What are the GOOD consequences of the Superwash?
It becomes machine-washable
Because the yarn has gone through the superwash process, it can be washed in the machine or by hand at higher temperatures and wrung out without fear of shrinking or felting.
It becomes softer
The removal of the scales and coating of the fibre in resin results in a much smoother and therefore softer surface than most non-superwash yarns can offer.
What are the BAD consequences of the Superwash?
It will not absorb moisture anymore
In the absence of the hydrophobic scaly surface, the fiber forfeits its capacity to repel water and becomes less efficient at transporting moisture. Although the absorbent hydrophilic core remains, what you come into contact with is not the natural wool itself but rather the synthetic coating. Consequently, not only does it exhibit reduced waterproofing, but it also diminishes its ability to wick moisture away from the skin effectively.
It will be less warm and elastic
The flattening of scales and their fixation with resin disrupts the wool's ability to trap heat and air. Additionally, garments crafted from Superwash yarn tend to lose their shape over time because the fibers lack scales to grip onto, leading to a gradual loss of elasticity and form.
It will not be flame retardant anymore
The polymer coating diminishes the inherent flame retardant properties of wool and could potentially increase its combustibility. Wool, with its inherent high water and nitrogen content, possesses natural flame-retardant qualities, surpassing many other fibers in terms of ignition resistance.
The process has huge environmental impacts
The 'Chlorine-Hercosett Treatment' involves the extensive use of water and harmful substances, contributing significantly to wastewater pollution. Chlorine and polyamide-epichlorohydrin resin are substances with high toxicity. Additionally, a natural reaction takes place between chlorine and the carbon compounds in wool, leading to heightened levels of adsorbable organohalogens (AOX). Within the AOX category, dioxins, renowned for their extreme toxicity, pose a particularly grave risk and are recognized as one of the most hazardous substances known.
It will shed microplastics from the coating
Given the polymers are applied as a thin layer, the residues could well pose microfibre or indeed nanoparticle risks during washing.
Let's discover some more sustainable alternative to make wool machine-washable...
The LANAZYM Process by Dr.Petry
An eco-friendly enzymatic process with protease enzymes which offers an ecologically clean alternative to Chlorine-Hercosett Treatment'. The applied enzymes modify the scales of the wool resulting in fibers with a reduced tendency to felting, while also maintaining their natural properties.
EXP by Schöller
EXP stands for 'EX-Pollution' and is a process developed by the Schoeller Spinning Group. Instead of chlorine, it uses natural salts as an oxidizing agent, and then adds small polymer patches on the surface of the yarn to make it machine-washable. A very special advantage of the EXP process is that it - contrary to the standard superwash process - doesn't release any AOX pollutants into the waste water, making it a lot less toxic.
Naturetexx Plasma® by Südwolle
Naturetexx Plasma® is a plasma treatment that modifies the surface of the individual wool fibres altering the scales on the fibre surface that cause felting, just by using electricity and air as raw materials. It stands as a real alternative to industry-standard chlorine-based technology, as no chlorine is used and no absorbable organic halogen compounds (AOX) is produced.
WoolUp by The Woolmark Company and Jeanologia
A new, more eco-friendly process to make wool garments machine washable. The WoolUp treatment is a relatively simple dry process that treats product in garment state using an ozone treatment that modifies the surface of the wool fibres. It removes the tips of the scales and smooths the fibres which allows them to slide against each other without interlocking, thereby preventing felting and shrinking.