Wearing a huge, puffy sweater while sipping a cup of tea is my favorite part of Autumn. Many of those sweaters are made entirely of acrylic fibers, which I didn’t realize until lately. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what acrylic fabric is.
Acrylic fabric is a synthetic textile that is a less expensive alternative to wool. Other synthetic materials include a lower ratio of acrylonitrile monomers than acrylic fabric. Acrylic fabric is commonly used in sweaters, stockings, and other cold-weather products.
You’ll learn about the process of making acrylic fabric in this post. You’ll also learn about its salient features, benefits, and drawbacks. Finally, you’ll learn everything there is to know about modacrylic!
What Is Acrylic Fabric?
Acrylic fabric is a thick, warm cloth created from acrylic yarns woven or knitted together. This material is popular for sweaters, coat linings, and outdoor athletic gear because it provides excellent warmth and insulation. This fabric is frequently used as a less expensive substitute for wool.
During WWII, the same company that made nylon created acrylic. Textile research had advanced to new heights at the time, and many people believed that synthetic fabrics could eventually replace natural cloth! Acrylic was very popular in the 1950s, but because of its insulating properties, it was largely used for cold-weather clothes.
The public was then made aware of the possible risks of plastic-based synthetic fabrics as a result of heightened environmental awareness in the 1970s. Polyester, nylon, and acrylic remained popular, but output in the United States declined.
The majority of acrylic is now produced in China and other Asian countries. Despite its tumultuous history in the retail clothing industry, it remains a popular choice for cold-weather attire today.
What is Acrylic Fabric Made Of?
Acrylic fabric is a man-made substance generated from coal and petroleum monomers. Polymerization, a chemical process, transforms these monomers into a long strand of plastic known as a polymer. The plastic is then heated and extruded into filaments, which are finally spun into thread-like fibers.
Following that, each acrylic fiber is spun into yarn using sophisticated machinery. The yarns may be dyed or subjected to additional chemical treatments, depending on the intended outcome. The large spools of yarn are almost usually treated with a particular washing and crimping process that improves the cloth’s insulating capabilities.
Finally, the finished cloth is created by weaving or knitting!
Acrylic fibers in the United States must contain at least 85% of the monomer acrylonitrile. They become polyacrylonitrile when they are turned into polymers. These one-of-a-kind polymers are responsible for the cloth’s signature warmth and softness.
Acrylic fabric has a wide range of applications, although it’s most commonly seen in sweaters, caps, and gloves.
Interestingly, the United States no longer manufactures acrylic fabric, despite the fact that significant volumes are imported every year as retail apparel and other fabric items. China, India, and South America are home to the majority of production and manufacturing facilities.
Acrylic fabric with a high percentage of acrylonitrile continues to be a popular fabric for garments. Three other types of acrylic material, however, have specific use.
Aside from acrylonitrile, Modacrylic incorporates additional polymers. This fabric is utilized as a high-performance athletic cloth because of its strong flame resistance. It also drapes better than conventional acrylic, making it more appealing for certain garment styles.
To generate a more stretchable fabric, Lastrile contains an elasticky polymer called aliphatic diene.
Vinylidene dinitrile is a polymer that makes up a substantial portion of nitrile. Because it doesn’t hold dye or typical acrylic material, it doesn’t get much use.
Is Acrylic Natural or Synthetic?
Acrylic fabric is made entirely of synthetic fibers, while it is occasionally blended with natural fibers to improve the material’s properties, such as breathability. The bouncy, soft, warm texture of this wholly man-made textile is often compared to that of wool. Acrylic fiber, like other polymers, is made from petroleum.
Some consumers are leery about synthetic fibers due to environmental and health concerns. Acrylic manufacture is a pollutant since plastic does not biodegrade.
Concerns about plastic going up the food chain are raised by micropollution generated by invisible plastic particles of acrylic fibers sluicing away in the washing machine. Fish ingest the plastic in the water, and other animals and humans eventually eat the fish.
Furthermore, the production of acrylic fiber necessitates the use of harmful chemicals, which add to pollution and health risks. Acrylonitrile is a carcinogen in and of itself, yet studies have yet to correlate it to any specific cancer etiology.
If you’re feeling compelled to clear your closet of all synthetic materials right now, you might be wondering why this potentially hazardous fabric is still so popular.
The solution is straightforward. Acrylic is significantly less expensive to manufacture than wool! After all, you don’t have to feed and shear petroleum.
Acrylic Fabric Properties
Acrylic fabric is quite warm and insulating, yet it is not very breathable. It is far less expensive than wool or other natural fibers. It also lasts a long time and is fairly durable, albeit it is prone to pilling.
This substance is derived from petroleum and coal. It is man-made, not natural, and is constructed of plastic. Regardless, it has a delicate, springy texture that is pleasing to the touch.
100% Acrylic Fabric
Because of its excellent insulating characteristics, 100% acrylic fabric is still popular today. What is it about this synthetic substance that makes it so warm?
Part of the insulating ability is determined by the garment’s style. Heat will be trapped near your body if you wear a tightly woven fabric and a garment that clings to your skin.
Acrylic is also non-breathable, which means that air cannot easily pass through it. Heat is trapped between the fabric and your skin as a result of this.
Furthermore, acrylic is frequently referred to as the warmest synthetic material. Its thick, crimped fibers absorb and keep heat. You’ll definitely want to avoid it throughout the summer because it keeps you so toasty!
Acrylic has a number of advantages in addition to its warming characteristics.
It can be cared for easily, for example. You can put it in the washer, inside out if possible. However, instead of placing sweaters in the dryer, you should lay them flat to dry.
Acrylic is extremely quick to dry and has hydrophobic properties. It isn’t technically water-proof, but it also doesn’t absorb water readily.
It’s also stain, mold, and odor resistant.
On the negative, it lacks breathability, which means it might easily overheat you. It’s also prone to pilling and has a low heat resistance. Finally, the synthetic nature of the product and the manufacturing process raises environmental problems.
Is Acrylic Fabric Itchy?
The majority of acrylic fabrics are non-itchy. Textile scientists have developed techniques for making acrylic fibers that are ultra-fine, soft, and comfy. It’s possible that this material is less scratchy than wool!
When compared to all-natural wool, it may have a faint plasticky scrape to it.
If you put on an acrylic sweater and get a rash on your skin right away, you may have a synthetic fiber allergy. Allergens in this material can irritate the skin, so you might opt to use natural fibers in this instance.
Acrylic has a warm, inviting feel about it. Consider a skein of yarn and envision your hand sliding into the neat coil. That’s the way acrylic feels!
Is Acrylic Fabric Stretchy?
Depending on the weave, acrylic cloth might have a lot of flexibility. Many sweaters have a knitted structure rather than a plain weave. This means that instead of crossing at right angles, the threads loop around each other.
Knit materials have more give than woven fabrics almost all of the time. Pulling on sweaters, in particular, causes them to stretch.
Individual acrylic threads, on the other hand, will not feel elastic. Keep in mind that every acrylic fiber is made entirely of plastic! Fabric structured in a plain over-under weave will not have nearly as much give as fabric structured in a plain over-under weave.
Unless it contains a blend of spandex or Lycra, don’t expect acrylic to be more stretchy than cotton or wool in general.
Is Acrylic the Same as Polyester?
Acrylic and polyester are not interchangeable terms. They go through nearly identical manufacturing processes, although their chemical compositions differ slightly. While these fabrics share many traits, their chemical structures differ, giving them distinct characteristics.
First and foremost, both fabrics are synthetic or man-made and are derived from petroleum. Polyester is also polymerized, which transforms a string of monomers into polymers or plastic.
Acrylic, on the other hand, contains a high percentage of acrylonitrile. It is less durable than polyester due to its chemical composition. It is more prone to shrinking and pilling over time.
Although polyester is more versatile, acrylic provides more warmth. Acrylic is undesirable for bedding due to its lack of breathability. In the middle of the night, you’d feel suffocated because none of your body heat could escape into the air!
Polyester, on the other hand, may be woven in a variety of ways to produce a wide range of materials suitable for a wide range of applications.
Acrylic is the star of the show when it comes to cold-weather clothes. While a sweater made of 100 percent polyester will breathe better, one made of 100 percent acrylic will keep you significantly warmer!
Is Acrylic Good For Winter?
Acrylic is used in a variety of cold-weather garments, including socks, gloves, and sweaters. It’s also popular for cold-weather sporting wear like hiking, camping, and fishing.
What is the temperature of acrylic? Yarn knitted in a looser weave with spaces between the yarns, on the other hand, may retain less heat than yarn done in a tight weave or knit. As a result, insulating properties vary depending on the garment style.
In addition, the fabric’s thickness or thinness plays a significant influence. More heat is provided by thicker fabric. Even in extreme weather, a plush, thick acrylic winter hat will keep your head warm because it allows almost none of your body heat to escape!
Acrylic also has natural warming qualities. Acrylic fiber traps approximately 20% more heat than wool fiber!
There are a plethora of 100 percent acrylic hats, mittens, and socks available. However, you might feel better at ease wearing a blend that includes some natural wool. Wool allows for improved temperature regulation due to its increased breathability.
Is Acrylic Better Than Cotton?
The use of acrylic determines if it is better than cotton. Cotton has a lot more softness, breathability, and moisture absorption than other fabrics. Acrylic provides a lot more warmth and insulation, but it doesn’t regulate temperature and isn’t as soft as wool.
Cotton is also made from a plant and comprises natural fiber rather than pure plastic. Natural fiber may appeal to you because it is softer and less plasticky.
In general, though, each fabric excels at a certain task.
Cotton will keep you cool in the winter and warm in the summer. Summer apparel, such as jersey knit t-shirts, performs better. It’s also popular in bedding due of its airy weave, which allows for pleasant nighttime breathing.
On the other end of the spectrum, acrylic might make you excessively hot! Wear acrylic socks if you want to shovel snow for a few hours. Even if some snow seeps inside your boots, your toes will stay warm for hours and won’t get wet.
If you’re trying to decide whether to knit with acrylic or cotton yarn. You should also think about the price. Because acrylic is so much cheaper to make, a lot of the yarn you see for sale at sewing stores contains a high percentage of it.
Cotton yarn, of course, will make your knitted creation softer. However, if you require a large quantity of yarn, you may prefer to save money.
In short, cotton is more pleasant in hot weather, while acrylic is more comfortable in cold weather.
Acrylic Fabric Advantages and Disadvantages
Acrylic, like all types of cloth, has a variety of advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s start with the numerous benefits of this substance. Acrylic is made up of:
- The warmest and most insulating of all man-made fabrics.
- It’s light and gentle to the touch. It has a comparable feel to wool, albeit this varies depending on whether the fabric was knitted or woven.
- It’s simple to care for and can even be washed. However, allowing it to air dry is preferable.
- It’s dye-fast, which means it won’t fade or bleed onto other clothes in the wash.
- It’s wrinkle-resistant and holds pleats in place. Most synthetic fabrics have this property, but it’s good to know you can pack a sweater in your bag and shake it out when you get to your destination!
- Moths, mold, and mildew don’t like it, thus it’s resistant to them.
- It’s hydrophobic, which means it doesn’t absorb water quickly and offers some weather protection.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to this material. Acrylic can also be used to make:
- Pilling-prone, which means that tiny thread bobbles will peel off the cloth and amass on the surface over time. Turning your garments inside out before washing them can help you avoid this problem. Air drying is also beneficial.
- Static cling is also a problem, especially if you dry it.
- Airtight to the point of being impenetrable. Some of its insulating capabilities are enabled by this lack of permeability, but it also means that your clothes can trap too much heat against your skin.
- Heat-sensitive and prone to melting at high temperatures. Acrylic has a perilous tendency to melt into molten plastic when it gets too hot, unlike wool, which has great heat and even flame resistance.
Finally, as you’ll see in the next section, acrylic is scrutinized for its harmful manufacturing practices and environmental damage.
Is Acrylic Clothing Good or Bad?
Acrylic fabric supporters typically argue that its low cost and exceptional warmth outweigh any potential concerns, while detractors argue that it is hazardous to one’s health and the environment. You’re not alone if you’re unsure about acrylic after reading this article. Over the years, there has been a lot of debate about this man-made fabric.
The fact of the matter is that acrylic is still very popular today. Because it is so inexpensive to create compared to a natural fiber cloth, sales are booming. Although the United States no longer manufactures the cloth in the country, it continues to import vast quantities from other countries every year!
As a consumer, you benefit from the low production costs. Warm, long-lasting sweaters and winter apparel are available at a reasonable price.
Naturally, no amount of money saved is worth putting your health at danger. Acrylic is known to induce allergic reactions in those with delicate skin. Wool, despite its natural fibers, can, of course, induce an allergic reaction. Wool includes lanolin, which is an allergy that causes severe reactions in some people.
If you have an allergic response to wool, acrylic may be a better option!
On a more serious side, there is a lot of concern about acrylic’s carcinogenic characteristics. To yet, no research have linked acrylic’s toxins and allergies to cancer. On the other side, the acrylic dyeing process uses a lot of harmful chemicals.
A formaldehyde wash is frequently used to keep the yarn from shrinking. All of this indicates that your comfortable acrylic sweater is naturally carcinogenic and contains a variety of poisons!
Of fact, man-made fibers are found in more than 60% of all clothing sold today. You may simply dismiss this as an inescapable element of modern life.
On a more serious side, the EPA recently released a study claiming that acrylic manufacturing creates a hazardous working environment. Employees who inhaled the substances developed symptoms similar to those induced by breathing cyanide gas.
Finally, acrylic can degrade, but it will take more than 200 years to do so! This means that acrylic fabric adds to environmental plastic contamination.
Acrylic Fabric Uses
Acrylic fabric is a less expensive alternative to wool and is commonly seen in sweaters, caps, and other cold-weather clothing. Any time you look at a rack of winter boots, warm socks, or fuzzy gloves, you’ll almost surely notice that they include acrylic!
Surprisingly, this material can also be found in domestic items like upholstery, carpets, and rugs. The cloth is treated with a flame-resistant treatment in these applications. You don’t want carpets, curtains, or furniture that can catch fire at the first sign of trouble!
Acrylic also makes realistic-looking wigs and hair extensions, which is a great tidbit! It also produces a large number of faux furs. You can get this synthetic fur in a variety of wacky colors because it maintains color so well!
Finally, it has a monopoly on the hobby yarn market. It sells low-cost, durable yarn in a variety of colors for hobby knitters and crocheters.
What is Modacrylic?
Modacrylic is a form of acrylic cloth with a few distinct characteristics. The term “modacrylic!” refers to “modified acrylic!”
For starters, it includes less acrylonitrile than conventional acrylic cloth. In terms of percentages, this figure varies between 35 and 85 percent.
Modacrylic is more heat and flame resistant than conventional acrylic, which is combustible. In this case, the minor chemical variations make a significant difference! It is also more durable and lasts longer.
Modacrylic is widely used in a variety of applications, including faux fur, fleece fabric, and paint rollers. You can find it in stuffed animal toys and protective clothes, among other things!
Acrylic fabric is made from fossil fuels and goes through a lengthy manufacturing process before being transformed into a polymer and then fibers. The fibers are knitted or woven into material that has the feel and softness of wool. As a result, acrylic may be used in the same way that wool can.
Winter clothing, boot linings, and fluffy blankets are examples. While acrylic and polyester are both created in the same way, they have very different properties.
Check the labels inside your sweaters and winter coats for a fun task. Did you come across a lot of acrylic? Please let us know in the comments section below!