An alpaca sweater is an excellent addition to any winter wardrobe. It may be slightly more expensive than sheep’s wool, but alpaca wool is worth the price!
These natural fibres create soft, cosy sweaters that have a luxurious feel and can last for decades when properly taken care of.
Unfortunately, alpaca sweaters are delicate items of clothing that require special care when being cleaned.
When exposed to the wrong conditions, your beautiful sweater can quickly become shrunk and misshapen.
If you’re unsure how to clean alpaca wool without damaging it, don’t worry! In this article, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to wash an alpaca sweater so that you can keep it in top condition for years to come.
How Do You Wash an Alpaca Wool Sweater?
When it’s time to wash your alpaca sweater, we highly suggest you check the item’s care label before following any of the below instructions.
Although many 100% alpaca products can be washed, some can only be dry cleaned.
If this is the case, try to find a professional that has worked with alpaca wool in the past for the best results.
For garments that are suitable for washing, you have two choices: hand washing or machine washing.
Both are viable options for cleaning your alpaca sweater, but hand washing the garment is the safest choice and less prone to causing accidental damage.
How Do You Hand Wash an Alpaca Jumper?
To safely hand wash your alpaca sweater, you need to:
- Turn the sweater inside out to protect the outer surface during washing.
- Fill a large bucket with enough cold water to fully submerge your sweater.
- Add a little mild detergent for wool or baby shampoo to the water and swirl it around until evenly distributed.
- Gently submerge your sweater in the water. Move the fabric around in the water for a few minutes, taking care not to agitate the sweater too much.
- Rinse the sweater in clean, cold water until all traces of detergent are removed.
- Let the water drain away, and lightly squeeze the wool to remove the excess water. Make sure not the wring the sweater, as this will cause it to become misshapen.
- Gently press any remaining water out of the sweater using a clean towel.
- Lay the sweater out on a flat surface away from sunlight and other heat sources, and leave it to air dry. If desired, you can lay it on top of a dry towel to speed up the drying process.
Once your sweater is fully dry, you can store it away in a dry, well-ventilated area. Wherever possible, avoid hanging the garment, as this can cause it to stretch out of shape.
We also suggest investing in a cedar block which can be used to protect the alpaca wool from moths and other pests.
Can You Machine Wash an Alpaca Sweater?
Most 100% alpaca wool products will become damaged if put in the washing machine.
However, you can wash your sweater this way if it says so on the care label. Just make sure to use the correct setting, or else damage can still occur.
In most cases, your sweater will need to be washed on a delicate or wool cycle.
These are both designed to mimic hand washing and use as little agitation as possible, meaning they are the least likely to cause ruin to the alpaca wool.
For the best results, follow the below instructions:
- Select the gentlest cycle on your washing machine.
- Make sure the water temperature and spin speed are both on the lowest possible setting.
- Add a mild detergent to the machine, preferably one specifically designed for use on woollen garments. Never add fabric softener or bleach to the wash, as this will cause damage to the fabric.
- Place your sweater in a laundry bag to protect it from stretching and snagging while in the washing machine.
- Put the laundry bag into the machine drum and let the wash cycle run its course.
- Once the cycle has finished, remove the sweater from the drum and lay it out on a flat surface away from sunlight and other heat sources to air dry. You can lay it on top of a dry towel to speed up the drying process if desired.
Once again, it is always best to store an alpaca sweater in a dry, well-ventilated area with a cedar block to protect it.
Hanging the garment up will cause it to become misshapen, so we always advise that you fold it up instead.
Does Alpaca Shrink When Washed?
Unfortunately, alpaca wool is prone to shrinkage when washed. Research shows this is even more likely when the fabric fibres are longer or treated with bleach and dye.
This damage is caused by exposure to friction and heat, which cause damage to alpaca wool in the following way:
- Friction: When alpaca wool is agitated, the fibres constrict. This process is known as felting, and it is sometimes used to purposely shrink alpaca products.
- Heat: When exposed to high temperatures, alpaca fibres become tight and brittle, therefore becoming more prone to breakage.
Both of these conditions are more likely to occur in a washing machine, hence why hand washing is usually preferred for cleaning alpaca wool sweaters.
It is also the reason why you cannot put an alpaca sweater in the tumble dryer without causing damage.
When an alpaca sweater shrinks, it is sometimes possible to return it to its original size and shape using the proper technique.
The idea is to soak the wool in a mixture of cold water and hair conditioner before gently stretching it out.
How Often Should You Wash an Alpaca Sweater?
If you want to, you can wash an alpaca sweater after every wear. However, this is typically unnecessary; alpaca wool naturally repels water, dirt, and odour, meaning it stays clean and fresh with little maintenance.
We suggest wearing an alpaca sweater between seven and 10 times before washing it. Not only will this save you time and money, but it will help keep your garment in top condition for longer.
Of course, you may need to adjust this timescale if the fabric becomes stained or smelly. A tighter knit or synthetic blend may also increase the need for washing.
Two of the easiest ways of keeping your sweater clean and fresh between washes are:
- Shaking any dirt from the fabric and then laying the sweater out to air after every wear. Even laying it out for an hour or two will help unwanted odours to leave the wool.
- Wiping stains from the sweater as soon as they occur. Simply patting the area with a clean paper towel is usually enough, but you can also run the area under cold water to flush out any remaining marks.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.