Garment manufacturers produce two types of fleece jackets, those made from natural wool and “polar fleece,” which is a synthetic material. Designers use wool fleece for stylish high-end coats. Polar fleece adds less bulk and weight while providing a high level of warmth; this material often appears in hiking and mountaineering jackets. Each material brings its own set of problems related to the care and use of the jacket.
Both wool and polar fleece tends to pill. When these fabrics pill, threads near the surface fray into little balls. Those who own a fleece jacket can treat this problem by brushing away the pilling with a fabric brush or a sweater stone. A battery-powered electric fabric shaver can also remove pills. This process only hides the problem; eventually, the fleece will wear through and begin to show signs of thinning. A long-term solution to reduce pilling involves proper storage and care of a fleece jacket.
Wool fleece jackets require special care to keep them clean. Machine washing and drying will damage wool. If a wool fleece jacket becomes dirty, owners can clean it by hand washing it in cold or lukewarm water with baby shampoo and then laying it flat on a cotton towel or sheet. Hand-washing a fleece wool jacket will also help prevent pilling. Wool will take a long time to dry; owners can also take a fleece wool coat to a dry cleaner for professional cleaning. If a polar fleece coat becomes soiled, owners can throw it in the wash with other garments and then machine dry it on a light setting.
While wool fleece repels water, polar fleece does not. However, owners should try to keep their wool fleece jackets from getting wet. Wool contains lanolin, a natural water repellent. When lanolin reacts with water, it produces a smell that resembles a wet sheep. Owners can enhance wool’s waterproofing property as it ages by spraying the jacket with lanolin. Although it dries quickly, polar fleece lets water seep through the coat. Manufacturers often provide an interior liner made of nylon that may be removable; keeping this liner in will prevent water seepage. Treating a polar fleece coat with a waterproofing spray will also prevent seepage.
Wool fleece coats tend to absorb smells, such as cigarette smoke. Also, this material attracts wool moths, which lay eggs in the fabric. When these eggs hatch, the larvae eat the wool. Storing wool properly in a cool dry place and inside a sealed container or cotton storage bag can help prevent both these problems.
Manufacturers produce polar fleece from petroleum or recycled plastic, such as bottles. This material is highly flammable unless treated. Wool fleece chars but does not burn except at extremely high temperatures.
Wool that comes in contact with the skin can cause irritation that causes itching and can lead to redness and swelling in some cases. This irritation stems from the diameter of the wool fiber used to produce the coat. Fleece jackets made from finer wool fibers, such as Merino wool, minimize this problem. Wool allergy, while rare, does affect some people.