Garment care: How to wash an alpaca sweater?

How to wash, dry, store and upkeep an alpaca sweater? A guide to care for your alpaca knits.

Alpaca is a completely natural fiber that is obtained through the shearing of alpaca wool. This practice is done with the appropriate techniques in order to not harm the animals. Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years in South America, and in some parts of the Andean region, alpaca shearing is part of a traditional trade, since these mammals are native to the Andes and their wool is often used to make textiles. 

One of the most luxurious wools is baby alpaca fiber, which actually doesn't come from young alpacas. The term baby alpaca refers to the fineness of the fiber—it comes from the first shearing of an adult alpaca. This wool is usually more delicate and soft. 

There is also royal alpaca, which is a selection of the best baby alpaca fibers, and a particularly soft hair. Only 1% of the global alpaca fiber production corresponds to this variety. 

At SISA, our production of alpaca sweaters is made in Peru. This production is certified by Fair Trade Perú and the World Fair Trade Organization (WTFO). The fair trade system involves responsible practices in social, economic and environmental aspects. 

Among their certifications, our manufacturers are also certified by the Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS), a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. It ensures that wool comes from farms that have a progressive and holistic approach to managing their land and respect animal welfare. It also ensures strong chain of custody for certified materials as they move through the supply chain, while providing the industry with a tool to recognize the best practices of farmers. Textile Exchange is the entity in charge of this certification.

Why opt for an alpaca sweater? 

An alpaca wool sweater is a breathable and truly warm knit. Their high-quality fibers make them ideal pieces for the colder months. Alpaca sweaters are designed to be durable—with adequate care practices, an alpaca knit can last many years.

Appropriately washing and drying alpaca garments allows you to extend the life of your pieces. For this, we recommend following the washing instructions described in the care label inside each garment as these may vary according to each composition or knit type. 

Still, there are general recommendations applicable to caring for your SISA alpaca wool sweaters.

How to wash an alpaca sweater

Generally, you can dry clean your sweater or hand wash it with cold water and gentle soap, always without wringing. Let it air dry flat—never machine wash or tumble dry an alpaca sweater as this will probably deform or shrink it.

Being made from a natural fiber, alpaca knits are breathable, so we recommend that you leave your sweater to air out after each use to allow odor or moisture to dissipate. 

Alpaca sweaters can be dry cleaned once or twice a year. If you keep them constantly aired out and care for them with gentle hand washing, dry cleaning is still recommended but not strictly necessary. 

Either way, it's best to keep washes as unfrequent as possible to avoid fiber deterioration. 

Drying an alpaca knit

You should air dry the sweater flat. Do not hang a soaked sweater, since the weight of wet wool can stretch out the piece and cause it to lose its shape. 

Can you iron an alpaca sweater?

Yes, if it is wrinkled or creased on a fold, it may be ironed. Preferably, use a vertical steam iron at medium temperature on the reverse side. 

Occasional steaming is also recommended to freshen up the garment in order to reduce frequent washing. 

What is pilling and how to avoid it?

Pilling is the formation of tiny balls in the surface of the garment that are mostly hard to remove. Pilling happens when fibers break and knot, causing the texture of a knit to become irregular or rough to the touch. 

With a good quality sweater (especially one made from a noble fiber such as alpaca, cotton or wool), pilling is avoided from the initial stages of the knit's design through the adequate selection of fibers, the structure of yarns, etc. As the quality of the fibers increases, the tendency to generate pilling decreases considerably. However, slight pills would probably appear in areas exposed to more friction, such as the inside of the sleeves or under the arms. Normal pills should be easy to remove, preferably using a small lint remover machine at home. 

Removing stains from alpaca sweaters

Knits should not be rubbed excessively to remove stains. As with most stains, it is ideal to tackle it as soon as possible. In general, stains on sweaters can be removed by gently dabbing with cold water and hand soap, without soaking the entire garment unnecessarily. Just run the area under a little bit of cold water and a drop of gentle liquid soap.

Try not to wash the entire knit if the stain is concentrated in a small area. Gently wipe the area with a soft cloth to loosen the stain and run the area under a little water again to remove any soap residue. Do not wring or stretch the area. Allow the knit to air dry flat. 


How to store knits

Store sweaters folded rather than hung to preserve their shape. It is also recommended to store them clean and ocassionally spray them with a gentle mothproof solution.