To Wash or Not To Wash Your Alpaca Fiber - That Is the Question!
Like most things in life, the answer is it depends. What do you want to do with your alpaca fiber? How clean is your alpaca fiber already? Most alpaca spinners will wash their fiber first only if they are working with a really bright white fleece or they are planning to dye the fleece.
Otherwise, it’s much easier and faster to spin and or card unwashed fiber. On the flip side, who doesn't like to work with nice clean fluffy alpaca fiber!
LET'S GET STARTED: So, let’s say that you have decided to wash your alpaca fiber. So now what do you do? Well, again you have a couple of choices. You can wash it in your washing machine or you can do it by hand.
If you have decided to wash your alpaca fiber, you will want to make sure that you use a method that will not felt the alpaca fiber in the process. In order to do this, you can choose to wash it in your washing machine or you can do it by hand.
WHY HOT WATER: Regardless of which process you choose, make sure you use hot water. Why you might ask. Well hot water allows the fiber to open up and release the dirt, vegetable matter and any other contaminates that might be contained in your fiber. So make your life easier and use hot water. USING LINGERIE BAGS TO WASH YOUR ALPACA FIBER: Next, always use a lingerie bag. Make sure when you put your alpaca fiber into the bags that its loose enough so that the water can reach all the way through the fiber. This is absolutely critical if you decide to use your washing machine. Loose alpaca fiber will ruin your washing machine.
As far as detergent, Dawn liquid detergent is probably the best. Always use the philosophy that less is better than more. (I'd start by just using 2 teaspoons).
DIRECTIONS FOR MACHINE WASHING YOUR ALPACA FIBER: If you decide to use your washing machine, you will need to have the type of washing machine that will let you select to use only the soak and spin cycles. If you agitate your alpaca fiber, you will end up with felted alpaca fiber. So, select the cycle for hot water, let the alpaca fiber soak for 30 minutes, spin it, fill it with hot water, add a little detergent this time, let it soak for 30 minutes again, spin it, fill it with hot water again, let it soak for 30 minutes and then spin it for the last time.
DIRECTIONS FOR WASHING YOUR ALPACA FIBER BY HAND: If, on the other hand, you decide to wash it by hand, you can use either your kitchen sink or your bath tub depending upon how much alpaca fiber you plan on washing. As with the washing machine, you will add the hot water and let the alpaca fiber soak for 30 minutes. Drain the water, refill the basin, add a little detergent this time, let it soak for 30 minutes, drain the water, refill the basin and let it soak for another 30 minutes, drain the water and carefully squeeze the water out of the alpaca fiber.
DRYING YOUR FIBER: Now, you're ready to dry your nice clean alpaca fiber. The best and quickest method is to lay it outside on a table or chair and let the sun dry it. If that is not an option, you can use a sweater rack. Note that it will likely take 24 hours to dry using this method.
Here is a youtube video that will show you how to wash your alpaca fiber and not felt it.