Continuation of the last post on washing alpaca:
- Prepare the fiber – I lay out the fiber on a table and pull/pluck it apart to open up the fiber. At this point some of the loose yucky stuff (dirt, hay, etc.) may fall out on its own. If I see any large bits or anything else I don’t want in my fiber I pull it out too. Including these weird short bits I found at the cut end!
- Separate the fiber – I take the fiber and put approximately 2 ounces in each of the mesh lingerie bags. My bags are about 2 feet by 1.5 feet and cost $1 at the discount store. You need at least as many lingerie bags as you have basins/sinks. To be most efficient you need double that many so you can have one set filled with fiber and ready to go as soon as you pull the prior set out of the wash.
- Speaking of efficiency, especially with larger fleeces, the items that take the longest are letting the fibers soak and the air drying. Therefore, anything you can do to save times on either of those tasks (usually, more space).
- First soak of the fiber – fill each sink/basin with a small squirt of dawn and hot water. The water doesn’t have to be scalding but should be warm enough to be uncomfortable. AFTER it has finished filling, turn off the water THEN add the fiber. Set the mesh bag of fiber on top of the water and very gently push it down. Just enough to get the bubbles out so it won’t float to the top. Let it soak for 30 minutes so the fibers and good and opened up by the warm water. Regarding the soap – I like Dawn but I’ve heard of people using Orvus, dog shampoo, etc. Since alpaca does not have lanolin you’re not actually scouring the fleece. Washing the fiber is just to get the dirt out.
- Second soak of the fiber – gently lift each mesh bag out of the sink/basins and set to the side. Drain and then refill, again with a small squirt of soap. It is important that the temperature be approximately the same as the first soak as to not shock the fiber. Let it soak 20-30 minutes. Regarding the number of soaks and rinses – this will depend on how dirty the fiber is. You’ll need to rinse until the water is decently clear. Doesn’t have to be crystal clear, but not brown. For most of mine I do two soaks with soap and two rinses.
- Rinsing the fiber – repeat the step above but omit the soap (don’t change the temperature). And it only needs to sit for 10 minutes each.
- Start the washing again – put the washed fiber aside and put the next round of mesh bags of fiber in for their first soak. Once that’s started you can turn your attention back to the washed fiber.
- Drying the fiber – put each mesh bag into the salad spinner one at a time and spin it round and round. You’d be amazed how much water this gets out alone. For extra drying I then lay the mesh bag on a towel folded hot dog styled and roll up the towel. This step is particularly important if you don’t have a salad spinner. Anything you can do to get water out before laying it out to dry is hugely helpful. Lastly, lay it out to dry.
- Packing up the fiber – once everything is dry, you need to bag or box it back up, however you store it. More on different storage solutions in a later post. I also weigh it at this point so I know how much I have.
Hopefully this helps you wash your first alpaca fleece. You’ll find the best solutions that work for you once you try it a couple times. Let me know how it turns out or if you have different ideas or tips that work for you!