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What is Acrylic Fabric?

A red sweater made from acrylic yarn.
Hikers often wear acrylic fabrics.
Acrylic socks may be part of the standard uniform for kids playing football.
A lint shaver can be used to remove pilling from acrylic fabric.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Acrylic fabric is a type of fabric made from acrylic fibers, and was first manufactured by the DuPont Company. DuPont no longer manufactures acrylic fabric, but it is still widely manufactured throughout the world. It does use a chemically produced substance called acrylonitrile, which is also used in the production of plastics. Acrylonitrile tends to break down easily in the environment, though there is some argument on this point. High levels of acrylonitrile exposure might be considered toxic, but the quick break down often keeps acrylic fabric marketed as environmentally friendly.

Acrylic fabric is used widely in knits, as upholstery covering, and the fibers may be woven to make rugs. People often think of acrylic fabric as an excellent wool substitute, and certain forms of it are exceptionally soft, while remaining lightweight. Certain cashmere substitutes are made with acrylic fabric and are considered as good or better than cashmere in softness and appearance. Some woven garments may contain an acrylic blend with natural fibers.

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Early acrylic fabric was prone to pilling, and washing it regularly could cause the top of the fabric to have a worn appearance. To this end, Monsanto Chemical Company developed a chemical process called Pil-Trol® that keeps acrylic fabric from pilling. This has proven helpful, but acrylic fabric still requires gentle care, may need to be dry-cleaned or at the very least washed in cold water on gentle cycle in your washing machine. The more carefully you treat acrylic fabric, the more likely the garment will last longer and retain a “new” appearance. For best results, always follow the garment’s tags for cleaning care.

Acrylic fabric has grown popular in a variety of sports garments. The National Football League, for instance has acrylic socks as part of their standard uniform. You will often have to purchase acrylic socks for kids playing baseball, football or soccer. Socks in acrylic fabric are a great choice because they keep their shape and can be highly elastic. They may be a better choice for hikers, because you are far more likely to get blisters from cotton blend socks than from those made of acrylic.

Acrylic fabric is favored for a variety of other reasons. It is warm, can be quite soft, holds color well, and is both stain and wrinkle resistant. These can make acrylic fabric a popular choice, and for those who love wool but are allergic to it, acrylic can be an excellent substitute.

When acrylic fabric was first made, it was often thought “cheap” and not as valuable as natural fiber garments. Some early acrylic fabrics weren’t comfortable and were quite itchy. New manufacturing processes have mainly solved these issues, and many prefer acrylic to natural fibers because it tends to be easier to care for.

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Discuss this Article

anon354777
Post 30

I am 39 years old I was searching to see what caused my very, very bad rash. I felt like I was on fire. This rash causes a very bad burning and the blisters got so bad that they became water blisters.

My wife thought I had to have been burned by a chemical a "chemical burn," but after researching 100 percent acrylic, (being made from chemicals, toxins), which is what the sweater I was wearing is, I will never wear anything acrylic again and will tell everyone I know to stay away from it. This stuff is toxic.

anon343490
Post 29

When did "All acrylic" fabrics first appear on the market?

anon317281
Post 27

Does anyone know whether acrylic fabric is more or less "eco-friendly" than natural wool?

anon312207
Post 25

Acrylic is quite good for some things, but it also has its weak points. Some see it as a horrid material indeed since, as discovered by the european government in 1749, it is a material that was first used for missiles and bombs, before being properly sold to the public. Therefore, in some people, it does cause some terrible side effects, such as the dreaded rash.

anon309477
Post 24

Many people think they are having allergic reactions to acrylic fabrics, but are most likely wearing the garments without first washing them. They may in fact be allergic to the sizing and other chemicals added to make the item look good on the shelf for the purchaser in the store. Also, we consumers never know what dust and other contaminants may have gotten on the fabric in transit from China and other foreign origins.

I would suggest 99 percent of folks put on clothes from the store, never thinking of who may have had the item on prior to their wonderful find and purchase. Then never wash out all of that questionable material before wearing.

anon308190
Post 23

Acrylic does fine with me. I never had a problem and it's not itchy or scratchy like wool. I think it's great when combined with other fibers.

anon265320
Post 22

This acrylic stuff is really annoying to wash. Anyone reading this, don't buy acrylic clothes.

anon216268
Post 21

I saw a cute purple sweater dress at Bare Feet Shoes for $15. There was one on the mannequin and two left behind it. Both had holes, like the sweater was about to rip slowly, but the one on the mannequin seemed fine so I purchased it, came home and saw a hole on the bottom on the sweater dress forming. I read the label of what fabric it was and now I'm here posting that I will be returning this. It also says to hand wash cold. It's not worth it since I don't hand wash clothes.

anon214501
Post 20

Great article! It was informative which is important to me as a consumer. Also beware of formaldehyde treated clothing, which can also cause skin irritations and allergies.

anon176161
Post 19

I used to wear acrylic stuff and sweated like a pig, really embarrassing. saw some good knitwear today for a cheap price and was excited but found out it was acrylic.

everything's acrylic in stores these days and it's real bad quality. can't believe they sell this cheap crap just to make a profit.

anon175133
Post 18

An allergy to wool is medically possible, but is extremely rare. Most people who say they are "allergic" to wool really have a skin irritation due to scratchy, coarse wool. Humans wore wool for thousands of years with no problem until artificial fibers were introduced. Guess who came up with the idea that you could have an allergy to wool?

anon172652
Post 17

I also have a skin reaction to acrylic. It's basically "woven plastic." It's strong and durable, doesn't shrink and can be easily combined with stretch materials.

It is semi-flammable, and melts into black plastic goo which will stick dangerously to skin. Firefighters, for example, are prohibited from wearing this material.

Acrylic clothing, like many other synthetics, can cause excessive perspiration (and sometimes foul odours) by holding moisture against the skin during exercise.

anon169830
Post 16

I tried on a scarf in the shop. it was 100 percent acrylic and now I have welts under my chin and across my neck and bust.

anon54492
Post 12

My 11 year old daughter came home from school with a huge rash on her arms after wearing a sweater made with 100 percent acrylic. makes you wonder how safe acrylic is.

anon50964
Post 11

it is a man made fiber

anon50926
Post 10

What are the bad things about Acrylic?

anon41599
Post 8

is it year round material?

anon39705
Post 7

are acrylic fabrics flammable?

cynthiah
Post 6

what is the fabric group classification of acrylic?

habura
Post 4

Anon26690 - Acrylic fibers are manmade fibers.

anon26690
Post 3

Are acrylic fibers naturally occurring fibers or man made?

anastasia
Post 2

Pretty informative article. It's worth mentioning that thousands of people have become allergic, or sensitive, to acrylic. I'm one and I have to avoid it in all it's forms. That's why sites like this are needed. We need to know "what it is" or "what's in it"... Thanks

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