Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if an item is really 100% alpaca wool?
Short answer: Buy from a reputable brand that can't afford to be caught selling sub-par products.
Long answer: There are some tricks. The most straightforward is to burn a fringe of your item with a lighter. If it melts or flames, it is blended with acrylic or some other synthetic material. If it chars without igniting and smells like burning hair, it is natural. Warning: It is not a good idea to walk into a store with a lighter and start burning merchandise before you buy it.
With experience, you can learn to recognize the properties of genuine alpaca items. For example, blending sheep wool with alpaca results in a fabric that is puffier and drapes less. Some people suggest that alpaca wool is cool to the touch, but this is not true; it feels just as warm or cold as any other animal hair.
The only ways to be positive are to send the item to a lab for testing or to monitor the item's manufacture. At the Rugged Andes Trading Company, we inspect the workshops in Peru where our products are made and refuse to work with any craftsman that has cheaper materials on hand.
How do I care for my new alpaca wool item?
Refer to the care instructions that come with it. Do not use a washing machine or dryer, as it will make the item frizzle. Instead, dry clean or wash by hand, and lay it flat to air dry. For larger items like blankets you should probably dry clean, as washing these bulky items by hand can be tricky. If the item has fur trim, take it to a dry cleaner who knows how to work with fur.
That having been said - Alpacas do not need to shower in the wild. Their wool is smoother than the wool of other animals, leaving dirt and odors less to cling to. Our items should take a good deal of wear before they need to be cleaned, so don't feel the need to overdo it.
Does shearing hurt alpacas?
Does it hurt when you get your hair cut?
Alpacas don't enjoy shearing, but it is not painful and it is important for their well-being. Andean winters really are quite cold, and Alpacas grow a heavy coat of fur to keep themselves warm. If it is not sheared in the spring, they will be at risk of overheating during the summer months.
Were any alpacas killed for the fur trim on some of your items?
Alpacas are not killed for their fur. The people that raise them feel a connection with the animals, and besides that, their wool is too valuable year-on-year for this to be a good idea. Some alpacas inevitably expire from natural causes every winter, and this is where the fur comes from.
Will you be getting X item or Y color any time soon?
We're always looking for new products to add to our catalog and hearing from our customers about what they are interested in is very helpful. If you have any ideas, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!