I’m going to lay out my process for washing alpaca. There are lots of different opinions and methods so realize I’m presenting what works for me. This applies to huacaya alpaca. I have some suri to wash up so I will post sometime about how it differs.
I didn’t set out to wash fleeces this weekend. In fact, I had other things planned for the holiday weekend (painting, knitting, housework, the usual fun). But, the weather was perfect – dry, low humidity, no wind. So Saturday afternoon I washed up one pound of huacaya alpaca and another two pounds on Sunday. I took the opportunity to take some pictures. Also, this pile of fleeces was making me nutty.
- To wash or not to wash – Some people will say raw alpaca doesn’t need to be washed and you can spin it directly from the sheep. Because there’s no lanolin like on sheep you certainly can skip the washing. But, you will be trapping in there all the dirt in the fiber. Alpaca’s are dirty and they love to roll in the dirt. So I want that dirt out of there.
- Pick a day – Low humidity, sunny, dry and no wind are ideal, especially if you plan to dry outside. It dries so much faster. If its windy you can compensate buy keeping the fiber in mesh bags and laying those outside to dry. If it’s too humid you run the risk of the fiber starting to mold before it dries. Gross.
- Pick a place – You need access to hot water, a sink or basin, some place to pour the yucky water and space to dry. Lots of flat surfaces are a benefit. Flat surfaces that are ventilated are even better.
- Gather your supplies – Aside from the fleece I need regular blue Dawn dishsoap, mesh lingerie bags, a couple towels and a salad spinner.
- Set up your wash space – In my kitchen I use both sides of the sink and sometimes two couple gallon buckets if I have a lot of fiber and/or need to get through it in a hurry. I can fit two mesh bags in each side of the sink and one mesh bag in each bucket. At the edge of the sink I pull out a drying rack. It’s not necessary but means the water from the salad spinner does leak water all over the counter.
- Set up your drying space – I use three drying methods, in this order – 1) salad spinning, 2) towels and 3) air dry. The salad spinner and towels can be done on a countertop. For air drying I set up a folding table, use my patio table, anything I can to have a surface to dry. Remember it may take 24 hours to dry so you may not want to cover all your kitchen counters if you have intentions of cooking a meal.