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What Are Kemp Fibers & Guard Hairs (And Should You Be Worried)?

Every once in a while we get a call from a customer who, having recently purchased one of our wool comforters or mattress protectors, needs clarification about the black hairs sometimes found amongst the wool.  

These fibers are known as guard hairs. They offer protection for the sheep against the elements and serve as a kind of barrier for the softer wool underneath that provides insulation from the heat and cold.

Kemp fibers may be interspersed between both the guard hairs and the soft down wool underneath.  These fibers are short, coarse, and brittle.

Because of their undesirability in the wool textile industry, both kemp fibers and guard hairs are mostly removed during the cleaning and scouring process.  

The clean wool is then sent to a mill to be carded.

But not every single kemp fiber gets removed during the scouring process. To a discerning customer, these hairs can sometimes be mistaken for dog or cat hair.  These fibers may look out of place on an otherwise white-ish blanket, but they are in fact a natural part of the sheep’s fleece.

Here at Shepherd’s Dream, we don’t dye our all-natural wool products, so if there happens to be a rogue kemp fiber or guard hair in the batch, it will be carded into batting with the rest.

These “strays” are harmless and quite invisible though, so the likelihood of ever seeing one is like finding a needle in a haystack!

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