Characteristics of Acrylic Fabric

Characteristics of Acrylic Fabric

When acrylic was first made, it was thought to be a cheap and an itchy substitute for wool. However, these days, with the help of advanced chemical processes, the story doesn't remain the same! As a matter of fact, many people tend to prefer acrylic over natural fabrics. This Buzzle write-up talks about the various properties of acrylic fabric and supplies you with some tips so that your clothes look as new as ever!
Useful Repair Tip
To shrink your stretched acrylic sweater back to its original size:
  1. Put the sweater in the washer.
  2. Wash it using warm water on a heavy cycle.
  3. Tumble dry the sweater for 60 minutes.
  4. Repeat the steps till your sweater retains its original size.
Fabric is any material that can be made by interweaving of threads obtained from a variety of origins like wool, cotton, polyester, etc., and is used in the production of further processed goods. They are an integral part of our existence and have been around for a time longer than any of us care to remember. It is not only used in clothing, but is also used in the making of a variety of goods, right from carpets to parachutes; we just can't think of a world without them! Fabrics can be of either of natural origin like cotton, silk, hemp, and wool, or of synthetic origin like rayon, polyester, acrylic, etc. This write-up will focus on the characteristics of acrylic fabric.

Acrylic fabric was first developed by DuPont in the year 1941, and was mass produced in the 1950s in the USA. It was developed in Germany in the year 1942 and is being manufactured by Bayer since 1954. By 1991, it became the most widely used fabric in America. It is a polymer composed of 85% by weight acrylonitrile units. It is usually used as an inexpensive substitute for wool. Modified acrylic or modacrylic is made using vinyl chloride, vinylidene chloride, or vinyl bromide as comonomers.

Characteristics of Acrylic Fabrics

Apart from its inexpensiveness, there are many properties of acrylic fabric that have made them the most preferred choice of fabric these days. However, this fabric too has its pros and cons.


This fabric has a low specific density, which makes this fabric pretty light in weight as compared to the bulk of the fabric.

Due to its high resilience, it retains its shape even after many washes and of course, it is easy to wash.

It is colorfast (you don't have to worry about the color running and ruining your favorite top!).

It is highly elastic and retains its shape for a longer time.

It is resistant to moths, oils, chemicals, mildew, and degradation due to sunlight, making your clothes last a while longer.

This fabric is highly versatile and can be modified to make to look like cotton or wool. It provides good insulation and can keep you warm without the extra weight.

Acrylic fabric is highly durable, and close-knit fibers can also make the fabric water-resistant.

It has excellent wickability. This means that the sweat that is being produced by the body will be absorbed rapidly by the fabric. It also dries 60% faster than cotton. As a result, acrylic fabric keeps you dry and comfortable during hot and humid days.

It is wrinkle-free, and ironing is usually not required. Apart from this, it drapes beautifully on your body.


As it is thermoplastic in nature, its degradation is of big concern. Although acrylonitriles break down easily, high levels of acrylonitriles may be toxic.

It has very low flame-retardant properties, and it usually melts while burning. It burns rather easily and is difficult to extinguish. It requires low temperature while ironing; application of high temperature may shrink the garment. Modacrylic is the modification of acrylic that provides more flame-retardation properties.

This fabric is prone to pilling, i.e., regular washing of this fabric may give rise to lint-like particles on the surface of the fabric. To overcome this, a chemical modification marketed under the name Pil-Trol has been introduced by the Monsanto Chemical Company.

The wickability and water-repellent characters are due to its hydrophobic nature. This, however, gives rise to static electricity.

Acrylic fiber is not very resistant to abrasion. When used in making garments that undergo high wear and tear, chafe needs to be added. Polyurethane or polyvinyl is usually added as chafe.

Uses of Acrylic Fabric

Due to its high elasticity and wickability, this fabric is used in the manufacture of sportswear like socks, tracksuits, T shirts, etc.

The fibers of acrylonitrile are similar to wool and can be used in the manufacture of knit wear garments like sweaters, gloves, etc. It is used as a cheap substitute for cashmere.

Acrylic fibers are used in the manufacture of pile fabrics, which are used in making carpets and stuffed toys. It is used as upholstery, awnings, and curtains in home furnishing. Due to its high luster, it is used in the making of wigs as well.

As it has water-repellent properties, it is a material used for the construction of tents and other outdoor arrangements. In industries, acrylic fiber is used in place of asbestos. Sometimes, it is used as a reinforcement for concrete.

Care for Acrylic Fabric

Wash delicate items by hand using warm water. Make sure that you add fabric softener in every third or fourth wash. Squeeze out the excess water and hang it on a hanger to dry it out.

When machine washing, be sure to use a fabric softener while rinsing, and dry it at a low temperature.

If ironing is required, refer to the label of the garment for the right temperature. Otherwise, it is advisable to use a moderately low temperature for ironing.

Allergy to Acrylic Fabric

Most acrylic fabrics undergo a process called finishing in which they are treated with formaldehyde (ideally to reduce pilling of the fabric). This may cause contact dermatitis (watery rashes) on the inner side of the thighs, underarms, around the waist, and at the back of the neck to sensitive individuals. In some cases, it is noted to aggravate preexisting skin conditions.