Is Merino Wool Itchy? Everything You Need to Know

I was about to order my first merino wool travel shirt. I was excited. I’d done some research. But I was still concerned. Wool wasn’t a lightweight, ideal travel fabric in my mind. I had to know…Is merino wool itchy?

The Internet came to my rescue. I read forums and reviews. No one talked about merino wool being an itchy fabric. So I decided to pull the trigger and buy a travel t-shirt.

TL:DR – Is merino wool itchy? No. Merino wool is not itchy at all. Keep reading to find out why and see the best merino shirts for travelers. 

Looking mad stylish in a merino wool t-shirt!

Is Merino Wool Itchy?

My first travel t-shirt came in. I was excited. I ripped open the package and tore off my shirt. It was time to try this thing on ASAP. I ran my fingers through the soft fabric and gave the shirt a quick smell.

Merino wool was soft and it didn’t have an odor. I put the shirt on. It felt amazing. There was no itch. Merino wool was soft and smooth. The fabric was nothing like the wool that suits were made out of.

I was impressed. I looked in the mirror. Merino had a unique sheen to it. The t-shirt didn’t itch. In fact, it felt great and looked way better than your average cotton t-shirt.

Now, I ended up not being a huge fan of my first experience with merino wool. But I fell in love with merino as the ideal fabric for travelers.

After some research, I found the best merino wool t-shirts.

Why Merino Wool Feels Amazing?

If you’re liked me, you probably heard the word “wool” and immediately thought that merino would be one itchy, uncomfortable fabric. Luckily, merino wool isn’t anything like the wool your grandpa used to rock.

Many associate itchiness with wool due to the diameter of the fibers found in typical wool. In “normal” wool garments, the fibers are large, broad, and are not too flexible. This means they’ll often aggravate the skin when pressed up. The fibers simply cannot bend when pressed against the skin, so they feel prickly and itchy.

Easy to ditch the itch with merino wool!

Merino wool doesn’t have this issue. You won’t feel itchy when wearing merino because the fibers of the fabric are much finer than traditional wool garments. With a small diameter, these merino fibers have flexibility and bend when pressed against the skin.

This means merino wool feels soft and comfortable when on your body. As well, the finer nature of these fibers allows merino wool to be elastic in nature. Many merino t-shirts conform to the body of the wearer. Thus, fit travelers tend to look fantastic in merino clothing.

Best Merino Wool Travel Clothes

As I’m such a big fan of merino wool, especially for travelers, I’ve tested a plethora of clothing made from the fabric. While I may not be an expert, I’ve certainly found my favorite merino wool t-shirts, tank tops, and travel socks.

If you’re looking to add stylish, non-itchy merino wool clothing to your wardrobe, check out these articles:

Merino Wool Isn’t Itchy!

Is merino wool itchy? Not at all! The fabric is fine and will feel great on your skin. I promise. For minimalist and travelers alike, merino wool is the ideal fabric for a variety of clothing garments. Highly recommended.

Looking for a great, stylish merino wool t-shirt? Just click here to see my favorite.

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Jake D

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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How to Wash Merino Wool: Your Go-To Guide - Nomadic Hustle - July 11, 2017

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Reply
desrovum - August 28, 2017

Stop spreading this garbage. After reading so many of these articles, I decided to try a few merino shirts, including icebreaker, and guess what? They still itch. Maybe a bit less than other wool shirts, but the itch is still there.

Reply
    NomadicJake - August 29, 2017

    Bullshit. I have an Icebreaker, which I don’t love – along with a few other merino shirts from a brand I really like. None of them have itched. In fact, I wear the fabric on a daily basis and find it much more comfortable than cotton due to how light it is.

    Reply
      desrovum - August 29, 2017

      Yes, that is your personal experience, but many other people actually do get the itch. Pretty much every article that you read about it though pretends that nobody has these problems and that merino is some kind of miracle wool.

      When people want merino wool, they should go to the store and try wearing it for a while first.

      Reply
        NomadicJake - August 29, 2017

        I agree trying it on in the store is a good idea. But most good merino wool products cannot be found in stores. Most people are not interested in wearing the same merino wool shirt 3-4 days in a row.

        I haven’t got any itch issues from the shirt and neither has my friend who is a merino junkie. But if you have the itch, then merino may not work for you.

        There’s a company in Seattle called Abbly, or something like that. They produce cotton-ish travel shirts. May want to check them out.

        Reply
          desrovum - August 29, 2017

          I just ended up using polyester based clothing for traveling. It pretty much has the advantages that i would want out of merino: doesnt absorb sweat/moisture well, dries quickly and does not need to get cleaned often. Its also a lot cheaper and easier to find than merino wool stuff.

          Reply
          NomadicJake - August 29, 2017

          I definitely think finding the right type of fabric and travel clothing for each person is different. I can only recommend what works for me personally. And I love Merino wool.

          Glad to hear polyester type stuff is working for you.

          Reply
          desrovum - August 29, 2017

          Yeah… It’s too bad really. I’d like the texture of merino if it weren’t for the itchiness.

          I’m curious if you would use the Merino with 90+ F/30+ C temps.

          Reply
          NomadicJake - August 30, 2017

          The merino stuff I prefer can be found here:

          https://www.nomadichustle.com/best-travel-shirt-woolly-merino-wool-henley/

          I’m not sure it’s rated for 90+ but I’ve always felt incredibly comfortable in it.

          Reply
      Richard - September 24, 2017

      My experience is the same as desrovum’s.

      I’ve worn Smartwool, Ibex, Icebreaker, IO Merino, TAD, and Fjällräven, down to 17 micron. I can handle the itch on my feet, and somewhat on my legs, but they’re all intolerably itchy on my upper body and neck — even worse when warm, damp, or pressed into the skin by outer layers or straps.

      I can’t stand the current breed of merino button-down shirts at all.

      This seems to be a (disappointing) running theme in travel and outdoor bloggers: “Merino is amazing! No itch at all for anybody!”. A little research suggests that there are lots of people that find even high quality merino itchy.

      It’s downright frustrating that your response, Jake, is common, because you only have your own personal experience, but you’re writing in absolutes — “No. Merino wool is not itchy at all.”. Merino wool isn’t itchy _for you_, but it’s itchy for plenty of people.

      It’s also worth noting that merino, like all wools, takes ages to dry, stretches out, is ‘warmer when wet’ when compared to cotton, rather than being truly warm, and wears out quickly, which is why it’s so often blended with synthetics.

      I’ve personally had much better experiences with Polygiene synthetics — no stink, no itch, and they dry much more quickly than wool.

      Reply
        NomadicJake - September 24, 2017

        Certainly seems like you might have a hidden agenda here, but I’ll play along.

        First, if you get frustrated or disappointed about my opinion on merino wool, this might not be a blog you want to read. Blogs are inherently personal, and in my opinion, merino wool does not itch.

        Next, I’m just not seeing or feeling it. I’ve tried multiple merino wool brands and products – just like you.

        I haven’t noticed any itch. Maybe a certain percentage of people do, but I have friends who travel with merino. I also have let many friends borrow some of my merino shirts when we go on short trips.

        Never had a complaint.

        I believe 100% that merino wool is one of, if not, the best fabric for male travelers and I plan to keep recommending it.

        I have merino shirts, socks, underwear, and pants. No issues. Also, merino dries quite fast, usually in 6-8 hours.

        Reply
          Richard - September 24, 2017

          No agenda on my part; just trying to make sure that someone else encountering this blog post who isn’t in my privileged position of having spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars trying out different brands is aware that merino isn’t somehow miraculously different from other wools. Some folks can wear Pendleton shirts on bare skin, and some folks can’t wear 17 micron merino.

          If merino works for you, great, but it’s misleading to suggest that it works for everybody, and that it’s qualitatively different from other wools, just because it works for you. That you’re writing on a personal blog doesn’t really change that you’re making absolute statements, and they’re misleading. Merino isn’t silk.

          I spend a lot of time traveling and outdoors, so I read a lot about technical clothing. I’ve been reading posts like yours for years, on blogs and forums, and seen as a result lots of people with limited budgets buy expensive merino base layers, mid layers, or hoodies thinking that they’re the be-all and end-all, only to be disappointed by pilling, holes, fraying cuffs, sag, dry time… and yes, sometimes itch. Merino is not a miracle fabric.

          (In case you’re wondering, I don’t exclusively criticize merino: I’ve had bad durability experiences with lightweight tencel, bad comfort experiences with grid fleece, …)

          I think most travelers would do great with Uniqlo Airism — it’s a fraction of the cost and weight, it’s cooler, it holds its structure better, and it dries much more quickly. Or, if you can tolerate the texture, tencel/merino, MeCo, or another merino blend to avoid some of the downsides of pure merino. Backpackers appreciate the durability and quick drying of synthetics, especially with polygiene; I’ve seen lots of complaints about $80 merino base layers not lasting a season outdoors thanks to its poor abrasion resistance.

          Merino, IMO, is good for the intersection of three sets: people who don’t notice the itch; people who don’t carry backpacks all day; and people who absolutely require low odor with no chance of washing clothes. I think that intersection is smaller than it appears — perhaps, as you say, it’s male nomads bouncing between hostels.

          Reply
          NomadicJake - September 24, 2017

          Had to ask. Many people try to make comments bashing a product before they pitch something else, but you seem genuine.

          You also seem far more knowledgeable about base layers and technical clothing than I ever will be.

          I wear this merino shirt all the time and never have issues. That’s why I sing merino wool praises –

          https://www.nomadichustle.com/best-travel-shirt-woolly-merino-wool-henley/

          Bu, I also have created posts dissing merino products, too. This was before I found the one shirt I love –

          https://www.nomadichustle.com/fit-travelers-shouldnt-invest-merino-wool-t-shirt/

          I believe a lot of digital nomad types will find certain merino wool clothing articles offer a lot of benefits when traveling light. However, if you don’t like the fabric, then that certainly isn’t doable.

          If you could drop me an email at [email protected] – I would greatly appreciate it.

          Reply
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