Baby alpaca wool and Merino sheep’s wool are both known for their high-quality properties, in particular their exceptional softness. However, with both fibres already at the higher end of the wool market, how do we determine which is better?
Fortunately, when the outstanding qualities that distinguish the two are put under the spotlight, the answer actually becomes very obvious. Already known for its exceptional softness, baby alpaca wool is also warmer than Merino wool, more eco-friendly and 100% hypoallergenic. This is why we believe it is the best fibre for making the softest baby clothes and the cosiest home accessories.
Here’s a little more detail as to how the qualities of baby alpaca wool triumph over the drawbacks of Merino sheep’s wool.
Contrary to what you might think, baby alpaca wool doesn’t actually come from baby alpacas and gets its name from the fineness of its individual fibres. The fineness of the fibres is measured in microns and the smaller the micron measurement, the finer the wool is. The fibres that makeup baby alpaca wool is always less than 20 microns in width which makes it incredibly luxurious and soft to touch. Merino sheep’s wool, on the other hand, is always less than 24 microns, which means that while it’s undoubtedly soft, it’s not the softer of the two.
Warmth & Sensitivity
Up to five times warmer than sheep’s wool, alpaca fibres are completely hollow which means they can trap and insulate a greater amount of warm air than sheep fibres which can only insulate small pockets of air.
What’s more, sheep’s wool often contains Lanolin which is an oily, waxy substance that can cause the skin to become irritated and sore. Baby alpaca wool is 100% hypoallergenic and so free from lanolin and other impurities which might cause discomfort on the skin.
As a warmer and more sensitive fabric, baby alpaca wool is a better choice than sheep’s wool for making baby clothes which are soft and soothing on sensitive skin.
Sheep’s wool often goes through a treatment known as ‘Superwashing’. It is treated in this way to remove the problematic features which are present in the outer surface, including lanolin. This requires the use of hazardous chemicals which pollute the surrounding ecosystem. As alpaca fibres are entirely hypoallergenic, they do not require this additional treatment and as a result, does not cause the same problems with pollution.
Additionally, whilst sheep are prone to damaging the land which they graze on, alpacas are incredibly gentle grazers. When eating, alpacas avoid pulling out the root of the plant and their soft padded feet prevent them from wearing down the ground they tread on.
Baby alpaca wool is, therefore, a sustainable fibre that you can be confident has an eco-friendly footprint.
In spite of its light and delicate qualities, alpaca fibres are more durable than you might think and their inherent water-repellent properties mean they won’t be damaged if exposed to water.
Whilst sheep’s wool absorbs more water than alpaca, it can become saturated very quickly. If this happens it can cause the skin to sweat more easily which can be uncomfortable and produce odours. The water-repellent properties of baby alpaca wool mean water runs off it rather than becoming absorbed and saturated.
So ultimately, whilst Merino sheep’s wool guarantees softness, the same cannot be said for the level of warmth, sensitivity and sustainability it can provide. With its unique thermal properties, hypoallergenic quality and eco-friendly footprint, baby alpaca wool are distinguished from sheep’s wool as a superior fibre.