The athlete using Sportwool™ is cooler, as revealed by thermal imaging. The hotter athlete is wearing a 100% double knit polyester fabric.

The athlete using Sportwool™ is cooler, as revealed by thermal imaging. The hotter athlete is wearing a 100% double knit polyester fabric.

Sportwool™: a sporting new market for wool

Sportwool™ is a unique fabric engineered by CSIRO for use in active sportswear that is more comfortable before, during and after vigorous physical exercise, allowing athletes and sports people to achieve peak performance.

  • 3 September 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011

Worn by Australia’s Olympic team at Athens, Sportwool™ combines the best characteristics of natural and man-made fibres in a single product, redefining the standard for comfort and performance of active sportswear.

Sportwool™ is a lightweight, composite fabric consisting of a layer of machine-washable superfine Merino wool next to the skin and a layer of tough, easy-care polyester on the outside.

Benefits of Sportwool™

As a result of Sportwool™’s unique construction:

  • the wearer feels cooler more quickly and formation of liquid sweat is delayed
  • liquid sweat is carried away from the skin to the outside of the fabric, leaving the inside dry and resulting in less ‘clammy’ garment cling
  • the wearer stays cooler when exercising
  • ‘post-exercise chill’ is reduced.

In addition, Sportwool™ is elastic, provides UV protection and does not retain odours.

Developing Sportwool™

Scientists at CSIRO, funded by The Woolmark Company, developed Sportwool™ assisted by studies of the moisture uptake properties of wool and synthetic fabrics.

Sportwool™’s sophisticated temperature and moisture management system maximises wearer comfort no matter what the activity or weather conditions, permitting maximum physical performance.

A knitting technologist from The Woolmark Company was a member of the team, advising on integration of Sportwool’s two layers which are bound together back-to-back to form a single fabric.

The complete separation of the two component fibres on each face of the fabric ensures that a continuous layer of wool is in contact with the skin, producing an exceptional moisture management system that a 100 per cent synthetic product cannot match.

How it works

Sportwool™ manages the effects of sweating in two ways.
A few minutes after vigorous exercise starts, athletes begin to sweat. At this point the skin is dry but humidity near the skin begins to build rapidly. Because wool absorbs moisture, the inner wool layer of Sportwool™ absorbs water vapour, slowing the rise in humidity, and also delaying the appearance of liquid sweat.

Then, as liquid sweat forms on the skin, the soft, comfortable inner wool layer ‘pumps’ it to the outer synthetic fibre layer, where it spreads out and evaporates, creating a cooling effect.

Sportwool™ is constructed in weights ranging from ultra-light for jogging, to thicker, heavy-duty fabric for football jerseys. It is easily printed in bright colours and designs, including information about sponsors and players. Sportwool™ can also be dyed in solid colours.

We are now also creating wool and wool blend fabrics in lighter, brighter colours suitable for sports markets.

Learn about CSIRO's work in In search of whiter, brighter woollens.

Sportswool™ is a trademark of CSIRO Australia.