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The sheep in plastic

Merino wool is often touted in advertising as the environmentally friendly, pleasant fiber for outdoor sports.  So far, so lied - because the reality unfortunately looks different, an example:

Poison + Plastic = Super Wool?

Natural wool felts and shrinks when washed in the washing machine. Therefore, merino wool must be specially treated to make it machine washable. The wool undergoes what is called a "superwash" finish: 

First, the wool's natural scales are etched away with chlorine compounds [1]. This is because these scales can otherwise become entangled with each other, which in turn would lead to matting during washing. However, these chlorine compounds are highly explosive [2] and leave residues of dangerous AOX compounds in the wastewater [3]. AOX is the name given to a group of quite a few specific chemical compounds that are dangerous to humans and nature [3].


AOX compounds have the following negative effects on humans and nature:

  • They lead to various types of cancer in humans [4]. 

  • They alter the genetic material of humans, which can lead to the transmission of hereditary diseases to children [4]. 

  • They are poorly degraded in nature [5].

  • They accumulate in the food chain [5].

Odoo CMS - a big picture

Secondly: After treatment with chlorine, the wool is additionally coated with a plastic layer to make it as robust as possible [6]. The most common superwash finish uses a plastic called "polyamide-epichlorohydrin" for this purpose[6]. As the "-chloro-" part in the name of this plastic suggests, it is also partly made of chlorine. Therefore, toxic AOX compounds can leak out of the clothing through this plastic coating even while it is being worn[7]. 

ROTAUF: Plastic- and toxin-free since 2017

Since the introduction of the Merino Series at ROTAUF in 2017, ROTAUF has not used a superwash finish with chlorine treatment and plastic sheathing for these reasons. Instead, we use a gentle process called EXP. This means that our wool can also be washed in the washing machine - but "only" at 30°C and with a good wool detergent. The EXP process, developed by our partner Scholler Wool, is based on natural minerals and does not require any chlorine or plastic coating. The EXP process is gentle to wool, to the environment and to people. 

Odoo CMS - a big picture


[1] https://res.cloudinary.com/icebreakernz/image/upload/v1561408922/ourstory/reports/Transparency-Report_DE_LowRes.pdf, Icebreaker Transparency Report 2017, last visited on 05.03.2021.

[2] https://gestis.dguv.de/data?name=001410, Hazardous Substances Information System of the German Social Accident Insurance, last visited on 05.03.2021.

[3] Verdict, Johannes. Köppel, Sebastian. Scharf, Sigrid: Problematic nature of the sum parameter AOX in landfill leachate, In: 2020 Reporte des Umweltbundesamtes Österreich, 0726, 2020, pp. 1-36.

4] Henschler, Dietrich: Toxicology of organochlorine compounds. 1st ed. Weinheim: VHC Verlagsgesellschaft, 1994. 

[5] Fokuhl, Inga: Organohalogen compounds in environmental compartments: Studies on composition, origin and fate of AOX in environmental water samples. Dissertation, Department of Chemistry: Oldenburg: Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, 1999. 

[6] Hassan, Mohammed. Carr, Christopher: A review of the sustainable methods in imparting shrink resistance to wool fabrics. In: Journal of Advanced Research, 18, 2019, pp. 39-60. 

[7] Ma, Wei. Zhang, Shu-fen. Yang, Jin-zong: Development of functional polymers in modification of cotton for improving dyeability of reactive dyes, Research Report, State Key Laboratory of Fine Chemicals: Dalian, China. 2020.

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