Alpaca vs. merino wool has ruled the industry for many years, and rightfully so, considering their many beneficial features.
These wools are soft, lightweight, and warm for your skin.
Therefore both will make good choices for you. However, if you are a person that only wants the best, read on to find out about alpaca vs. merino wool, which wool wins the debate.
Table of Contents
- What is Alpaca Wool?
- What is Merino Wool?
- Advantages of Merino Wool
- Disadvantages of Merino Wool
- The Difference Between Alpaca and Merino Wool
What is Alpaca Wool?
(cute brown alpaca)
Alpaca wool is obtained from the fleece of an Alpaca, a sheep breed found in South American nations, especially Peru. The two most common alpaca breeds from which wool is obtained are the Huacaya and Suri alpaca.
Alpaca is known for being highly water-resistant, breathable, and retaining heat more when compared to other sheep. The alpaca wool is also softer and warmer than other sheep wool, making it the preferred choice amongst other sheep wool.
Hats, suits, gloves, fleece jackets, socks, and sportswear, are some of the clothing that alpaca wool is used to make.
Advantages of Alpaca Wool
This section covers some benefits of alpaca wool and why it is a good choice.
- It has high breathability. Alpaca wool removes heat and moisture (sweat) from the skin, preventing body odors.
- It is significantly lighter, softer, and more luxurious than sheep wool. Its diameter is below 20 microns meaning its fiber is fine, light, and soft.
- Lanolin is non-existent in alpaca wool. Lanolin wax is a common substance in many types of wool that lubricates and protects the wool. It, however, causes allergic reactions in persons with allergies when it contacts their skin. Since there is no lanolin in alpaca, it is a winner for people who suffer from allergies.
- It is durable. The tensile strength of alpaca wool is high, meaning it can withstand damage from wear and tear.
- It is a good insulator. It keeps you warm.
- It is highly water resistant, meaning you don’t sweat much wearing alpaca fur.
Disadvantages of Alpaca Wool
- It is rare and difficult to find.
- It is expensive. Alpaca fur is a luxurious fiber, so it is pretty expensive.
- It can be itchy for people with sensitive skin. Although generally a soft fiber, some form of alpaca wool is itchy. The baby alpaca wool is preferred since it is much softer than its adult counterpart and does not itch.
- It may get damaged when industrial chemicals are applied to it.
- Its fiber attracts moths.
What is Merino Wool?
(merino sheep in a paddock)
Merino wool comes from the merino sheep. This sheep was bred initially in Spain but is now found in New Zealand and Australia.
Just like the alpaca, merino wool is a top choice amongst many because of its soft and smooth features.
You will find we listed below reasons why merino wool is a good choice for you or not.
Advantages of Merino Wool
- It is not as expensive as alpaca wool. Merino wool is produced in large quantities; hence easy to find and inexpensive to buy.
- It is flexible and has greater memory, meaning it returns to its former state after being stretched.
- It is soft.
- It is anti-static, i.e., it repels dirt.
- It is wrinkle-resistant.
Disadvantages of Merino Wool
- It is not as durable as alpaca wool.
- It holds much water within its fibers and doesn’t dry quickly.
- The presence of lanolin makes it not suitable for people with allergies.
- It can be itchy on the skin.
The Difference Between Alpaca and Merino Wool
(close-up detail of Peruvian alpaca wool)
Alpaca wool has thinner diameters than merino wool, which is lighter and softer on the skin. The surface of an alpaca is also smoother than merino wool, making it more suitable for people with sensitive skin.
Alpaca fibers are hollow, which means airflow is good, and they retain more heat. Merino has pocket-like fills, which makes for good airflow too.
The hollow properties of the alpaca wool make it retain more air within, which produces more heat than the merino wool. The alpaca wool is a better insulator and warmer than merino.
Alpaca wool is much more water resistant than merino. Alpaca holds 8% of water in contrast to merino’s 30%, making it a better insulator than merino wool. So it would take longer to dry your merino clothing than an alpaca one.
Breathability is the ability of the fiber to ward off moisture from your skin, ensuring that you do not sweat and smell. Both the alpaca and merino are good at wicking moisture away from your skin.
Merino absorbs moisture from your skin into its fibers and regulates your body temperature so you don’t get too sweaty or cold. Alpaca does not absorb moisture much; it wicks it away, keeping you sweatless.
Merino is more coarse and heavy than alpaca wool. The hollow fibers of an alpaca make them very lightweight and easy to wear.
However, coarse merino wool can be made softer via synthetic processing. In general, though, the alpaca is a preferred choice regarding lightness.
The moisture-wicking property of wool is related to its breathability. Alpaca wool wicks away water more than merino because its fibers are hollow. The water cannot hide within the fibers and flies off the wool.
Merino wool is very flexible and elastic. When stretched, it returns to its former state. Alpaca wool does not stretch; therefore, buy alpaca-made clothing that fits you perfectly.
Alpaca wools do not have lanolin wax; therefore is preferred for people with allergies. Other kinds of sheep wool, including the merino, have this wax.
Both the alpaca and merino fibers are durable; however, the upper hand goes to the alpaca. Alpaca wool has greater tensile strength than merino wool, which can withstand more pressure.
The alpaca wool doesn’t get damaged easily from wear and tear and would last longer than the merino wool.
Alpaca wool is much more expensive due to its rarity and luxurious features. The merino sheep is common and produced in large volumes; hence, merino wool is easy to get and more affordable.
The merino and alpaca wool are excellent insulators, fire-resistant, highly breathable, soft, and suitable clothing for any season.
Ease of Servicing
The best way to maintain your alpaca clothing is to hand-wash it; using a washer will destroy its tensile strength. You can either hand-wash your merino clothing or use a washer since it doesn’t hurt your clothing.
Do not apply fabric softeners to either merino or alpaca wool, as this weakens their ability to keep you warm.
Alpaca wool is so soft that it doesn’t require chemical treatments except for dyeing purposes. Alpaca is, therefore, eco-friendly as it produces little to no environmental waste. Merino wool is thicker than alpaca and usually requires synthetic processing to soften. Merino wool is, therefore, less eco-friendly than alpaca wool.
The merino and alpaca wool can be itchy and cause rashes for people with sensitive skin. Merino wool needs to be synthesized to make it softer and less itchy.
Applying chemical materials to alpaca wool can ruin it. Therefore, a solution to its itchiness is to settle for wool from an alpaca baby.
The young merino is also a good choice for a softer and less itchy feel on the skin.
(young girl with white merino hat)
Looking at the features of the alpaca and merino wool, you will agree that both types of wool make an excellent choice for your wear.
They are very soft, smooth, water and fire-resistant, and more. However, a head-to-head of these two shows that alpaca is the clear winner, aside from cost and availability.