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.
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.