In order for the alpaca fiber to be used in our products, it has to be washed first. Alpacas don't have lanolin like sheep do, which is why some folks tolerate it better than wool. That said, they do have natural skin oils and they LOVE to take dirt baths, that is, they love to roll in the dirt throughout the year.
All of this means we have to spend some time getting it clean to use in our products. I was about 5-7 pounds of it at a time in cast iron tub in the guest bathroom. It gets at least two soakings three rounds of washing and two rinses after each wash; it takes about five days to do this.
Our hot water heater went out the year after I started the business. I had washed about 300 pounds of alpaca fiber in it during this time. I am convinced this contributed to its demise, although, it was 10 years old. Hard to tell if it was a premature death or not, but the hot water heater certainly served me well during that time!