Alpacas are incredibly cute animals most commonly found in South America. Related to camels, alpacas are docile and utterly lovable. Their fluffy wool, called fleece, looks a lot like sheep’s wool but feels very different. Alpaca fleece is softer than sheep’s wool, and is not scratchy. It doesn’t contain lanolin, which makes alpaca wool naturally hypoallergenic.
Are there different kinds of alpaca fleece?
There are two primary types of alpaca fleece. Huacaya fleece is the most common, and is warmer than sheep’s wool. Many people love working with yarn made from huacaya fibers that are spongy and soft. Because it has a natural crimp, it’s very elastic, huacaya fleece is great for knitting.
Suri fleece does not have a crimp, and is a great option for woven goods. Only around 10% of the entire population of alpacas in South America creates Suri fleece. The design house Armani uses Suri alpaca fleece to create the fabric used in certain men’s and women’s suits.
Can you machine wash alpaca wool in the washing machine?
Hand washing delicate items can be a pain, but some pieces require an extra measure of care to prevent damage. Your alpaca wool items don’t need to be hand washed and can go through the washing machine, but it’s important to take a few extra steps to protect your pieces from harm.
Tips for machine washing alpaca wool safely include:
- Begin by turning your piece inside out
- Place the piece in a laundry bag to prevent it from rubbing against or getting caught on other items in the washer
- Be sure to choose a gentle soap or shampoo
- Set your washing machine to the cold water option, as hot water can shrink alpaca wool
- Choose the delicates setting on your washer to prevent harsh agitation or spin cycles
What you don’t do is just as important as the things you choose to do to protect alpaca wool clothing. Never just toss your pieces in with the rest of your laundry. Don’t use hot water or allow your alpaca wool pieces to go through the “normal” cycle in the washing machine. You should never use bleach on your alpaca pieces, as the harsh chemical can weaken the natural fibers.
What are the proper steps for drying an alpaca wool piece?
Once the cycle is complete, remove the piece and lay it flat to allow it to dry in its proper shape. Never tug, twist, or pull the piece to remove excess water, as this can distort the shape of your piece.
Never put your alpaca wool in the dryer. While alpaca is a very forgiving type of fiber, it can’t hold up to the extreme heat of a drying machine, and will shrink or become distorted very quickly. Machine washing alpaca wool is possible, but these pieces won’t fare well in the dryer.
How do I wash and dry a large alpaca piece, like a coat?
Coats made from alpaca wool are soft, snuggly, and incredibly warm. It is not advisable, however, to launder an alpaca coat in the washing machine. Coats are much larger than sweaters and other items of clothing, and can hold far more water. The spin cycle on your washing machine may not be strong enough to extract a substantial amount of water from the piece. Machine washing alpaca wool is not a good idea.
Because you should never twist, wring, or squeeze an alpaca garment, getting the water out of a larger piece can be a challenge. Simply laying it out to dry may not be an effective approach, and you can end up with a waterlogged coat that can develop mildew or even mold.
Take your alpaca coat or other larger piece to the dry cleaners for proper cleaning. The professionals at your local dry cleaning establishment have the tools and knowledge to clean a wide range of different fabrics and fibers, and can give your coat a breath of new life without immersing the garment in water.
Is alpaca wool a good choice for clothing?
The softness and warmth of alpaca wool makes it an amazing choice for a wide range of clothing items. If you’re asking “Can you machine wash alpaca wool?” The answer is yes. Machine washing alpaca wool is possible, making it easy to care for your new piece.
If you’re lucky enough to find a pattern you love and have access to high quality alpaca fleece, consider making a custom piece that aligns with your tastes and preferences