The Ins and Outs of Sustainable Eco Wool

At Mercurius Australia we have always valued the importance of natural products to the education of the developing child. At the core of our business we regularly review our social, economic and environmental impact, striving towards transparency and balance.

Recently, we have been casting our eye over the ethical and environmental credentials of the wool industry, working all the way along the production chain, from the farmers and wool growers, right through to the spinners and dyers. The information we have gathered has refined and informed many decisions in the production of our new eco-wool, 100% pure wool that is soft, durable, and meets high ethical, social and environmental standards.

Our new eco wool, marketed under the brand name 'Golden Fleece Australian Eco-Wool', begins its journey on the backs of Australian non-mulesed sheep, grown and bred on Australian sheep farms, eco washed off-shore and dyed and spun right here in Australia. Proudly hand washable, our new wool is based on 24 vibrant colours from Goethe’s colour wheel, in 16ply, 12ply and 8ply, as well as our original and natural 'ready to dye' 250gm skeins. 

On our wool journey, we have taken an in depth look at many processes that are considered standard in the wool industry. In our quest for sustainability in balance, we have come to understand that not all wool is equal and transparency is not as simple as producing and labelling the finished wool as 100% pure new wool. 

We are proud to label our wool 'Golden Fleece Australian Eco Wool - 100% pure new wool, from non-mulesed sheep, eco-washed and hand washable'

Read on to find out more ...

What exactly is Non-Mulesed Wool?

Mulesing was developed in 1931 by Mr John Mules to protect sheep against ‘fly strike’. ‘Fly strike’ is a serious condition where flies do what flies do, and lay eggs in the folds of skin on a sheep’s bottom. Mulesing is the procedure developed to surgically remove these folds of skin, leaving a smooth bottom and nowhere for the flies to lay their eggs.

A complex issue, developed to avoid a serious condition, mulesing remains a common practice on Australian sheep farms. In 2019, the Government estimated approximately 70% of Merino wool-producing sheep in Australia are mulesed. Around the world, mulesing has come under increased scrutiny and together with the question of animal welfare this has led to mulesing now being illegal in many countries, where alternatives are now sort.

To avoid mulesing, less severe and more humane alternatives still need to be applied to avoid ‘Fly Strike’. Breeding to encourage ‘smooth bottomed’ sheep is one such alternative, as is douching with blowfly growth deterrent chemicals.

Golden Fleece Australian Eco-Wool supports farmers to develop humane and practical alternatives to mulesing by securing certified, non-mulesed wool as our raw material.

What is the Process used to Wash Wool?

All wool needs to be washed to remove the natural oil (lanolin), contaminants, soil and dust. This process is called wool scouring. Current conventional wool scouring uses high amounts of chemicals and detergents to breakdown the oil, leading to growing concerns for the environment.

Golden Fleece Australian Eco-Wool is ‘eco-washed’ with a mild biodegradable soap during the scouring process. This significantly reduces the environmental impact of the disposal of waste water after scouring, as well as the impact on the health and wellbeing of the workers handling the raw materials. The soap we use is compliant with strict GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) guidelines. And a bonus we have found with our new eco-wash process, is it not only results in a healthier eco-system, but also results in wool that is significantly softer than when scoured in harsher detergents – a win win situation!

What is the difference between Hand Washable and Machine Washable Wool?

In our age of busy lifestyles, we often look for ways to reduce some of the burdens of daily life and our growing workload.

In its natural state wool is water repellent, fire retardant, maintains warmth, is anti-bacterial and breathable. In other words, wool provides a layer of insulation and protection without sealing us in. It lets us breathe with the world – keeping us warm when needed and allowing air to circulate. It is exactly these properties that make merino wool a fave amongst sports people – it keeps you warm, keeps you cool, wicks sweat from your body and keeps those smelly bacteria at bay!

As with all natural products, the more we process it, the further we take it away from its natural properties and the more impact we have on the environment. Wool is a natural product that requires care to keep it this way. When you read machine washable on a wool label, this means it has undergone special processing to stop or reduce wool felting and/or shrinkage. This process is a patented process called Super Washing.

Super Washing is an additional process completed as one of the last steps in wool processing. There are two main methods of super washing – the first is to immerse or wash the wool in a chlorine acid solution which flattens the barbs that catch and felt the wool together. The second, which is often combined with the first, is to add a resin polymer coating to the wool – effectively sealing the wool in a plastic coating. 

Super washing is great news for our busy lifestyles, while leaving questions as to the environmental impact and how eco-conscious or natural the resulting plastic coated wool actually is.

Golden Fleece Australian Eco-Wool is 100% natural, hand washable wool – please follow all old-fashioned, tried and tested, wool care instructions

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