If you love wearing cozy sweaters in winter you may think that the materials you are wearing are cotton or a similar fabric. But a quick look at the label will probably show that you are wearing a 100% acrylic product.
If you want to know more about acrylic fibers, then you have come to the right place!
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about acrylic, including what it is, the key properties of this fabric, and the pros and cons of wearing these clothing items.
Acrylic Fabric – What Is It?
Acrylic fabric is created by weaving or knitting acrylic yarns together to create a warm, thick fabric.
Due to the material’s exceptional insulation and warmth, it is a popular option for cold weather clothing including coat linings, outdoor sportswear, and sweaters.
This material is commonly used in place of wool as it is far cheaper than this material.
Acrylic was invented during World War II by the company that also invented nylon. Textile research had evolved to unprecedented levels during this time, and some anticipated that synthetic fibers may soon substitute natural cloth entirely!
Acrylic became popular during the 1950s, even though acrylic insulating characteristics confined its use to cold-weather clothes.
Then, in the 1970s, as environmental consciousness grew, the public became aware of the many potential dangers of synthetic materials. While acrylic, nylon, and polyester remained popular, production fell in the USA.
Acrylic is made in the majority of cases Asian countries nowadays. Despite its rather controversial role in clothing, it is still a very popular choice of material to use in making clothes for colder weather.
What’s It Made From?
Acrylic fabric is made of man-made fiber composed of monomers taken from petroleum and coal. Polymerization is the chemical process by which these monomers are combined to form a long string of plastic called a polymer.
After heating the plastic, it is squeezed out into filaments, which are then spun into string-like fibers.
Then, using specialized gear, each acrylic fiber is spun into a yarn. Depending on what effect the manufacturers want from the yarn, they could be colored or subjected to other chemical solutions.
Almost always, the huge ball of yarn is treated with a special crimping and washing process that increases the insulating characteristics of the fabric.
Finally, the material is produced by knitting or weaving to make the final product.
In the USA, acrylic fibers must be made of at least 85% of the monomer acrylonitrile. They create polyacrylonitrile when polymerized. These one-of-a-kind polymers provide softness and warmth to the textile.
Although the acrylic fabric is used in a wide variety of applications, it is most typically seen in hats, gloves, and sweaters.
Surprisingly, the USA no longer manufactures acrylic fabric, despite massive yearly imports of retail clothes and other similar fabric items. The bulk of manufacturing and production facilities are located in South America, India, and China.
Acrylic fabric containing a high amount of acrylonitrile is still a very popular choice for clothes. Having stated that, three other varieties of acrylic material are useful.
Modacrylic contains different polymers in addition to acrylonitrile. Due to the great flame resistance of this fabric, it is widely utilized in high-performance sports materials.
Additionally, it drapes better than standard acrylic, making it more desirable for specific garment designs.
Lastrile uses an elastic polymer known as an aliphatic diene, which results in a stretchy fabric.
Nitrile usually contains a considerable quantity of vinylidene dinitrile polymer. It is rarely used owing to its inability to retain color and the fact that it is made of standard acrylic fibers.
Is It Synthetic Or Natural?
Although the acrylic fabric is solely composed of synthetic fibers, some manufacturers blend it with natural fibers to give additional characteristics such as greater breathability.
This entirely synthetic material typically resembles wool in terms of bounce, softness, and warmth. Nonetheless, like the bulk of polymers, acrylic fiber is generated from petroleum.
Due to environmental and health concerns, some buyers are wary of synthetic fibers. Because acrylic does not biodegrade, its production contributes to pollution.
Micro Pollution caused by invisible acrylic fiber plastic particles draining away in the washing machine raises concerns about plastic entering the food chain. In the water, fish devour plastic, and other animals, including people, eventually consume the fish.
Additionally, the manufacture of acrylic fiber entails the use of hazardous chemicals, which contribute to pollution and health hazards. Acrylonitrile is a carcinogen in and of itself, however, no link to cancer has been shown.
If you’re now experiencing an overwhelming need to purge your closet of all synthetic fabrics, you might be wondering why this possibly dangerous fabric remains so popular.
The solution is rather self-explanatory. Acrylic is a quarter of the price of wool! After all, petroleum does not require feeding and shredding.
Properties Of Acrylic Fabric
Acrylic fabric is incredibly insulating and warm but has a low breathability rating. It is far more affordable than wool or other natural fibers though. Additionally, it is long-lasting and resilient, yet it is prone to pilling.
This chemical is a byproduct of the petroleum and coal industries. Because it is made of plastic, it is synthetic, not natural. Despite this, it has a pleasant, silky, bouncy feel.
Here are some of the key properties of acrylic fabric.
Today, 100% acrylic fabric continues to be popular due to its exceptional insulating properties. What is it about this man-made chemical that causes it to be so hot though?
Well, a portion of the garment’s insulating efficiency is dictated by its style. A closely woven fabric and body-hugging garments retain heat near the body.
Additionally, acrylic is impervious to air, which implies that it cannot be easily penetrated. This creates a barrier between the material and the skin, trapping heat.
Also, acrylic is occasionally touted as the most thermally efficient synthetic material. Its sturdy crimped fibers are excellent at absorbing and retaining heat. It keeps you so warm that you’re probably better off staying away from it in hotter climates or during the summer months.
Apart from its warming properties, acrylic has a variety of additional benefits.
For example, as the clothing is made entirely of acrylic it requires little care. You may machine wash it, preferably inside out, but the washing won’t cause any damage to the clothing anyway.
When it comes to drying the clothes though, you may find that the items, especially sweaters, dry faster when left to air dry rather than putting them in the dryer. Acrylic dries quickly and is hydrophobic. While it is not waterproof in the strictest sense, it also does not readily absorb water.
Additionally, it resists staining, mold growth, and smelly odors.
On the downside, it lacks breathability, which means that it can quickly get too hot. Additionally, it has a low-temperature resistance and a high tendency to pill. Finally, given its synthetic origins and manufacturing process, it poses serious concerns about environmental contamination.
It’s A Bit Stretchy
Acrylic textiles, depending on their weave, can have a large degree of elasticity. Numerous sweaters are knitted rather than woven. This shows that the strands are entwined rather than crossing at right angles.
Knit textiles almost always have more give more stretch than woven fabrics. Sweaters, in particular, tend to appear pliable when manipulated.
Having said that, each acrylic thread is not elastic. Each acrylic fiber is made of pure plastic! As a result, material woven in an over-under weave will have significantly less give.
Unless mixed with lycra or spandex, acrylic will not feel more flexible than cotton or wool.
It’s Not Itchy
Acrylic fabric, for the most part, is non-itchy. Textile experts have found procedures for generating an exceedingly fine, soft, and comfortable acrylic fiber.
This fabric may be even less itchy than actual wool! When contrasted to all-natural wool, though, you may see a little plasticky scratch.
If you put on an acrylic sweater and develop a rash instantly, you may be allergic to synthetic fibers.
Due to the possibility that allergens in this material can irritate the skin, you may choose to utilize natural fibers in this case.
Acrylic is often silky and nice to the touch, though, so you can wear the clothes all day without feeling uncomfortable.
Acrylic Vs Polyester
Though they often get confused with one another, polyester and acrylic are not identical but do have similar properties.
They are made using almost identical processes but include slightly different monomers. While both fabrics share several attributes, their unique chemical structures give additional properties.
To begin, both textiles are manufactured synthetically or artificially and are sourced from petroleum. Polyester is also polymerized, which is the process by which a chain of monomers is transformed into a polymer or plastic.
Nonetheless, acrylic contains a large amount of acrylonitrile. Due to its chemical composition, it is less durable than polyester. It shrinks more easily and is more prone to pilling over time.
Although polyester is far more flexible than acrylic, acrylic is warmer. Acrylic is unsuitable for products such as beds due to its inability to breathe though.
You’d feel suffocated in the middle of the night if no heat from your body could escape into the air.
By contrast, polyester may be woven in a variety of different ways, resulting in a variety of different types of material suited for thousands of diverse uses.
Acrylic is the material of choice for cold-weather clothing. While an all-polyester sweater may breathe better, an all-acrylic sweater will keep you significantly warmer!
Acrylic Vs Cotton
Whether acrylic is preferable to cotton is application-dependent. Cotton is significantly more supple, breathable, and absorbent of moisture than polyester.
Acrylic gives much more insulation and warmth at the sacrifice of temperature regulation and softness.
Additionally, unlike pure plastic, cotton is a natural substance grown from a plant. You may realize that you like the softer, less plasticky texture of natural fibers.
Each fabric, however, excels at a certain task.
Cotton is not an excellent insulator. It works better with summer clothing, such as jersey knit t-shirts. Additionally, it is commonly used in bedding owing to its airy weave, which promotes restful sleep.
On the other hand, acrylic may cause excessive heat. Wear acrylic socks if you’re planning to spend a couple of hours shoveling snow.
Your toes will remain toasty and dry for hours, even if a little amount of snow makes its way into your boots.
If you’re debating whether to use acrylic or cotton yarns you might want to think about the cost. Many of the yarns available in sewing stores have a high percentage of acrylic due to the reduced manufacturing cost of the synthetic material.
Naturally, cotton yarn produces softer knitted items. If, on the other hand, you want a significant quantity of yarn, you may choose acrylic to save money.
In general, cotton is substantially more comfortable in warm temperatures than acrylic is in cold climates.
The Environmental And Health Issues Of Acrylic
Fans of acrylic fabric frequently say that its low cost and great warmth outweigh any potential negatives, while detractors believe that it causes health problems and is environmentally destructive.
If you’re still unsure about acrylic after reading this article, you’re not alone! This synthetic fabric has been the source of considerable controversy over the years.
Acrylic continues to sell strongly today despite these worries. Sales are rising, owing to the fabric’s low manufacturing cost in comparison to natural fiber fabrics.
Even though the United States has ceased domestic manufacturing, it continues to import enormous quantities from foreign nations each year.
Additionally, you as a consumer benefit from the cheap production costs. You can get reasonably priced, durable sweaters and winter gear.
No amount of money saved is worth putting one’s health at risk. Acrylic has a proclivity for irritating sensitive skin.
Naturally, despite its natural fibers, wool can occasionally trigger an allergic reaction. Lanolin is a component of wool that can cause severe allergic responses in certain people.
If you have a wool sensitivity, you may discover that acrylic is more comfortable.
On a more serious note, there is much concern regarding the carcinogenic potential of acrylic. There is currently no evidence linking the chemicals and allergens in acrylic to the development of cancer.
On the other side, the acrylic dyeing method utilizes a high concentration of potentially dangerous chemicals.
Following that, a formaldehyde wash is frequently used to keep the yarn from shrinking. This means that your cozy acrylic sweater is intrinsically cancerous and covered in a variety of toxins.
Naturally, about 60% of all clothes sold today are made of synthetic fibers. You may just dismiss this as an inescapable aspect of contemporary life.
The EPA recently released a report alleging that the manufacture of acrylic produces a dangerous work environment. Employees exposed to the chemicals suffered symptoms comparable to those caused by inhalation of cyanide gas.
Finally, acrylic is biodegradable, but only after nearly 200 years. This means that acrylic fabric contributes to the pollution of the environment with plastic.
What Is Acrylic Used For?
Due to the lower cost of acrylic fabric compared to wool, it is widely used in cold-weather clothing like hats and sweaters.
If you look on a clothing rack for winter boots, cozy socks, or fluffy gloves, you almost certainly will discover that they are made of acrylic.
Surprisingly, this material is also used in a range of residential items, such as rugs, carpets, and upholstery. In these uses, the fabric is extensively treated to make it flame-resistant.
You do not want furniture, carpets, or draperies that may spontaneously ignite with the slightest flame so this is very useful.
Additionally, as an interesting fact, acrylic is utilized to produce wigs and hair extensions that seem realistic. Also, it manufactures a substantial amount of imitation furs.
Due to its remarkable color retention, this synthetic fur is available in an unlimited number of bizarre hues.
Finally, it is the market leader in the sector of hobby yarn. It sells reasonably priced, durable yarn in a range of colors for the beginning knitter or crocheter.
Acrylic Clothes In Winter
Acrylic is a flexible fabric that may be used to create a wide variety of cold-weather items, such as sweaters, gloves, and socks. Additionally, it is widely worn for cold-weather physical activities like camping, fishing, and hiking.
So how warm is it? Well, acrylic yarn that is knitted in a looser weave with gaps between the strands retains less heat than yarn that is knitted or woven tightly. As a result, the insulating properties of different types of clothing vary.
Additionally, the thickness or thinness of the cloth has a considerable effect. A more substantial textile will retain more heat.
A plush, thick acrylic winter hat will keep your head warm even in harsh cold conditions since it allows practically no body heat to escape!
Also, acrylic has intrinsic warming properties. Acrylic fiber holds around 20% more heat than wool fiber!
You can easily find hundreds of alternatives to acrylic socks, mittens, and hats. However, you may feel better at comfortable wearing a mix that includes some natural wool. Due to wool’s enhanced breathability, it aids in temperature control.
Modacrylic is a version of acrylic fibers that exhibits some unique properties. The term “modacrylic” is an abbreviation for “modified acrylic”.
To begin, it contains less acrylonitrile than conventional acrylic fabric. Technically, this percentage varies between 35% and 85%.
Modacrylic is more resistant to heat and flame than conventional acrylic, which is flammable. Its minute chemical variances have a noticeable influence on this factor. Additionally, it is more robust and lasting.
Modacrylic is a versatile material that is utilized in a broad range of applications, including paint rollers, fleece, and fake fur. Also, it may be found in several products like protective clothing and plush animal toys.
Pros And Cons Of Acrylic
Before you leave us today, let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of acrylic!
- Very warm – this material is excellent at insulation, and is the warmest of all synthetic fabrics. This is why it is used in winter clothing
- Care and cleaning are simple – unlike a lot of other materials that are washed, acrylic does not have this issue. It can be washed in the washing machine without damaging the clothes. If you want to dry the items though, its best to let them air dry
- Feels like wool – despite being made of plastic, acrylic is very soft
- Holds dye well – this is an excellent quality as it means that the color won’t run when in the wash. It also means that you can find acrylic clothing items in almost any color.
- Hydrophobic – as it does not absorb water, your clothes will not get too wet if you are out in the rain
- Does not mold – because of its hydrophobic properties, mildew and mold cannot grow on these items. Also, moths will not try to eat it, which is a bonus
- Does not wrinkle – you will hardly if ever have to iron acrylic clothing because they can hold their shape well. This makes acrylic clothing ideal for traveling with
- Will pill – this means that little bobbles of the fabric will develop on the clothes after a while. Air drying the clothes can prevent this from happening, as well as washing the clothes inside out
- Can cause static – an odd side effect of wearing acrylic clothes is that you may get more electric shocks due to the build-up of static. This is more likely to happen if you dry the clothes in the dryer
- Not breathable – acrylic is not a breathable material at all. While this is sometimes useful as it keeps you insulated against the cold, you may find that the items trap in too much heat and you get too hot
- Can melt – this is very rare, and temperatures have to get pretty high, a bit as acrylic is made of plastic, it can melt. It also does not have much flame resistance. In these categories, wool performs much better than acrylic
- Bad for the environment – Due to being made of fossil fuels, the many chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process, and the fact that the clothes take up to 200 years to decompose, acrylic is one of the worst materials used in the fashion industry
- May cause allergic reactions – you may develop a rash when wearing acrylic, which is a sign that you are allergic to synthetic fibers. The same can be said of wool though.
Acrylic fabric is made using fossil fuels and undergoes a lengthy manufacturing process before being converted into a polymer, which is then made into fibers.
The fibers are knitted or woven together to create a textile that feels and is as soft as wool. As a result, acrylic is used in the same ways as wool is.
This is seen in winter apparel, boot linings, and puffy blankets. While polyester and acrylic are made similarly, the two fabric types share only a few characteristics.
Frequntly Asked Questions
Get your last-minute acrylic fabric-related questions answered below!
Can Acrylic Shrink In The Wash?
Though acrylic can be washed in a washing machine, it may shrink slightly if the temperature is too high.
There is more of a choice of this happening in the dryer though, as this blasts the clothes with heat to speed up the drying process. This is why it is much better to let acrylic clothes air dry.
Can You Crochet Using Acrylic?
Yes, you can just as easily crochet with acrylic yarn as you could with wool. Some people even prefer to use acrylic as it comes in many colors, is high quality, and is far cheaper than buying wool yarn.
What Is Warmer, Acrylic, Or Wool Yarn?
While there is almost no difference in terms of heat retention between wool and acrylic yarn, the latter is just about edges ahead of its exceptional insulation properties.