Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids. Wool has several qualities that distinguish it from hair or fur: it is crimped, it is elastic, and it grows in staples. Wool's scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which causes the fabric to retain heat. Insulation works both ways: Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes to keep heat out

and protect the body. Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibers hook together.

 

Wool fibers readily absorb moisture, but are not hollow. Wool can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water.

 

Wool absorbs sound like many other fabrics. It is generally a creamy white color, although some breeds of sheep produce natural colors, such as black, brown, silver, and random mixes. Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and some synthetic fibers. It has a lower rate of flame spread, a lower rate of heat release, a lower heat of combustion, and does not melt or drip; it forms a char which is insulating and self-extinguishing, and it contributes less to toxic gases and smoke than other flooring products when used in carpets. Wool carpets are specified for high safety environments, such as trains and aircraft. Wool is usually specified for garments for firefighters, soldiers, and others in occupations where they are exposed to the likelihood of fire.

 

Wool is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic.