably the last thing you would imagine, but it makes for good mulch because of its biodegradable and absorbent quality.

The Technical Makeup of Wool

To explore the wool’s technical qualities, we first have to understand the various types of wool available. Did you know that there are different types of wool, each with its unique qualities?

Contrary to popular opinion, wool as a raw material isn’t from lamb alone. There are a lot of other animals that you can get wool from. Below is a list of the most common ones:


Farmers also call lambswool virgin wool because it is from a baby sheep (lamb). This type of wool is very thin, smooth, and quite rare. This is because they can only shear a lamb once.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is one of the most delicate types of wool and the most common in the world. It’s very soft and smooth, taken from the Merino sheep, and marketed mainly in Australia. Merino wool is typically the raw material for undergarments and athletic wear. The wool is perfect for this sort of clothing because it comes directly in contact with your skin.

Cashmere Wool

Manufacturers refer to this as the caviar of wools. The cashmere wool is from the Kashmir breed of goats. It’s lighter and more delicate than sheep wool but not quite as thin as the Merino wool. Cashmere wool is more expensive because the Kashmir goat’s output is so small that it takes two of them to produce enough wool for only one sweater.

Mohair Wool

When you see a pair of fuzzy slippers or coats, you can almost be sure it is from Mohair wool, gotten from the Angora goats. They are more unyielding and less coarse, so they aren’t prone to much wrinkling.

Angora Wool

This isn’t the same as the Mohair wool that is from the Angora goats. Angora wools are from rabbits. They are so thin that manufacturers have to mix them with other types of wool for durability.

Alpaca, Camel, Qiviut, Vicuna, and Llama wool (only used for exterior designs) are the other wool types.

Chemical Structure of Wool

Wool is a proteinous substance in the class of keratins. It possesses the diversified components of acidic carboxyl and amino acid groups. This is why it can be both elastic and resilient at the same time.

Wool has a heterogeneous structure, unlike cotton and most synthetic fibers. The fibers that make up a ball of wool have highly complex chemical and physical compositions that evolved over millions of years for the sole purpose of protecting the animals from extreme cold and heat.

The Physical Structure of Wool

Wool is composed of a few components:

  • Membrane: Wool consists of a porous outer membrane.
  • Cortex: The cortex is 90% fiber. It is formed by the binding together of millions of cortical cells.
  • Cortical cells: Two types of cortical cells are in a ball of wool; the para-cortical and ortho-cortical cells. They both have their unique qualities, but they are responsible for the wool’s ruffles and creases when combined.
  • Macrofibril: Macrofibrils are components found in cortical cells. They also consist of microfibrils.
  • Matrix: This is what is responsible for the absorbent quality of wool. It’s also accountable for the fire-resistance and anti-static qualities.
  • Microfibril: This is the component that provides strength and elasticity in wools.
  • Twisted molecular chain and helical coil: These are like springs that also equip wools with their resistance and strength. This also helps the wool to maintain its wrinkle-free shape.

Is Wool, in Its Rawest Form, Waterproof?

No, wool is not waterproof. However, wool is water-resistant. Here’s why; wool consists of cuticles that are overlapping each other. These overlapping scales prevent dirt from penetrating while allowing for braiding or felting.

Side note: learn about the difference between waterproof and water resistant here.

The protein composition of wool is also a significant reason it is highly water-resistant. It has high wrinkle recovery properties. Because of the amount of protein it possesses, wool can absorb water and lock a large percentage of its fibers without getting wet. Thus, the fibers of wool can absorb humidity because moistures and dyes penetrate the membrane first.

This means that it can absorb a large amount of water and lock it on its inside without having an overwhelming effect on its exterior, that is, getting wet.

Once water gets inside the wool, a chemical component, hydrogen bond, attaches water molecules to the fiber’s interior surface. This process is called desorption, and it only occurs in the presence of heat.

Wool doesn’t just absorb water but also releases heat in the process (exothermic). This is how wool self-regulates its temperature, meaning it can be warm in the cold and cold in the heat.

Properties that Can Make Wool More Water-Resistant

There are a few properties that can make wool more water-resistant. Look for these qualities in your wool:

High Thread Count

As mentioned earlier, wool consists of smaller components that are overlapping on each other. Low thread counts give space for water to enter holes. So, the higher the thread count, the more water-resistant the wool item gets.


Hydrophobic materials are chemically incapable of dissolving in any solution containing a predominantly aqueous environment. These molecules can bind together the properties of wool and keep it from absorbing even more water. Manufacturers can spray hydrophobic properties on the wool before it is spun, knitted, or woven.


Wool comes with natural lanolin from the body of whichever animal it is from. Lanolin, a pale-yellow water-repellent oil, makes wool waterproof, but it can be washed away or rendered ineffective by heat. Most of the time, farmers extract lanolin to sell separately before processing raw wool. However, if you want to make wool more water-resistant, lanolin is a useful natural component.

How to Make Your Wool Waterproof

There are several ways of making your wool more waterproof, but below, we highlight a few of these:

  • Re-lanolize: Natural wools are supposed to come with lanolin, but if your wools are lacking, we advise that you re-apply lanolin.
  • Re-line: You can reline your wool with another layer of wool. This makes it hard for water to penetrate both layers.
  • Nanotechnology: You can spray chemical components like Au or Cu, making the surface of your material hydrophobic.

Check out our full guide on how to waterproof wool for an inside look at the step-by-step process.

The Last Drop

There you have it! Wool ain’t waterproof, but there are ways to make it more water resistant.

Interested in learning more about the waterproof properties of other fabrics? Check out our related articles below.