How Do You Wash Alpaca Woolen Products? (Step-By-Step Guide)
Updated: Feb 24
Woolen products in general, and alpaca woolen products specifically, require special care when it comes to washing. Alpaca woolen products only need to be washed sparingly because of their special fiber that doesn’t absorb any smells or stains. Here are the simple steps you need:
Let the garment soak in cold or lukewarm water;
Use a mild detergent, or baby shampoo, or conditioner;
Rinse under running cold or lukewarm water;
Lay it drying flat between two towels, in its original shape;
Be careful not to wring, rub or twist;
Do NOT hang dry;
Did you know that you don’t really need to wash alpaca woolen products to start with? Also, were you aware that you should never put alpaca wool in the washing machine? Keep reading to find out more, plus my insider’s tips.
How To Wash An Alpaca Woolen Product
When washing an alpaca woolen item, I like to think of it as if it were a real alpaca. Anything made of 100% alpaca wool should convince you that you should never, ever throw it in a washing machine. And with never, I mean never. Not even the “hand wash program”. Just don’t.
When you decide to wash an alpaca woolen product, be prepared to treat it with all the tender, love and care that you would use with a real alpaca.
So here’s my first tip: when in doubt on how to wash alpaca woolen items, think of it as a real alpaca. That should help you keep your common sense for when it comes to the washing instructions. You wouldn’t throw an actual alpaca in a washing machine, either, right?! Just saying.
When you want to wash an alpaca woolen product, be sure to be ready for a little adventure. It’s not a difficult task, but there are some critical steps involved.
Step 1: Let an Alpaca Woolen Product Soak in Cold or Lukewarm Water
To wash an alpaca woolen item, all you need to do for the first step is to let it soak in cold or lukewarm water. Add a dash of a very gentle detergent, baby shampoo or conditioner. Let it soak for about 30 minutes to up to one hour. Don’t rub it, brush it, or agitate it in any way.
It is important to use only cold or lukewarm water. The alpaca fiber is too fragile for hot water, and any water hotter than lukewarm will damage the wool. Stick to cold water or lukewarm water only and your alpaca piece will be safe. A nice little trick is to try the water with the inside of your wrist: the veins are closer to the surface there, so you will get a more accurate idea of how hot the water really is.
It is recommended to use either lukewarm or cold water only. Switching temperatures can “shock” the fiber which may cause it to start felting. Felting means that the fibers are pressed together and have become a more dense and compact fabric. You don’t want that to happen.
Once a tub or bucket is filled with water, you can add some mild detergent to the water. You could use a mild detergent that is designed for delicate wool washes. Yet, you still want to be careful that the detergent is not too harsh. You could also use baby shampoo, which is of course, very mild, or conditioner. Whatever you use, don’t overuse it and make sure it is dissolved in the water before you put the garment in.
Once the garment goes into the water, let nature do the rest. Just let it soak. Do not try to brush away any stains, do not rub the fabric to get the detergent in. Just let it soak. Let it soak, let it soak, oh, let it soak…
The What-If-This-Was-A-Real-Alpaca Test: Do you think alpacas like hot water? Nope. Stingy detergent? Nope. Rubbing their fleece? Nope.
Step 2: Take The Garment Out of The Water And Rinse It With Cold or Lukewarm Running Water
Ready to get your hands dirty? I mean cleaned? This is my favorite part, it’s as is you’re showering with an alpaca (but not really, but someone’s got to get you excited, right?).
Now that the cleaning phase is over, the alpaca needs to be cleaned of the cleaning stuff. The best, and only, way to do this is by rinsing it under cold or lukewarm running water. Get in the shower with your big, fluffy alpaca sweater, or to a sink if you have a smaller piece like a scarf, and let the water run.
During this stage it is extremely tempting to wring and twist your alpaca garment. Please do not do this! Alpaca fabric is, again, very delicate and it does not like to be twisted or wringed. What you can do is gently (GENTLY!) squeeze the water out.
Especially towards the end, a squeeze or two might actually be needed to make sure that excess water has gotten rid off.
You also want to be careful when carrying the alpaca item to make sure it’s weight is sustained. The weight of the water (that is now absorbed by the alpaca wool) can bring an alpaca woolen piece out of shape. Maintaining its original shape is therefore important to make sure it doesn’t get deformed.
The What-If-This-Was-A-Real-Alpaca Test: Alpacas do not like to be rubbed or twisted. They just like the running water to get rid of the detergent.
Step 3: Place The Garment Between Two Towels and Air-Dry on a Flat Surface
To dry an alpaca woolen piece it is important that the remaining water is absorbed by towels. The alpaca fiber will actually absorb quite the amount of water, so you want to make sure that you have enough towels within reach. Again, resist any temptation you have to twist or wring your alpaca woolen piece.
First, place your garment on top of a towel in its original form. Then, put a second towel on top of it and roll it up to gently squeeze out the water. You can repeat this step if your garment is big and has soaked up a lot of water.
While doing this, make sure not to stretch your piece or reshape it.
Then, place your alpaca woolen item flat again on top of a towel (a dry one if necessary), with a second towel on top. Make sure the surface is flat, like a table. (Needless to say that you don’t want to put it on your bed, right?)
Once (most) of the water is absorbed, let your garment air dry and make sure that it remains flat. As long as there is water in the fibers, the weight will deform your piece as soon as it is being hung out. Even a little bit!
It is also important to make sure that you don’t dry your garment too close to a heater or other heat source, or directly in the sun. Air dry, away from direct sunlight or heat is the way to go.
Keep in mind that this may take a while, so plan your washing session accordingly if you’re planning on wearing the item for a special occasion.
Depending on how big your alpaca woolen piece is, drying might take anywhere between three to 24 hours (imagine a hat that uses a thin thread compared to a super chunky and fluffy sweater).
And no, you can’t speed up the process by tumbling dry your garments.
The What-If-This-Was-A-Real-Alpaca Test: Ever seen an alpaca with a hairdryer? Next to a heater? Nope. Just simple air drying and a healthy dose of patience are all it takes to dry.
You Actually Don’t Need To Wash Alpaca Wool
Did you know that alpaca wool is made of a special fiber (the alpaca fiber) that is designed to not absorb any smells?
Alpaca wool has a hollow fiber with little airbags inside. This makes alpaca wool highly thermal because it actually “traps” the heat in its little bags. This brilliant alpaca technology also means that alpaca wool doesn't absorb any smells. The smells just don’t get into the wool. It’s great!
The same goes for stains: the thermal fiber does not allow water or liquid to be absorbed, unless the amount is too big that it eventually will. On top of that, the alpaca fiber has a scale like texture on the outside of its fiber, with a glossy texture that will make sure liquids are quickly repelled before they get absorbed.
Again, any big amount of water or liquid will unfortunately be absorbed by the fiber, but if you're quick (and not too much has been spilled), you might be able to save your piece from being ruined.
What To Do In Case Of Stains?
Imagine the most terrible of terrible things have happened to an alpaca piece: squashed blackberries, a turmeric curry, tomato sauce… I’m sure you can all imagine the worst stainers potentially ruining a beautiful piece of clothing. And the problem is… you can’t rub an alpaca piece to rub off a stain, so what do you do?
You wick it off as quickly as possible.
You get the water running, quickly and gently. Whatever your instincts tell you, don’t rub, twist, or wring the piece. Just let running water do the trick. Again, eventually the alpaca fiber will absorb liquid, but running water is your best bet of preventing a real stain.
The alpaca fiber is known for its very high wicking capabilities. Didn’t know that was a thing, right? It basically means that alpaca wool can get rid of the water before it penetrates the fleece. Alpaca wool is more likely to stay dry when it gets wet, or… not stain when red wine is spilled on it.
Any tricky stains are best left to a professional dry-cleaning service. They will have the appropriate method and equipment to handle a stain on alpaca wool with the care it needs.
The What-If-This-Was-A-Real-Alpaca Test: Can you imagine the heavy showers that will occur during the rainy season in the Andean highlands? They’re pretty wet. Now, imagine an alpaca after such a shower… What will it do? Wick it away, wick it away, wick it away, wick it away, now.
Bigger, delicate, or special-to-you pieces are also best left to a dry-cleaning service. Better safe than sorry!
What Is the Best Way to Take Care of Alpaca Wool if You Don’t Need to Wash It?
Great question! The answer is really easy: alpaca wool is really low maintenance. If you feel like your favorite alpaca woolen sweater can use a bit of airing, you could actually hang it in the bathroom while you’re taking a shower. Or you could hang it on a coat hanger outside on a misty day (REALLY!).