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Article: Some Common Causes of Holes in Wool

Some Common Causes of Holes in Wool

Wool is a wonderful natural fibre that feels great in any climate and wears for many years when care is taken. But have you taken out your favourite wool clothing and found it to have holes that weren't there before? Merino Knit Jersey is not as robust as say cotton woven work wear fabric or synthetic fabrics and needs to be treated with care. 

If you grew up with wool or are experienced with fabric then you can probably identify what's caused any holes in wool and whether it is a fabric or manufacturing fault of if caused by factors within your control.

Usually the type of hole is a very good indicator of how it happened and after 30 years experience of seeing many different causes of holes, we know what we're looking at. 

First of all you should check your new garments on receiving your order in case a fabric or manufacturing fault has slipped through our QA checking. This is not very usual but can happen and we remind you to check your garments on receipt of your order as we're happy to rectify any issues straight away.

We cannot control what happens to our products or how they're looked after once you receive them especially if some months have gone by. If you have an issue this blog may help you figure out what's causing any damage.

What's causing holes in your woolly faves?

We've put together a guide on how to identify what's causing holes to your fave woolies and some tips on how to fix them and how to avoid any damage in the future. It is very important to mend any small holes straight away as jersey fabric will ladder and the holes will get bigger.

The wrong detergent

holes caused by incorrect detergent

Holes caused by incorrect detergents being used

Wool technologies have advanced over the recent years and now we have wool that is machine washable, saving you time and effort in the laundry. But one thing hasn't changed and that's that wool is a natural fibre that enzymes love to eat! Enzymes are added to washing detergents to attack tough stains, unfortunately they also attack the natural fibres of wool and will cause weakness to the yarn which will lead to holes.

"The enzyme Protease loves eating protein based stains and removes stains such as egg, blood, faecal matter, and sweat. However, materials made from animal derived products such as silk and wool are also made of proteins. Unfortunately, enzymes can’t differentiate between an egg stain and wool, so they eat away at it, breaking down the fibres and creating small, randomly placed holes. They don’t usually appear after the first wash (so if you’ve accidentally forgotten to separate those wool socks it should be OK), but, after several washes you will begin to notice them develop.

Don’t be tempted to add fabric softener, as it will absorb into the fibre and affect its ability to breathe and to wick the moisture away from your body. This is especially important for wool thermals and performance clothing. It can also make bobbling worse"  The Laundry Investigation.

Other chemicals such as bleach, whiteners or brighteners or stain removers will also weaken the fibres and create holes & ladders in Merino fabric.

AVOID products that say things like "tough on stains" "super white" etc - they'll often have the following wording and are to be avoided  - Optical Brighteners, Enzymes, Bleach - either chlorine or oxygen based, Heavy Duty Detergents, Softeners, Stain Removers, "Bio” detergents containing enzymes

We have put together a list of some wool safe detergents that can be found at most supermarkets for any budget - Read the list

 holes in wool undies from incorrect detergent

Holes in wool caused by enzyme damage - the fibres are weakened with small holes appearing which leads to runs and much larger holes. A change in the orginal colour (usually lightning of the shade) and also thinning of the fabric is a very good indicator that you may be using incorrect laundry products. 

The wrong washing setting

Damage to wool from sharp objects and rubbing

Choosing the wrong settings on your washing machine can cause damage to your wool! Always choose the gentle or wool setting and ensure there are no sharp objects in with your woolies. Washing machine drums with sharp catchers can also snag wools. Check your washing machine before putting in delicates and wools. Sharp objects such as belts, zips, studs and other sharp embellishments can cause ripping and holes and in some cases can shred your delicates. 

Sharp objects, strain & rubbing

Sharp objects catching onto your wool or snagging can cause some serious damage. Items such as a jewelry like rings and bracelets. Constant friction against any kind of fabrics including wool can cause small holes. Catching on things such as wire on gates, things you may sit on, pegs, sticks etc. We've even found that constant rubbing in the same spot on a seam eg. heavy work pants / jeans may contribute to weakening of the fibres.

Be aware of any rubbing against buttons, belt buckles or zips as this may also cause damage. Rubbing in a particular area eg. working against a table where you rub up against another surface, or a backpack rubbing in the same spot may cause holes or runs in the Merino fabric.

Another place some people can experience laddering is at the sides of their Wundies where they pull them up, especially if they're a little too firm.

We have some people who experience laddering and/or holes in the inner thigh  area which is often from legs rubbing together or excessive strain put on the seams. This rubbing & strain can also be a cause of holes with the fibres being weakened even after a short period of time especially if there is a lot of strain placed on the seams and fabric. 

Hole caused by catching

Hole & laddering caused by catching on something whilst sitting down

Insect & Bugs are having wool as their meal

holes caused by insects

Insect Holes

Wool is a beautiful natural fibre which contains keratin, a fibrous protein, which bugs think is quite delicious! Moths, silverfish and other bugs will take the opportunity to enjoy a meal from your woollen clothes plus add in food stains, body oils and sweat & they're going to have a feast! Sometimes bugs may zero in on one particular wool garment and not touch others nearby - we're not sure why this is but maybe it's softer!!

To Deter Pests

Moths lay their eggs (which hatch into larvae and are hungry) in dark environments eg. drawers or cupboards whilst Silverfish love cool environments and love bathrooms and laundries.

Do not leave unwashed garments, particularly underwear, lying around or for excessive periods of time in the laundry basket.

If you have problems with moths and other critters or are storing your merino garments try putting a cat's flea collar or a dab of tea-tree or eucalyptus oil on cotton wool in your cupboards & drawers to keep them away. 

Moths, like many insects, simply can't stand the smell of some of the most aromatic herbs, like mint, lavender, bay leaves, cloves, rosemary, and thyme. Use this to your advantage to create natural moth repellents in your home

When storing them put in a sealed bag or container and before you put them away put the sealed bag in either the sun or deep freeze - this should stop those pesky critters!

Holes in the Crotch Area 

holes in the crotch

Holes in the Crotch

Holes can be caused in the crotch of 100% Merino Underwear if there is an issue with PH imbalance of the body OR undergarments that have not been washed straight away and had bugs attack this VERY particular spot (usually in womens briefs). You'll see a weakening/thinning of the area which may then start with small holes and get bigger. Whilst this is not very common it can happen to some people.

An acidic or out of balance PH may be caused by diet, lifestyle and even different phases in your life or cycle and can also be a good indicator of your health.

Wear & Tear

Wool is not bullet proof and definitely not indestructible, whilst our fabric is pretty durable being a knitted, jersey fabric and natural fibre can hole especially if it gets caught on things. Back Packs, Hip Belts even hand bags can cause friction

Pilling or "Bobbles"

 All wool products can pill but if you take some precautions you can limit getting "bobbles" on your garments.

First of all please wash your Merino garments before you wear them as this will help get rid of any "loose" fibres and help set your fabric. It is ok to try them on when you first get them without washing them but don't wear them for a long period of time (also this product passes through many other hands before it gets to you!).

A common area for pilling is between the legs and under the arms where rubbing occurs. If sleeping in your Merino gear in flannelette sheets you may also experience pilling and also fibre transfer from the sheets. If you do get pilling or "bobbles" use masking tape to remove it which makes the surface smooth,

Pilling from Flanelette Sheets

A very bad case of the "Bobbles" Merino Thermals worn with Flannelette Sheets

Fabric or Manufacturing Faults

Sometimes fabric faults can occur which can include when a needle breaks in the knitting process and then is actually "set" into the fabric in the finishing process but is really easy to identify. This is the same with any snip nicks caused by machinists in the making up or even when people receive our parcel and cut the post satchel open with scissors & inadvertently cut their order (it is very obvious!).

If our machinists find a fault before they sew the garment we will always recut that pattern piece straight away and if it goes past them we have a crack Quality Assurance team here and they usually pick up any faults before the garment is packed and put away. 


Knitting Fault

Wool Mending Tips

The good news is that no matter how holes, runs or ladders are made, they can be repaired so you can continue to wear your Merino garments. The sooner you mend them the better!

If the damage is minimal and the hole is smaller than 5 millimetres, then you can use fusible bonding web to fix the hole. If the hole is larger, you can use a darning technique to mend the fabric by interweaving with a needle and thread.

Turn your garment inside out and look at the hole. Find a good spot near the hole to fix your thread to the fabric. Now start sewing the hole closed by stitching 2-3 mm above and below the hole and closing the hole shut. Tie off the thread by fixing it again with a knot, so the thread won't become loose. 

Nail the Trail Mending Guide

Mending Wool by Woolmark

Best Wool Wash by the Woolmark Company

Holes in Merino - Laundry Investigation

Moth Prevention Guide by WoolDay


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