Acrylic fabric is essentially plastic. Like the polymers of nylon and polyester, acrylic is another polymer that is created through chemical processes from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and less commonly, coal). The plastic solution is spun through spinnerets into either air or water, washed, dried, and cut into long or short length fibers. Acrylic fiber closely resembles the look and feel of wool fibers. Acrylic fabrics are lightweight, warm, and soft to the touch. It is thus used in place of wool or blended with sheep wool or cashmere. Common end products include sweaters, hats, socks, and knitting yarn.

Acrylic fabric is made of fibers that are made from the polymer polyacrylonitrile. Polyacrolonitrile is a flammable, colorless liquid that is created from polypropylene. The EPA found that inhaling polyacrylonitrile yields similar symptoms to cyanide poisoning. In fact, when exposed to polyacrylonitrile, our bodies metabolize the chemical into cyanide. This metabolization can take place after exposure to the chemical through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Polyacrylonitrile is also cited as a potential cancer hazard.

Like polyester and nylon, acrylic fabric is hydrophobic – meaning it repels water. This can lead to bacteria growth in the fabric. It also means that acrylic fabric is more likely to cause  static electricity and cling. Acrylic fabric is also flammable and can be extremely difficult to extinguish.

acrylic the lingerer

On its own, acrylic fabric is not resistant to abrasion. Thus, it’s often blended with more resilient fibers. Acrylic fabric is also highly likely to pill. Needless to say, the product lifespan of acrylic fabric clothing is not considerably long. Then of course, it enters the landfill, where acrylic fabric can last up to 200 years and release toxic chemicals into the environment on its long journey to decomposition. Two hundred years. If you thought that picture of your grandma in that dress with puff sleeves was funny and outdated, just wait until your great-great-great-great-great grandkid finds your Forever21 DayGlo crop top. Because it might still be around! Very pilled, bacteria ridden, and possibly singed. Not to mention, leaching toxins. So if nothing else, wear biodegradable clothing to save face with your heirs.

acrylic knitting yarn

Acrylic fiber based knitting yarns are often available at lower prices than natural fiber yarns. However, they lack some of the desirable properties offered by natural fibers. Unfortunately, acrylic yarns are not quite as soft as natural fiber yarns and do not have the ability to felt. Acrylic fiber yarns can also cause discomfort to the knitter, because the yarn does not have give. When finishing a garment, the yarn requires heat to let the final product set (or relax).


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