Is Alpaca Wool Waterproof?
Updated: Feb 10
You may have heard that alpaca wool has many exclusive qualities. Given that the alpaca’s natural habitat is in the Andean highlands, it sounds logical that its fleece is very warm. But have you ever heard that it is waterproof?
Alpaca wool is not waterproof, but it is water-repellent. Alpaca wool has great wicking capabilities, meaning that it gets rid of water before it can be absorbed. However, it is able to absorb 50% of its body weight. The fiber also has a special structure that helps water evaporate quickly.
Water-resistant, great wicking capabilities and a structure that helps water evaporate? Read more about the special fiber of the alpaca that makes such exclusive yarn and feel just like a wild alpaca yourself.
Waterproof, Watertight, Water-resistant or Water-repellent?
Waterproof: not allowing water to go through
A common misconception is that alpaca wool is waterproof. Waterproof means that it does not absorb water at all, ever. Alpaca wool does absorb water and is therefore not waterproof.
Watertight: having no openings for water to get in
Alpaca wool is also not watertight. Watertight fabrics need to be seamlessly closed off in order to shut out any water. Alpaca wool is most commonly turned into yarn, which means that it is twisted and spun into a thin thread of hair. The thread is used for knitting or weaving, two techniques that create fabrics and garments that are not seamlessly closed.
Water-resistant literally means that a fabric can resist water. Funny enough, online dictionaries don’t differentiate between water-resistant and water-repellent. So, I’m going to stick with that and will use these two terms interchangably troughout this article.
Water-repellent: does not absorb water when it is raining (lightly)
So, alpaca wool is water-repellent. That means, according to the dictionary, that it repels water before the fabric absorbs the water. It doesn’t resist water forever, but for some amount of time.
According to the dictionary, water-repellent only applies to light rain.
Does that mean that alpaca wool shouldn’t be worn on days when heavy rain is expected? Well, in my opinion, you can wear alpaca wool every day of the year. I currently live in the Netherlands where we have some pretty wet days (today is one of those).
I have to confess that I wear my alpaca woolen scarf every day. Every minute of the day. Rain, no rain. Every. Day.
When it rains though, I make sure that the scarf isn’t just around my neck, but that it is also wrapped around my head (really). In case of rain, it doesn’t just protect my throat and neck, but also the rest of my face. When I get home after a rainy ride outside (remember, the Netherlands = bicycle) I just unwrap myself and wick the drops off the scarfs.
I have been through worse than just light rain, and to me, it works perfectly fine. However, I don’t like to set your expectations too high in case I’m just more used to rain than you are (is that a thing?). So, common sense please!
Also, when you are wicking off water drops, you must always imagine you’re a fluffy alpaca shaking its booty. It just makes everything better.
How water-resistant something is depends on its density: the denser a fabric is, the better it will be able to resist moisture.
A fiber or fabric needs to be strong in order to be used for some dense weaving. The alpaca fiber is known to be a very strong fiber and therefore has better resistance to water than other, finer fabrics.
Given that alpaca yarn is mostly used for knitting and weaving, it is safe to assume that most of its garments are water-repellent, but not watertight or waterproof.
Scale-like Texture of Alpaca Fiber
The alpaca fiber has a unique scale-like texture. It is thanks to this texture that alpaca woolen products have such great wicking capabilities. Most types of wool have scales, and you could say that the lower the relief of the scale, the softer it feels to the touch.
Now, here’s also the secret to the alpaca’s moisture-wicking capabilities: the less relief of the scale, the less room there is for water to be absorbed by the fiber.
In my head, I see the water drop as a little boy who wants to climb on to an alpaca hair, but it’s too soft so he keeps sliding down and eventually falling off (awww!).
In the inevitable event of water eventually being absorbed by the fiber, the alpaca wool has another trick handy: it is able to evaporate water quickly.
Alpaca wool has a hollow fiber, which means that there is heat trapped inside the fiber. Thanks to this, the fiber serves as a natural insulator to the animal, close to its skin, but avoiding actual contact to the skin.
It also means that alpaca wool dries quickly when it does get wet: the water is being evaporated from these small, heater-like, hollow airbags.
So, on top of being capable of preventing moisture from entering the fiber, alpaca wool also actively gets rid of the water, with its evaporating capabilities.
This, of course, comes in handy when you wash alpaca woolen items. Read this Step By Step Guide on How To Wash Alpaca Woolen Items.
All Natural & Multiple Purposes
Alpaca wool is often seen as a luxury item that is an exclusive accessory to a fancy outfit. However, thanks to its water-repellent capabilities it offers so much more!
Did you know that alpaca wool is excellent for hiking? Imagine yourself exploring the most beautiful mountains on a cold day in fall, and then… a downpour! Lucky you if you have an alpaca woolen sweater or even a scarf with you to protect you from most of the water until you find a place to hide from the rain.
Is alpaca wool fire-resistant? Alpaca wool shows better flame resistance compared to other animal fibers. It is also slower to ignite, has self-extinguishing capabilities and lower heat release. Compared to synthetic fibers it doesn’t melt as quickly. However, alpaca wool is NOT 100% fireproof.
Is alpaca wool stain resistant? Yes! And no. Eventually, just like water, stains will be absorbed when they are exposed to the fabric in high enough quantities or for long enough time. However, if you act quickly, you can wick away most liquid and stains before they get absorbed by the fabric and cause irreversible damage.