His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales marked the Campaign for Wool's 5th Anniversary this week at Clarence House by highlighting two of wool's most beneficial technical properties - its natural flame resistance and biodegradability.
To demonstrate wool's ecological and safety benefits, The Prince first buried a wool sweater alongside a synthetic lookalike, both of which are to be dug up during Wool Week in four months' time. Being a natural product, wool is naturally biodegradable. In warm and humid conditions, wool can decompose in as quickly as six months, while garments made from polyester and nylon can take up to 40 years.
The Prince also presented a screening of a burn test where a wool duvet, jacket and carpet were each burned, along with synthetic counterparts. The contrast in flammability made for compelling viewing. Wool's complex cell structure, combined with a high water and nitrogen content, gives it a high ignition point and a tendency to self-extinguish. Petroleum-based synthetic fibers, in contrast, are highly flammable, burning easily and spreading quickly.
The International Wool Textile Organization prepared fact sheets on wool's biodegradability and flame resistance, which describe more fully why wool behaves the way it does. They can be downloaded at www.iwto.org/wool/factsheet.