Some of the magic of alpaca is the fact that it naturally repels water, dirt, and odors, so cleaning takes place a lot less than you’d expect. A lot of times you can air out alpaca products or shake them lightly to remove odors or dirt.
I wash synthetic sweaters with every wear, but I only clean alpaca sweaters every five or so wears. I tend to wash socks with every other wear.
When you are ready to wash your alpaca garments and products, you want to make sure you treat them with care. While alpaca is very robust, it is a natural product, and it isn’t cleaned like other items.
General Recommendations for Cleaning
- Review product care instructions first and follow those instructions over any others.
- If no instructions are available, consider hand washing or dry cleaning as a default.
- Some blended products can be machine washed on cold in a gentle cycle, but not all will have this as an option.
- Products that include silk or have a boucle material should be dry cleaned.
- Baby shampoo makes the best option for hand washing.
- Drying products can be best done by rolling them in a clean, dry towel. This will suck out the excess water and allow you to air dry the rest of the way. This is done for only a minute and you do not leave products within the towel.
- Laying products flat to dry is preferred.
- If dry cleaning, select an experienced dry cleaner who has worked with alpacas previously.
Cleaning Alpaca Socks
- Many of the alpaca sock manufacturers mix alpaca with other materials like bamboo, nylon, or spandex.
- This mixture of materials allows alpaca socks to be cleaned in the washing machine with other clothing.
- If using the washing machine, cool water is still recommended.
- Many socks will also allow machine drying, however, I lay all my socks flat to dry.
Cleaning Alpaca Sweaters
- Sweater instructions will vary based on materials and structure.
- Sweaters that blend alpaca with acrylic can do well on a gentle cycle and gentle shampoo, however, this won’t apply to all items so check your care instructions.
- Sweaters that require hand washing are best done with cool water and gentle baby shampoo. Remove excess water by rolling in a towel, then lay flat to dry.
- Sweaters that require dry cleaning should state this on clothing labels.
Cleaning Alpaca Rugs
- Rugs are best washed in the bathtub with baby shampoo and cool water.
- Drying rugs is best done by rolling them in a clean, dry towel.
- Once done, lay flat to dry.
- Do not lay in the sun to dry.
Cleaning Fur Alpaca Products
- Fur bears, slippers, pillows, and scarves would be spot cleaned.
- Cool water and a soft wipe should remove most issues.
- A wire brush can be used to gently remove dirt and restore the fur product to its original condition.
- These products can also be fluffed by gently shaking.
Cleaning Alpaca Blankets and Throws
- 100% alpaca blankets will generally recommend dry cleaning.
- Alpaca blend blankets and throws can be hand washed with cool water and gentle baby shampoo. Remove excess water by rolling in a towel, then lay flat to dry.
- Check product tags for recommendations specific to your product.
Warnings and Things Not to Do
- Never use hot water or heat, as this will felt or shrink your alpaca products.
- Never use agitation. This will shrink your 100% alpaca product.
- Avoid wringing, twisting, or scrubbing.
- Do not leave products soaking in water for more than a couple of minutes.
- Never use Woolite. It is simply too harsh.
- Avoid fabric softener.
- Never use chlorine bleach.
- Never put 100% alpaca products in the dryer. Similar to hot water, it will feel your products.
- Most alpacas will not respond well to an iron, so avoid it unless the label specifically allows it.
- Avoid spraying perfume or hairspray while wearing fur items like scarves or hats.
What to Do if You Shrunk Your Alpaca Product
If you inadvertently shrunk your garment, you can try washing it with a hair conditioner to try and unshrink it. The conditioner will soften the fibers and help loosen up the garment, so you can gently stretch the product back into its original size and form. While this won’t work with all products (sometimes there is just too much damage), it has worked with many products, so it is worth a try.
Remember, alpaca has a natural ability to self-clean. You won’t need to wash your products nearly as much as you would expect.
I’ve watched our alpaca girls roll in dirt or stand out in the rain, only to be spotless hours later. It amazes me, but it is these same properties that make washing and cleaning alpaca products much less of a priority than synthetic items.