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sheep wool insulation carpeting mattresses

3 Ways to Use Sheep Wool in Your Home

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
May 24, 2018

Over five million sheep grazing on different farms around the United States, with Texas and California being the main producers. While most American families associate sheep with lamb chops and gyros, wool is another major product of sheep farming. Each sheep can produce upwards of 30 pounds of wool each year without killing or injuring the animal.

The building and housing industry could benefit from this abundant, renewable, and sustainable material. Why?

Environmental and Health Benefits of Sheep Wool

Unlike synthetic fibers, sheep wool is obtained from a renewable resource—the sheep themselves—raised by small farmers and ranchers around the world. Many synthetic products found in the home, such as foam (for bedding or insulation) and nylon (for carpeting), are made from byproducts of petroleum.

Whereas the cattle industry has come under fire in recent years because almost 70% of all grain produced in the United States is fed to cattle and other livestock, sheep can survive perfectly well on pasture alone. While there certainly are issues related to overgrazing, correct pasture management of sheep on divided paddocks can actually actively sequester carbon from the atmosphere, restore ecosystems, and improve overall soil fertility. 

From a health perspective, sheep wool is a completely natural fiber that produces absolutely no harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that negatively affect indoor air quality. Sheep wool produces no known irritation to the eyes, skin, or lungs. The lanolin in sheep wool is a natural fire retardant, thus helping homeowners to keep their homes safe without relying on PBDEs and other potentially carcinogenic chemical fire retardants. 

Sheep wool products utilized in homes can also help lower the carbon footprint of the home. Buildings account for 39% of all CO2 emissions in the United States. One way to reduce that footprint is by sourcing natural materials with a much lower embodied energy rating that can also improve the energy efficiency performance of the house itself.

As a natural, renewable, sustainable, and healthy material, Wool should be utilized as much as possible inside the homes we live in. Three products, in particular, have been gaining traction in the marketplace by using wool as replacements for synthetic materials that could be detrimental to your health: insulation, carpeting, and mattresses.

natuwool sheep wool insulation
Photo courtesy of Natuwool

Wool insulation

Instead of opting for traditional fiberglass insulation that can release minute particles into the air that subsequently cause lung and respiratory problems, sheep wool has several added benefits while also delivering optimum thermal performance. The fibers in sheep wool can absorb and exude moisture without altering the energy efficiency performance. This hygroscopic feature means that your home will stay well insulated while also benefitting from a natural air dehumidifying process that sheep wool offers. Some wool insulation products can absorb up to 35% of their weight in moisture without reducing their insulation abilities. Wool insulation can also reduce noise levels, thus acting as an acoustic insulator for people who live next door to raucous neighbors or loud highways.

Havelock Wool

Havelock Wool manufactures high-performance, all-natural wool insulation using sheep's wool from New Zealand. Their processing involves the lowest net embodied energy in the industry while making insulation products that meet or exceed industry standards. Installation doesn't require protective clothing. From Reno, Nevada, they're always looking to work with those who appreciate the value of alternative building products and a healthier, more sustainable ecosystem.

Black Mountain Insulation

Black Mountain Insulation is one company offering 100% natural sheep wool insulation products. Manufactured in the United Kingdom, their Natuwool insulation products work well with timber-framed houses. This natural insulation has the ability to “lock up” formaldehyde gas, which is one of the most common toxic (and possibly carcinogenic) VOCs that leach into homes from paints, processed wood, and a host of other common building products. 

earthweave sheep wool carpet
Photo courtesy of Earthweave

Wool carpeting

Another common use of sheep wool in the home is for carpeting alternatives. Whereas most carpets in America´s homes are made from nonrenewable synthetic fibers such as nylon and polypropylene, wool carpets have been made for thousands of years. Unlike other commercial and synthetic carpets, wool carpets and rugs can actually purify indoor air quality instead of releasing potentially dangerous VOCs. The natural crimp in wool fiber will prevent dirt, dust mites, and other allergens from penetrating deeply into the fabric. It can also absorb and hold other common indoor contaminants such as nitrogen dioxide from gas appliances and sulfur dioxide malfunctioning chimneys.

As we mentioned above, wool can absorb water vapor while simultaneously repelling spills, helping regulate humidity levels in homes while also naturally deterring stains. Because sheep wool contains lanolin, it will not support combustion and can protect your home from fires.

One company specializing in non-toxic carpet alternatives is Earth Weave. Their Bio-Floor™ Carpet models are made from 100% undyed and untreated wool. The primary backing of this carpet option is made from a blend of cotton and hemp, both of which are also natural materials. Even though their carpets contain no artificial or synthetic dies, there is a wide range of earth tone colors that will fit in with almost any interior design palette.

holy lamb organics wool mattress
Photo courtesy of Holy Lamb Organics

Wool mattresses

We spend about eight hours every day on our beds—have you ever thought about the ingredients in your mattress? Finding a healthy and sustainable mattress is an important priority for a healthy home. Many mattresses are infused with potentially dangerous fire retardants, as mandated by U.S. law.  Because sheep wool mattresses contain lanolin, a natural fire retardant, wool mattresses eliminate the need for chemical flame retardants. 

Shepherd´s Dream is a leading company in the manufacture of 100% wool mattresses. They offer 4 and 5 inch thick mattresses that include up to 10 layers of thick wool batting that will allow this mattress to last for decades. 

Holy Lamb Organics is another provider of wool mattresses that claim to be naturally temperature-regulating due to the ability of sheep wool to wick moisture away from the body. If you´re not sure if a wool mattress for you, this company also allows you to order product samples to determine if you are ready to get rid of that Memory Foam mattress for a healthier and more natural alternative. 

Final words

One of the essential characteristics of a sustainable home is the use of natural and renewable materials that are sustainably sourced while also contributing to a healthier home environment. Sheep wool, when raised correctly, can restore ecosystems, capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and provide sustainable living for small, family farmers. From insulation to carpeting to mattresses, there are several unique applications for sheep wool to be used in your home as a substantially more sustainable alternative.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-09T17:21:08+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.