You've bought a beautiful, high-quality yarn Alpaca garment. Most likely, you'd want your piece to last longer than just one season. I’ve been working with, caring for, and wearing alpaca products for over 12 years. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about caring for these products. In my experience, Alpaca garments can have a long lasting lifetime with the proper care, so here are some suggestions.
Let’s say you’ve walked out of a restaurant and your clothes smell like food, including your favorite Alpaca sweater you just bought. You might think that you need to wash it. But before you do that, there’s another option:
Alpaca’s fiber structure makes it possible to catch pockets of air between the fibers, aspect that gives it a lot of its wonderful qualities. It also means that you can get rid of odors by just airing your garment on a hanger outside for 4-6 hours. Most times, just airing it out will do the trick, especially if you've worn a T-shirt under the your sweater. And when you bring the sweater back in, it will be like new — no need to wash it at all!
There’s a few things you want to avoid when washing an Alpaca garment, like shrinking/felting it, deforming it, and/or causing pilling — which is when small balls of fluff form on the garment. Before washing your garment, follow these instructions:
- Turn the sweater inside-out, if possible;
- Use cold water to avoid any felting/shrinking and use a mild soap, such as baby shampoo;
- Soak the garment for 2 minutes and then start squeezing it gently, without scrubbing it. Remember, you want to avoid causing any pilling, so use no friction during this process;
- When you’re done, rinse the garment twice in clean cold water to make sure you get rid of all the soap;
- Get the garment out of the water and drain it gently without wringing or twisting it. Alpaca is a very flexible fiber. If you twist it to drain the water, you may deform the garment. (A good way to get rid of any extra water is to lay the garment flat on a dry towel and gently roll it until the towel absorbs the extra liquid);
- Finally, lay your garment flat over a dry towel in the shade to dry. If you hang the garment in any way, it will get deformed.
Certainly, this is always an option. Depending on your schedule, it may be your only option; however, in my experience, washing is much safer than dry-cleaning. But if you prefer to dry-clean your garment, first talk with your dry-cleaners to gauge their confident-level in handling Alpaca apparel in general, and your favorite sweaters specifically.
I’ve had mixed results with dry-cleaners — some did a great job; others, have ruined clothes by creating a lot of pilling that wasn’t there before! Fortunately, there is a solution to getting rid of the pilling in your garment, but that will be the subject of another post. But the best way to extend the life of your Alpaca apparel is to avoid pilling altogether.
We all have favorites in our closet and the perfect Alpaca sweater is like a comforting friend. And you'd want your friend to stick with you for a long time, right? Simply by following my suggestions, you can extend the life of that friendship considerably.