Does Merino Wool Smell?


Merino wool is known for being smellproof, but does it hold up to those claims? Wool has anti-microbial properties making it smell resistant, but does merino wool smell?

Merino wool is smell resistant, but it will eventually smell if you don’t wash it. It absorbs the odor causing bacteria trapping the smell. You can wear the same merino wool gear for 3-4 days without washing.

Wool is smell resistant, but it will eventually start to smell like body odor. You will need to wash your wool gear regularly to cut down on the smell. I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Nikwax Wool Wash detergent.

Merino Wool Is Smell Resistant Not Smellproof

Merino wool is known for it’s anti-microbial smellproof properties, but don’t tell that to my wife. Manufacturers claim that you can wear the same wool gear for over a month straight without washing it. Honestly, that’s absolute bullsh*t.

After years of wearing the same wool gear it will start to take on a nasty funk. Merino wool absorbs odor causing bacteria trapping in the smell and keeping the odor from building up.

This allows you to wear wool gear longer (3-4 days) without starting to smell. It’s great when you don’t have much room to pack, but years of stinky bacteria starts to add up. Merino wool is fairly easy to wash so it’s not that big of a deal.

How Do You Get The Smell Out of Merino Wool?

Some people say that their merino wool doesn’t smell, but all my wool clothing eventually starts to stink. It doesn’t matter what brand you buy, wool will eventually start to smell.

It starts off as a slight body odor smell that goes away after washing. As you continue to wash your gear that funky smell will start to linger. Regular wash cycles slow down the stink, but you will eventually need an enzyme soak or vinegar bath.

There are three basic methods to cut down the smell. You need to handwash wool gear (campsuds soap) on the trail. Wash your wool gear in the washing machine(Nikwax Wool Wash) between trips. Do an enzyme soak or vinegar bath after your gear starts to smell.

Wool Smells When It Gets Wet

Wool starts to take on a wet dog smell after it gets wet. It’s easy to get confused between body odor smell and the smell of wet wool. What seems like smelly body odor might actually be the natural smell of wool.

How To Hand Wash Wool On The Trail

Carry an extra baselayer and 2-3 pairs of socks on long backpacking/camping trips. This gives you an extra shirt/socks to wear as your first shirt dries. This will seriously cut down your overall pack weight.

Merino Wool Dries way faster than other materials. You can hand wash your wool gear and it will dry overnight. All you need is access to water and small bottle of camp suds or any other biodegradable soap.

Soak the shirt, use a drop of CampSuds and rub down your gear. Pay attention to wherever sweat accumulates like the armpits.

  • Use a mild laundry detergent like CampSuds all purpose wash for merino wool gear. It won’t damage fibers and you can actually use it to wash dishes as well.
  • Fill up a large pot or sink with warm water and a few drops of soap/detergent. Drop in your wool gear and let it soak for a few minutes.
  • Swish the wool around for a few minutes and help the soap penetrate through your clothes to remove dirt.
  • Rinse the clothes out a few times with fresh warm water.
  • Gently squeeze out the water and hang your clothes out to dry. Merino wool dries fast so it should be dry in a few hours. I like to wash my gear before bed so that it’s dry in the morning.

Merino wool dries fast, but it might not dry completely on wet humid days. Thankfully merino wool is surprisingly comfortable when wet. Your clothes will feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Washing Merino Wool In The Washing Machine

If you’re close to home just wash your wool gear in the washing machine. Use a laundry detergent specifically made for wool. I really like Nikwax Wool Wash, but it can be hard to find. Woolite Delicates is a nice substitute and it’s available at any grocery store.

  • Turn your gear inside out to prevent damage
  • Use a gentle cold or warm water cycle to wash your gear. This reduces the risk of damaging the wool fibers and prevents shrinkage. Most modern products are preshrunk at the factory, but hot water cycles could cause minor shrinkage.
  • Gently squeeze the wool to wring out excess moisture. Wool dries fast so you can just hang it up to dry overnight.

Why Does Wool Smell After Washing? Try an Enzyme Wash or Vinegar Bath

There are two main reasons why your wool smells after a wash cycle. It can either be the natural smell of wet wool or there’s bacteria trapped inside the wool fibers.

Does it smell like musty wet dog or armpit body odor? If it smells like B.O. you might need an enzyme wash or vinegar bath. This will neutralize the smell of bacteria buildup.

Start off by soaking your wool in vinegar and let it soak overnight. In the morning wash it in the washing machine and hang it outside to dry in the sun.

If the vinegar wash doesn’t work you need to use an enzyme wash. This could potentially damage your clothes so use an enzyme cleaner as a last resort.

Gear Aid’s Revivex Odor Eliminator can get rid of bacteria at the fiber level. It works really well and can get rid of even the mustiest odors.

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