Alpaca Pillows – Everything You Need to Know

By: Ryan Poppie Reading Time: 10 minutes

Alpaca Pillows
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Alpaca pillows are made from the wool of alpacas—close cousins of the llama. Although rarer than other materials like sheep wool, alpaca fibers are softer, stronger, and more water resistant than different pillow types. Alpaca pillows are naturally moisture-wicking, making them stain and odor resistant too.

Alpaca Pillows – Everything You Need to Know

Alpaca pillows are also especially significant because of their hypoallergenic properties. Unlike typical sheep wool, this unique fiber contains zero lanolin which tends to trap dust and dander. Its hollow core deters dust mites—one of the most significant sources of at-home allergies.

In the past, most pillows fell into one of three categories: memory foam, wool, or goose down. Each type has its perks, and each type has its problems.

But today, a new pillow material is quickly growing in popularity—alpaca pillows. Wool made from alpacas offers many benefits that other traditional pillow types can’t match.

And with their luxurious feel, environmentally friendly impact, and superior durability, it’s no wonder why alpaca pillows are quickly becoming a favorite bed accessory.

This guide is designed to give you everything you need to know about alpaca pillows. We’ll cover how pillows from this luxurious wool stack up against other options, care instructions, what makes alpaca wool so unique, and much more.

Table of Contents

 

What Is an Alpaca Pillow?

Alpaca pillows are just what they sound like—pillows made from alpaca fleece. Typically, the pillow covers are made from natural cotton or other materials. But the pillow gets its structure, support, and comfort from the alpaca wool inside.

Alpaca pillows are considered a luxury item compared to other pillow types. They usually cost a bit more since harvesting the wool is more labor-intensive. It can often take as many as four people to shear a single alpaca.

Before getting deeper into what makes alpaca pillows so great, it’s helpful to understand where this luxurious wool comes from in the first place.

What Is an Alpaca?

Huacaya Alpaca

Huacaya Alpaca

Alpacas are a species of mammal native to South America. They’re part of the Camelidae family and are often confused with their close relatives, the llama.

However, alpacas are a bit smaller than llamas.

But most importantly, for this guide, an alpaca produces finer, more luxurious wool than its genetic cousin, the llama.

Alpaca fibers are soft and resilient and come in more than 52 natural colors, as classified by Peru.

The wool of alpacas is so sought after that the animal is bred exclusively for its fur.

Alpacas also tend to be quite gentle.

They’re observant, intelligent creatures and, for the most part, are quiet and friendly.

How Is Alpaca Wool Harvested?

Alpaca wool is typically harvested once a year, usually taking place in late winter and early spring. This timing lets the alpacas regrow their fur during the warmer months and protects them from the lower temperatures of the colder ones.

Like sheep, alpaca wool is shorn with hand scissors or electric shears. It is then sorted, spun, and washed before turning into usable fibers and threads.

Although alpacas are generally very easygoing animals, they resist the shearing process. As a result, multiple people (two to three in most cases and as many as four) are usually required during shearing.

Finally, the shearing process is entirely painless for the Alpaca. So while they might feel a bit uncomfortable being held down, no animals are hurt.

Are Alpaca Pillows Good?

If you’re wondering how to choose the right pillow, alpaca pillows are some of the best hypoallergenic pillows in the industry.

Pillows made from alpaca wool are perfect compared to other materials. And generally, the pricing for these pillow types tends to reflect that.

Alpaca pillows have all the fluffy softness of goose down. But it’s uniquely supportive simultaneously (and you don’t have to worry about any feathers poking through the cover).

It’s no wonder why pillows made from alpaca wool are consistently among the highest-rated bedding accessory companies.

What Is So Special About Alpaca?

Alpaca Wool

Alpaca Wool

Alpacas are unique animals. In addition to being extremely sustainable, their wool has various properties that other fibers don’t.

For instance, alpaca fibers are hollow. This extra air space within the fibers makes them better insulated than other fiber types. At the same time, it also makes alpaca pillows lighter than their sheep’s wool counterparts.

The fibers in alpaca wool also don’t have rough scales like wool from sheep. The main benefit here is the fibers are softer and less irritating. But the smoothness also holds less dander and makes it inhospitable to dust mites. As a result, alpaca wool is some of the best in the industry for people with allergies.

In addition to being resistant to dust mites, alpaca fibers also contain minimal lanolin. Also known as “wool wax,” lanolin holds onto dust and other microscopic allergens. And since there’s so little of it on the alpaca wool, these fibers are exceedingly hypoallergenic.

Lastly, alpaca wool is also stain-resistant, highly water-resistant, and stronger than typical sheep’s wool.

Is Alpaca Wool Good for Pillows?

Alpaca wool is more than suitable for pillows—it’s great.

Because wool from alpacas is less scaly than other animals, has a hollow core, and contains minimal lanolin, it’s incredibly resistant to allergens. It’s one of the most hypoallergenic fibers in a pillow.

Alpaca pillows are also great at wicking moisture. That means it is not only great for staying dry. It also resists odors more than most other fibers.

Plus, pillows made from alpaca wool are exceptionally good at temperature regulation (a vital part of a good night’s sleep) thanks to the fiber’s hollow core. That means a warmer, lighter pillow and a more comfortable night’s sleep.

Last but certainly not least, alpaca pillows are soft and fluffy, like goose down but offer the same support as pillows made from sheep’s wool. They’re also naturally fire-resistant.

Is Alpaca Wool Sustainable?

Alpaca wool pillows are made from particularly sustainable materials.

Regarding wool, alpacas are “greener” than most other animals that produce wool. They tend to have more fleece than sheep, meaning you need fewer to create the same output. And their feet are made up of soft padding rather than hooves, which maintains the integrity of the land they live on.

Alpacas are also more biologically efficient than other grazing livestock. They only consume about 1.5% of their body weight in food. Compare that to 2-3% for cotton-producing sheep.

Since alpaca wool is an entirely natural material, it can decompose in the soil without a problem. And depending on the brand you choose, covers may also be made from sustainable materials. For instance, alpaca pillows from The Beloit Mattress Company are made from all organic cotton harvested here in the U.S.A., making them completely biodegradable.

What Are the Disadvantages of Alpaca Wool?

As many benefits as there are for alpaca wool, there are a few downsides.

For people with susceptible skin, alpaca wool can be a bit itchy when lying directly on the fibers. However, alpaca pillows come with covers that negate or eliminate that itchiness.

Alpaca wool can also be a bit more expensive than other fiber types. Those higher costs are usually caused by the workforce needed to shear alpacas, shipping distance, and a more “small batch” approach to raising alpacas than other fiber types.

Finally, pillows made from alpaca wool can be harder to find since alpaca farms aren’t nearly as typical as those for sheep.

Is Alpaca Odor Resistant?

One of the best things about alpaca pillows is that they are naturally moisture-wicking. That means liquids (particularly sweat) don’t get trapped within the fibers of the pillows.

On the one hand, the moisture-wicking properties of alpaca wool make it easy to care for and stain-resistant. But since moisture doesn’t accumulate in the fibers, it also prevents the buildup of bacteria and mold (both thrive in warm, moist conditions).

Since bacteria and mold tend not to build up in alpaca wool, it makes alpaca pillows exceptionally resistant to odors.

How Long Does Alpaca Wool Last?

Another benefit of alpaca wool is that it tends to last a long time. With the proper care and maintenance, wool from alpacas can last a lifetime.

On the one hand, there’s its ability to resist odors and stains thanks to its natural moisture-wicking properties. So unlike pillows made from other materials, it won’t smell or need to be tossed due to staining as often.

But there’s also the physical strength of the fibers to consider. Though pillows don’t go through as much wear and tear as items like clothing, they can still take a beating. And the more durable the fibers inside, the longer that pillow will likely last.

Alpaca pillows contain solid fibers. Merino wool, for example, has a tensile strength of around 30-40 N/ktex (a measure of how much force is required to tear a fiber). But alpaca wool’s strength is closer to 50 N/ktex.

The takeaway is clear—alpaca pillows last longer because their wool is more robust.

Is Alpaca Wool Itchy?

Generally, alpaca wool is not itchy. That’s especially true when you compare it to other types of wool.

Alpaca wool fibers aren’t nearly as scaly as other fiber types. And as a result, it usually means less irritation on the skin.

However, it may still be a little uncomfortable for people with sensitive skin. When it comes to pillows, this problem can usually be avoided thanks to a well-made pillow cover completely.

Which Is Better, Wool or Alpaca?

Alpaca wool is generally considered better than sheep wool for several reasons.

Wool stock in a basket

Wool in a basket

First, it’s warmer. The hollow core inside alpaca wool means these fibers are better at holding onto the heat and resisting the cold.

Second, it has minimal lanolin, a grease that holds onto dust, dander, and other allergens.

As a result, it’s an excellent option for anyone who suffers from allergies or asthma.

Third, it’s naturally odor and stain-resistant thanks to its great moisture-wicking.

And finally, alpaca wool is softer, more durable, and lasts longer than typical sheep wool.

It’s even fire-resistant.

Which Is Better, Merino Wool or Alpaca?

Merino wool is a type of sheep wool that is gentler and dries more efficiently than traditional wool.

As a result, it’s one of the market’s most widely used and preferred wool types; even Merino wool doesn’t outperform wool from the Alpaca.

Here’s why.

It’s more robust (50 N/ktex vs. 30-40 N/ktex), warmer (thanks to a hollow core), and more environmentally sustainable than Merino wool.

It retains less water, absorbing only about 10% of its weight in water compared to the 30% Merino wool.

Is Alpaca Better Than Cashmere?

Cashmere goats

Cashmere goats

That depends on what you’re after.

In softness, cashmere tends to win out (but not by much).

Softness in wool products is measured in the width of the fibers. Since fibers are so tiny, they’re measured in a micron—one-millionth of a meter. 

The best pure cashmere comes from goals that live in inner Mongolia, way up in the Himalayas.  That area is super cold, which is why these animals produce long, fine hair.

High-quality cashmere is lovely, usually at about 14-16 microns. On the other hand, Alpaca tends to be closer to 19 microns.

For reference, Merino sheep wool is usually about 24 microns. So, generally speaking, cashmere is softer than Alpaca.

However, it’s worth remembering that the Alpaca hasty of other benefits than other types of wool (durability, temperature regulation, moisture wicking, sustainability, price, etc.).

So whether Alpaca beats out cashmere depends on what’s most important to you.

Is Alpaca a Luxury?

Many people consider Alpaca a luxury thanks to its rarity and exceptional softness.

But despite the many benefits alpaca pillows have over other pillow types, it’s still much more affordable than luxury material types like cashmere.

That being said, alpaca wool is steadily becoming more popular. And as popularity increases, the price of wool from alpacas will likely increase.

Is Alpaca Warmer Than Cotton?

Cotton soft plant

Cotton soft plant

Generally, Alpaca is considered warmer than cotton.

Both alpaca and cotton fibers have hollow cores.

This reduces temperature transfer between fibers, keeping you cool in warm environments and warm in relaxed settings.

However, Alpaca is warmer than cotton in cool, damp conditions.

Alpaca fibers are naturally moisture-wicking.

That means it moves moisture away from the fibers rather than absorbing them.

Cotton, on the other hand, tends to absorb moisture.

Cotton can absorb up to 27 times its weight in liquid water.

Can You Machine Wash Alpaca Wool?

Most alpaca wool items should be washed manually. Some clothing made from alpaca wool is machine washable on the “wool” setting or using a delicates option.

However, many will need to be dry-cleaned.

Alpaca pillows from The Beloit Mattress Company can be cleaned by simply placing the pillow in the sunshine for a few hours to clean, rejuvenate, and deodorize the natural fibers.

It would be best if you refrained from washing or using warm water while keeping your pillow out of the dryer.

Does Alpaca Shrink When Washed?

Yes, alpaca wool will shrink when washed in a typical washer.

On the one hand, there’s the heat. Excessive washing temperatures can cause shrinkage in alpaca wool.

But there’s also the agitation to consider. Agitating your alpaca wool or exposing it to excessive friction will cause the fibers to lock together, pulling them in and shrinking your alpaca wool.

Can Alpaca Go In the Dryer?

No, it would be best never to place your alpaca wool or Alpaca pillows directly in the dryer.

Doing so will cause your alpaca pillow or wool item to shrink.

Where Can I Purchase Alpaca Pillows?

Pillows made from alpaca wool aren’t as easy to find as other pillow types. Wool from alpacas is rarer and a bit more expensive to boot.

Consequently, not all pillow and bedding stores will carry alpaca pillows. And those found in some of the bigger chains (Walmart, Target, etc.) may not be as sustainably sourced or high quality as you’d like.

The best place to find an alpaca pillow is from a high-quality bedding store you know you can trust.

Introducing Beloit Alpaca Pillows

Alpaca Pillow

100% All-Natural, Alpaca Pillow

The Beloit Mattress Company is proud to introduce our premium-quality alpaca pillow, made from 100% all-natural materials.

Our pillows are made using Huacaya alpaca fleece sourced from Ames Alpaca Acres in Harvard, IL. This small family farm ethically raises its alpacas and provides some of the best alpaca wool in the area.

No chemicals or dyes are used in any part of the process. And their local production cuts down on greenhouse emissions typically involved in the shipping process.

Pillow covers are made from 100% organic cotton harvested in the United States of America.

And their alpaca wool has all the benefits of quality alpaca fibers:

  • Soft, durable wool
  • Lanolin-free
  • Moisture-wicking and odor resistant
  • Temperature regulating
  • Fire resistant
  • Biodegradable

So if you’re looking to tap into the luxurious feel and superior support of alpaca pillows, look no further than The Beloit Mattress Company.

And consider buying our alpaca pillow today!

[Shop our Huacaya Alpaca Pillow]

About Ryan Poppie

Ryan Poppie, President and Chief Bedmaker at The Beloit Mattress Company. He's not just a mattress maker but a true expert in sleep. Leading a 4th generation family business, Ryan uses his deep sleep knowledge to ensure every mattress made gives his customers the best rest possible. Each custom mattress is handcrafted to show his love for sleep and how it can improve our lives. With his team, Ryan's passion is to improve your quality of life through a better night's sleep.

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