Is Wool Waterproof?

Is Wool Waterproof?

Is Wool Waterproof? Understanding This Natural Material

Wool is highly regarded as one of the most used and valuable textiles in the world. Wool fibers are used in fashionable sweaters, jackets, and other warm and cozy garments. It’s uniquely suited for applications where cotton would not perform as well. 

In this article, we will answer common questions about how waterproof wool fabric is and share some other excellent characteristics that make it a warm choice for cold and wet conditions. 

Waterproof vs. water-resistant vs. water repellent 

First, we need to look at the different types of “waterproofing” available in outerwear. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but they mean very different things:


Waterproof garments provide the highest protection from water penetrating the fabric. It creates a watertight seal so no water can penetrate the fibers of the jacket. These coats work well in heavy rain or snow and often have taped seams to prevent water from penetrating the fabric at these critical junctions.

Many waterproof jackets contain a thermal membrane layer for extra warmth and Durable Water Repellent (DWR) application for additional moisture protection. 

Water Repellent

The next-driest option is a water-repellent fabric. Water doesn’t penetrate easily through the material, but it’s not guaranteed to keep you dry in extreme weather conditions. 

Jackets made from water repellent fabrics and construction perform well in light showers or rain, and you can add extra DWR coating for additional moisture protection. The seams of these jackets are not typically taped, so if exposed to large amounts of water, they can potentially penetrate through holes in the fabric seams. 


Water-resistant jackets provide the lowest level of protection. A water-resistant coat keeps most water from penetrating the fibers. It can be coated with DWR to assist in the beading of water, so it rolls off rather than penetrating the fibers. These jackets will keep you dry enough in light rain or short periods in heavier precipitation, but don’t wear them through harder rain or snow if you want to stay dry. 



Another term that is often used in place of waterproof is “weatherproof.” Describing a garment as weatherproof refers to its ability to protect and perform when exposed to harsh natural elements like rain, snow, and wind. Weatherproof and waterproof go hand in hand but Weatherproof implies a full range protection technology designed specifically for multiple conditions you may encounter outdoors, not just water.  

For example, the Lucia bonded herringbone cotton rain coat is a light-weight jacket with good weatherproofing. It features innovative fabric technology that is both waterproof and windproof. 

Read more about the differences between different types of “waterproof” coats

How waterproof is a wool coat?

Based on the above definitions, wool is considered water-repellent, not waterproof, due to wools’ natural lanolin coating.

Where does this lanolin coating come from? Sheep naturally produce a waxy substance called lanolin. The lanolin helps the sheep shed water from their coats and protects them from the environment. When the wool is sheared and spun into fabric, it retains much of this lanolin, creating a hydrophobic coating and water repellency properties.

However, we can’t say it’s fully waterproof because the lanolin can break down over time and lose its ability to protect the fibers. The only way to claim wool fabrics are waterproof is to add additional waterproofing during the manufacturing process.

Does wool repel water?

Wool fibers in the fabric are 97% protein and 3% water-resistant lanolin. This is enough to naturally repel water with extra DRW coating applied to the outer layer. Even fine wools have the natural ability to repel water. 

Can wool be made waterproof?

When the natural lanolin in the wool fabric dissipates over time, you can increase the waterproofing qualities of a wool coat by applying an extra DWR coating. This helps the fabric better resist water penetrating the fibers. 

If you add bound or taped seams in the manufacturing of a coat, you increase its waterproofing qualities significantly, especially when used in conjunction with DWR coating and a waterproof membrane.

If wool is not 100% waterproof, how does it keep you warm?

When water finds its way into the fibers of your favorite wool sweater or coat, it can actually help to keep you warm. Wool fabrics can hold up to 30% of their own weight in water. This is often from water trapped within the fibers, so you don’t actually feel wet. 

This is another way wool can generate heat to help you stay warm. As water is adsorbed into the fabric’s molecules (rather than being absorbed between the fibers in the fabric), the moisture condenses and releases heat. That means that even if your wool coat gets exposed to water and some of the natural lanolin coatings have worn away, you can stay dry and warm longer. 

How is waterproofing measured in outerwear?

When you purchase a wool jacket, you want to know how well it will retain heat and withstand water exposure. That’s why jackets are measured by their membrane capabilities on a scale from 5,000 - 20,000 mm. The larger the number, the more waterproof the jacket is.

Waterproofing ratings for jackets



Rain Volume

< 5,000 mm

Little to no moisture resistance

Light rain

6,000 - 10,000 mm

Rain and waterproof

Light rain

11,000 - 15,000 mm

Rain and waterproof

Moderate rain

16,000 - 20,000 mm

Rain and waterproof

Heavy rain

> 20,000 mm 

Rain and waterproof

Heavy rain


Can you wear wool coats in the rain?

Yes. Check the rating of the jacket first (see the waterproof ratings in the above chart). Wool coats can help you stay dry and warm on a rainy day because of their ability to hold water. Don’t worry if you get caught in a little rain with only your wool jacket. 

If you end up in a downpour in a pure wool jacket, look for someplace dry to wait it out because your jacket will likely become drenched and soak through to your base layers or your skin. If this happens, you’ll start losing heat and become cold. 

However, if your wool jacket has weatherproofing technology, like Mia Melon’s weatherproof thermal membrane, your coat can withstand even heavier rainfall.

While traditional “rain jackets” are designed for more function than form and don’t often look very flattering. Modern commuter rain jackets come with fashionable designs and features, including:

These lightweight coats are weatherproof and work well in the rain. 

Does wool clothing make for good base layers?

Wool clothing makes an excellent base layer when layering your clothes to maintain heat and dryness next to your skin. Wool base layers capture the heat from evaporated sweat and moisture and release it to help you regulate your body heat. It’s also a very breathable fabric, so you get airflow around your body to regulate your temperature and prevent excess heat build-up.

Why does wool smell when wet?

Wool is made from animal hair, so there is a chance it could develop a foul smell when it gets too wet and it is not adequately dried out. Some describe the scent as that classic “wet dog” smell. This smell usually comes from the lanolin, and as this substance dissipates over time, it will smell less potent. Smells in wool fabrics can also result from bacteria growing between the fibres. 

Thoroughly air drying your wool after it’s been wet is the key to avoiding a stinky aftermath. 

If your wool garment lets off a stank odor, use vinegar in your rinse water when you wash it. Yes, your fabric will initially pick up a slight vinegary smell while it’s wet, but it will disappear after you air dry the garment. If you choose, you can add a drop of lavender oil to give it a beautiful, light scent. 

How to care for wool coats

Wool fabrics are antimicrobial and stain resistant, so they don’t need frequent washing. When you wash them, they’re best washed by hand in a large sink or tub. 

When washing by hand, use a specially formulated wool wash or your regular laundry detergent, as long as it doesn’t have any bleaching ingredients. Wash it by hand and rinse with cold water and a bit of vinegar (if it has any smells).

Direct heat can damage or shrink your wool fabrics, so never put them in your clothes dryer. Instead, here is a safer way to dry your wool clothes:

  1. Sandwich your wet wool garment flat between 2 clean towels.
  2. Roll the towels and garment into a tight log.
  3. Squeeze water from the log (but don’t wring it out or you risk stretching it). 
  4. Unroll the log and lay the garment on a flat surface. 
  5. Allow it to air dry flat. 

Protecting wool coats in storage

When winter is over, and you may not wear your wool garments for a while; it’s time to put them away for the season. Wool items can be attractive to small insects who like to eat the natural fabric, so store wool garments with mothballs or cedar to protect them. Keeping wool items in a sealed garment bag can also protect them from both bugs and discolouration.  

How does Mia Melon protect its wool coats from water?

Many Mia Melon jackets use wool for warmth, water protection, and style. They are made from a recycled sustainable wool blend that is bonded to a waterproof-breathable membrane. They are lined with micro-fleece or insulated with a new and improved environmentally friendly plant based quilted fill. This layering fabric technology has a clear advantage over wool-only coats. For Mia Melon, modern jacket designs combined with custom natural fabrics blends and superior weatherproof technology is the evolution of fashion in performance outerwear.

The soft fleece liners of the Mia Melon cold-weather coats quickly wick away any sweat or moisture from your skin so you can retain heat. Also, the lightweight cotton herringbone jackets have a light mesh that also helps to wick water away from your body while allowing air to circulate. 

When wool is used in the coat’s outer layer, you get good resistance to wind, cold air, and moisture. Mia Melon jackets have treated the exterior layers of their jackets with DWR technology to provide extra protection against any moisture.  

If you’re in the market for a new jacket to retain heat, stay dry and look great this winter season, check out the collection of wool weatherproof jackets from Mia Melon today.