Hemp has been used to produce clothes for millennia, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years as eco-friendly and vegan clothing has grown in popularity. However, there are certain drawbacks to using hemp instead of classic materials like wool.
This blog post will help you understand the benefits and disadvantages of each material to decide which is best for you, depending on your needs and circumstances!
But, before looking at how these two fabrics compare, we need to understand how each one of them is made. If you’re already familiar with the process, feel free to skip to the comparison section.
How is hemp fabric made?
Cannabis sativa is the plant from which hemp fiber is produced. The crop has been grown for medical purposes for at least 10,000 years, making it one of the first plants humans harvested. Hemp is regarded as an excellent clothing material that outperforms cotton and synthetic fabrics in most criteria.
The form of hemp used to make textiles is known as industrial hemp, and it has practically no THC—the psychoactive component. Industrial hemp production and products are now legal in all 50 states according to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill.
The hemp stalks are baled like hay to make hemp fabric, and the fibrous outer portion is separated from the woody core. The bast fibers are next washed and carded into strands. Then, steam explosion is applied to turn raw hemp into a woven fiber.
Hemp has a similar texture to cotton when turned into fabric, but it also has a canvas-like feel. Typically, hemp is blended with other fibers like flax or cotton, depending on the texture and softness that the final textile needs to have.
How is the wool fabric made?
Wool fabric is made of a natural fiber produced from the hair of sheep and occasionally goats. Wool is composed of keratin, a fibrous protein found in animal hair and skin.
Wool is made by spinning animal hairs into yarn. The first step is to shear the wool-bearing animals. The wool is then cleaned and separated into bales. Although most major wool producers employ chemical catalysts, the oily lanolin in raw wool can be removed in many methods.
After cleaning and sorting the wool fibers, they are carded, which turns them into long strands. Then, the strands are spun into yarn, subsequently woven into clothing and other woolen fabrics.
After dyeing, the fibers may be treated with an oxidizing chemical before being steam-heated or boiled to generate a strong and occasionally glossy finish. The cloth is then run through large rollers to smooth the surface of the material.
How does hemp clothing compares to wool clothing?
Now, let’s look at how hemp clothing compares to wool in terms of sustainability, maintenance, and temperature regulation.
But first, let’s start by stating that the main factor differentiates these two fabrics: Hemp is a vegan fiber, and wool is not. Hence, wool clothing cannot be considered cruelty-free in the vast majority of cases. If that’s something you care about, then, by all means, consider hemp clothing as an excellent alternative.
Hemp vs. wool in terms of sustainability
Hemp is grown in a variety of climates and nations. It takes only minimal irrigation to grow, can be cultivated without pesticides or herbicides, and leaves the land healthy for future harvests after harvesting. Hemp is also a carbon-negative raw material, which means it absorbs more carbon than it generates.
Wool requires a lot more resources to produce than hemp, from rearing sheep to processing the fibers. For starters, sheep need a lot of food and water and must be cleaned, maintained, and treated for medical purposes.
Farmers must clear land to have adequate conditions to raise animals, which, in turn, damages the natural environment by increasing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing biodiversity—this is true for any cattle graze, and sheep are no exception.
In general, hemp takes fewer resources to grow, produces less waste, requires less water to manufacture, and requires fewer chemicals throughout its processing.
Another point worth mentioning is that hemp clothing is much more durable than its wool counterpart. Hemp fabric is also stronger and lasts longer. It is supposed to break in rather than break down, resulting in items that will last a lifetime.
Clothing that wears out faster means more money spent and wardrobe essentials replaced at higher rates. Hemp fibers are among the strongest in the world, so you don’t have to worry about the problem that wool is prone to.
Hence, we can conclude that hemp is more environmentally friendly than wool, except for one thing. Wool is inherently resistant to water and has certain insulating qualities that hemp does not have. Hemp must be mixed with other textiles to obtain specific characteristics, making it more difficult for buyers to get 100% hemp clothing, which means hemp clothing has less eco-friendly materials.
Hemp vs. wool in terms of temperature and moisture regulation
While both hemp and wool aid in temperature regulation, hemp is breathable enough to be worn all year. It’s a lightweight fabric that you may wear when exercising in the heat or commuting to work in cold conditions.
Hemp has excellent insulating characteristics, so you can be confident that you’ll keep warm while wrapped in this beautiful fabric. However, it should not be worn on its own. Appropriate undergarments should be used in colder weather, and outer clothes should be worn over your hemp clothing.
Unlike hemp, wool is not a fabric that can be worn all year, except for merino wool, which is the ideal wool in the summer heat because of its lighter feel and texture.
Wool is the best material to use in the coldest temperatures since it absorbs moisture and keeps you dry—this aids in body temperature regulation and remaining warm. Vegan fibers—like hemp —should be avoided in freezing temperatures as they become a liability when wet. Wool, on the other hand, can still keep you warm when wet.
That’s why when people think of hiking clothing for freezing temperatures, they generally think of wool socks since they are considered to be fantastic at keeping moisture off of your feet, providing warmth, and not smelling. Natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc., perform substandard in freezing and wet circumstances.
Wool is also way better than hemp to retain heat because of small pockets of air that function as insulation.
Hemp vs. wool in terms of maintenance
When it comes to caring for your lovely hemp clothing, you will discover that it is a breeze! This beautiful fabric is inherently resistant to moth and mildew damage, so you’ll never have to dry clean your garments. As long as hemp clothing is not combined with other materials, it may be machine cleaned and dried.
Hemp fabric is not prone to shrinking and is highly resistant to pilling. Hemp fabric softens with each wash, and the fibers do not deteriorate even after hundreds of washes.
On the other hand, wool generally requires meticulous care and dry cleaning, which is expensive and inconvenient, especially if you’re traveling or always on the go!
Do you want to wear environmentally friendly, durable, and cruelty-free clothing? Hemp is the way to go. However, if you live in a colder climate or have sensitive skin that needs extra protection from the cold, then wool may be your best option.
Both will work for different types of people and occasions, so it’s worth trying both out before deciding which material to invest in in the long term. What do you think? Leave us a comment!