How to Hand Wash Alpaca Fiber

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Many spinners and crafters use alpaca fiber raw, but it's nice to work with a nice clean fleece. Alpaca has no lanolin and tends to be much cleaner than wool so is relatively easy to wash.

Things You'll Need

  • Buckets; at least two
  • Mild soap
  • Screen
  • Skirt the raw alpaca fiber. This means clean the larger pieces of vegetable matter and manure from the fibers. It can also reduce the dust if you shake it on a screen before wetting. Just watch how much dust and small debris comes through the screen. A 1/4 inch hard wire screen works nicely for this.

  • Fill a bucket with the hottest water that you can stand to have your hands in. Take a reasonable amount of alpaca fiber and submerge it in the water. After doing it a couple of times you'll get the feel for how much you can wash in a bucket at a time. Let it soak in this hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Don't agitate it or stir.

  • Fill another bucket with the hottest water you can stand again, but add a little soap this time. A cupped handful of Orvus soap works well. Don't let it suds up too much, but some suds are OK. Grab a handful of fiber from the first bucket, hold it above the now muddy water and let it drain. You may squeeze a little but DON'T wring it. Even the squeezing can add some felting. Once all the fiber is moved, let sit in the soapy water for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Rinse the first bucket well and fill it with the hottest water you can again. This time, just rinse the soap from the alpaca fiber. Let it drain again; maybe squeeze a little and put it in the rinse water. On the first rinse, just do a quick rinse to get the worst of the suds out. Or you you could let it for the 20 to 30 minutes -- use your own judgement.

  • Repeat the previous step of rinsing until the alpaca fiber is soap free. You will generally need to do at least two rinses, but some some may require more.

  • Remove the alpaca fiber from the final rinse and place it on a screen. Make sure to separate any heavy clumps and pull apart as much felting as you can to aid in drying.

Tips & Warnings

  • There may be some felting with this process, but you should be able to pull the clumps apart or card them out.
  • Beware of chapped hands. Use lots of lotion after you're done.
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