How to Care for Alpaca Sweaters So They Live Forever

by Stuart Cohen on October 17, 2019

To say that alpaca sweaters are “immortal” is a pretty bold boast. But yes, without wanting to be macabre, if you properly care for your alpaca sweater, it might outlive you. If you're investing in top-end Peruvian clothing you need to know how to wash and store it.  We operated a retail store for 32 years in a small town and saw our sweaters go through the complete life cycle on many many customers, so we are speaking from experience.

Why Buy Alpaca Sweaters?

Before we dive into caring for your alpaca cardigan or sweater, let’s explore why you might want to purchase one to begin with. First, you can wear it as a spring, fall or winter sweater, as well as in over-cooled offices or on brisk summer nights by the ocean.  Even better, while you’re wearing it nearly year-round, it’s not pilling or stretching, because alpaca fiber is extremely long and incredibly strong.  We have seen alpaca wool sweaters decades old that still looked great.  In fact, we own some.

We could go on about this amazing fiber: how its cultivation allows traditional rural farmers to stay on their lands.  How it’s a sustainable clothing brand dating back 5000 years and getting shout-outs from Tupac Yupanqi, Manco Capac and other fourteenth-century Inca celebrities.  That’s right: during the Inca Empire alpaca was reserved for the royalty.  But whether you’re wearing an alpaca poncho or a long elegant sweater coat, all types of sweaters of alpaca are uniquely silky, soft, and durable, and they’ll make you feel like a million bucks.  And that’s what really counts

 But lets talk about how to keep this affordable luxury affordable: by not destroying it!

 First of all, while alpaca fiber is extremely strong and durable, that doesn’t mean you can take a chain saw to it.  Beware of snags, unraveling threads, or moth damage, and when you find a problem, stop wearing it and get it repaired (hint: try asking around a shop that sells knitting supplies, or check the internet for dry-cleaners or tailors that specialize in knitwear repair.).  Follow these other rules of the road to keep that item of chic clothing looking great and reeling in the compliments:

  •  Be careful with sharp-edged rings or wristwatches: turn them to the inside or take them off when slipping on your sweater. 
  •  Never hang an alpaca sweater or knit jacket on a hanger or a chair.  Fold it up neatly and put it on a shelf.
  •  If you’re storing your sweater away for the summer, put it in a sealed plastic bag to protect it from moths.  Clothing moths do not live in the environment, they live in your closet.  Don’t let these silent destroyers turn your women’s or men’s alpaca sweaters to swiss cheese.  A chunk of cedar in the bag helps.
  •  In answer to those who have asked: no, you cannot systematically shrink your alpaca clothing. Unless you also carefully shrink your own arms and torso to match, the sweater will still not fit you when you are finished.



 To hand-wash a sweater or alpaca coat you should wash it in cool water with a mild detergent like Woolite or shampoo, gently kneading and squeezing the garment. Don’t wring it rub the surface too much. Adding hair conditioner will make your sweater even softer. After rinsing, you should gently squeeze out the water and lay it flat on a towel to dry.



Although you can’t shrink a sweater to size, you can still lengthen or widen it a little bit. This is called blocking the sweater. This works best with heavier sweaters, but can be done on lighter ones to a lesser degree.  It’s great when the sleeves are just a little bit too short.  First, get your sweater soaking wet. Then, after squeezing out the water, and laying it on a towel, gently pull your alpaca clothing  out to the dimensions desired. The sweater should then be weighted with clean heavy objects until it is dry. It will then retain its new shape.

You can also do this with a steam iron.  In both alpaca and cashmere factories, ironing is actually a skill, where experienced workers block out the recently knit and washed garment to the exact right dimensions.  You don't need to soak it with this method, but spray on enough water to get a good blast of steam going.  Some can be expanded up to a full size!  Works great on too-snug hats, also.

Follow these guidelines and not only will your investment last for many years, but you’ll still be getting compliments on it long after your other sweaters are a distant memory.