Merino Wool vs Cashmere: Differences and Comparison

Merino Wool vs Cashmere: Differences and Comparison

High quality and expensive clothing come in all shapes and forms. They vary in design, style, colors, embellishments and, ultimately, in the materials they are made from.

Any of us can list a number of fabrics and materials that are well known for their high price tag. Silk, Cashmere and Merino are only some of those that would make the list.

We have yet to look at Silk, but Merino was recently featured in one of our comparisons and Cashmere is part of this one.

Today, per the title, we will take a look at these two popular types of wool, Merino and Cashmere.

We will learn more about their origin, their use and the differences between the two, in the hopes of understanding their purpose better and the reasons why they are expensive.

Contents:

1. What Is Wool?

Wool, a natural material that is sourced from wool-bearing animals has been discussed at length in our previous works, for example here we have compared it to cotton.

Our purpose here is to just go through some of its characteristics and what types of wool there are.

The original use of wool, which was primarily sourced through the shearing of sheep, was that of providing insulation during the colder months.

Shearing is a very important process in the sheep’s wellbeing and, fortunately, it is a safe procedure for both the sheep and the shearer.

sheep herd

What’s interesting about wool is that, despite being an insulating material, it can also help with keeping you cool during warmer temperatures, depending on the thickness of the garment that you are wearing. This is due to its breathability and its ability to wick moisture away, which help keep you dry as well.

It exhibits both antimicrobial and anti-odor qualities, which make it such a great material to use in base layers and socks.

Wool is also water-repellent for a good amount of time, but it does take a while to dry if wet.

Its fibers are really durable and capable of withstanding bending and use for years and years, making wool one of the most long-lasting materials out there.

2. Different Types of Wool

While we generally refer to the types of wool by the name of the animal they were sourced, sometimes, such as in the case of Angora or Cashmere, we only refer to the breed of animal as opposed to the type.

What you might find interesting is that, technically speaking, wool is a term that refers to wool sourced from sheep. The “wool” from other animals is considered hair, which is why topics such as “Merino wool vs. Regular wool” come up.

There is no “regular wool” per se, it’s the general sheep wool that does not include the Merino sheep, in this case.

When it comes to other animals, there are goats, rabbits, alpacas, llamas, camels and several others that we obtain wool from. Not to mention the numerous breeds of sheep, further complicating the matter of what actually is regular wool.

This list by AgronoMag does a great job at including and explaining about these animals.

Now, let’s get started with today’s chosen two.

3. Merino Wool

Sourced from Merino sheep, a breed found mainly in New Zealand and Australia, merino wool is one of the most sought after types of wool in the outdoor sports clothing industry.

merino sheep

While it bears all the original qualities of wool, as general sheep wool does, merino is renowned for its softness and great ability to regulate body temperature when worn. It is capable of providing both warmth and keeping you cool and dry when needed, depending on the construction of the garment.

This ability is why merino wool is so preferred as a base layer material by those who spend a great deal of their time being active out in nature.

On to its softness, this quality can be attributed to its very fine fibers, which are flexible and easily adaptable to movement, making merino wool an extremely comfortable material both in how it feels and in how well it wears.

You might also like: Wool vs Polyester: Difference, Comparison and Which is Better?

Also due to its fine fibers, merino wool is able to dry more easily than other types of sheep wool and it allows for greater air flow, making it a highly breathable material, which is also the reason why it is able to keep you cool in warm weather.

Like other types of sheep wool, merino exhibits considerable ability to wick moisture way, but its finer fibers make this process a lot more efficient.

Moisture wicking is a necessary quality in base layers as they are in direct contact with the skin and if moisture is allowed to accumulate, you will be soaking wet and uncomfortable, which are not the best conditions to be in when it’s cold outside or when you are trying to enjoy yourself outdoors.

4. Cashmere Wool

An expensive and luxury fabric, Cashmere is one of the softest materials you will come across.

Unlike Merino wool, Cashmere is sourced from goats. While the Cashmere goat is the one that makes the best quality Cashmere wool, any type of goat can be a Cashmere source. It is taken from the under layer of the neck coat of goats, which has a fleecy-like feel and appearance.

Because the fleecy layer in animals is responsible for keeping them warm, like down in waterfowl, this quality transmits to Cashmere wool, too, making it a very insulating material.

black and white goat on grass field

But, it’s not this ability that makes it so expensive. It’s in fact its direct source, the undercoat, which produces only a small amount of cashmere wool, hence why it generally takes around 4 goats a year for a substantial amount to be produced.

Cashmere wool gets its name from the goat, but as a fiber it needs to be under 19 microns in order to be categorized as cashmere wool.

Because there can be different goats used, cashmere wool also comes in different types, the most expensive of which comes from the Himalayas, where the cold conditions help the goats grow an incredibly soft and smooth fleece.

Cashmere is a versatile material and it is used in a number of different garments, including jackets and small winter wear, such as shawls and scarves. Household textile can also be Cashmere, for example blankets or bed linings.

You might also like: Wool vs Fleece: What’s the Difference? Which One is Better?

As a material, it has several qualities that make it so beloved. Aside from its ability to insulate and the softness, it is also quite lightweight and durable.

Like Merino, it exhibits both antimicrobial and anti-odor qualities, along with great moisture wicking ability and high breathability.

5. Use in Jackets and Outdoor Gear

Both Merino and Cashmere can be used in jackets, typically in lightweight ones that are similar to fleece jackets.

The purpose of these jackets is that of providing mild insulation, while also being breathable and able to wick moisture away. They are great layering jackets and suitable for wear in a variety of weather conditions.

Outdoor gear, such as base layers and smaller accessories are also made with Merino and Cashmere, but in performance wear, merino is preferred due to its versatility, whereas Cashmere is more preferable in stylish and elegant garments.

woman with wool clothes in snow

6. Which One is Better?

All qualities considered, Cashmere is the better choice in most regards, but Merino holds its own quite well.

Warmth and Comfort

While Cashmere is typically thinner than Merino wool, it is far better at insulating and it provides more warmth.

This is understandable when the origin of each is considered, one being the undercoats of goats used for warmth, while the other is from the wool of merino sheep.

As for comfort, once again, Cashmere is the better of the two because of its extreme softness and flexible fibers.

Durability

When looking at which one is durable, Merino fares much better in general. Higher quality Cashmere can sometimes overtake Merino wool in this regard, but generally speaking Merino lasts longer. The fibers withstand pressure and wear better, and their flexibility makes them able to adapt to movement easily.

Merino is also a better option as a windbreaker material due to the thickness of the fibers, and it is also a better odor-resistant material because of the presence of lanolin.

Both are antimicrobial and cashmere is the better option for those who are prone to allergies, as lanolin can cause issues in this regard.

Care and Maintenance

While both of them require care when being cleaned, Cashmere is far more delicate. It requires gentle and specific detergents to clean and it is best washed by hand.

Merino, on the other hand, does not mind being washed in the washing machine and does best with cold water and gentle detergents.

Tumble dries are not advised for either, and merino garments should be wrung before hanging to dry as they hold a good amount of water that makes drying slow.

Cost

In this regard, Merino is the better option because it comes in a more affordable price, and the options are various when considering types of garments, construction and use.

Cashmere is quite expensive because of the reasons we mentioned previously.

However, the finer the fiber of both Merino and Cashmere, the higher the grade and the pricier the garment.

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