Some of our yarns are 'superwash treated' or 'superwash yarns'. But what does superwash actually mean?
Superwash is a treatment method that is used to make wool fibres more resistant to shrinking and felting. It involves treating the wool in chlorinated water which dulls the tips of the scales of wool. That means the wool fibres are less able to stick to each other, making them less likely to felt. Following the chlorine treatment, a very, very thin layer of resin is applied to the wool fibres. This smoothes the scales, makes the yarn easier to handle and is another way to prevent the yarn from felting in the wash.
Is it safe? As so often with any industrial or chemical process - it all depends how it is done! In the 1980s, superwash treatment was often decried as bad for the environment because many wool processors simply released the effluent from the superwash treatment into the environment.
This has changed significantly in the European Union (EU) with the introduction of very strict environmental laws. EU laws require that all by-products from chemical treatments get removed from the water before that water is released into the water systems. As a result, waste water that has been used in superwash processing in the EU is now cleaner than your average tap water that you use for drinking and cooking.
It is important to note, however, that some countries outside the EU do not have the same standards. As so often, when it comes to any wool treatment it is important to choose quality over price.