Acrylic can be thought of as artificial wool. It is made from the unlikely combination of coal, air, water, oil, and limestone. DuPont first made acrylic fibers in 1944 and began commercial production in 1950. It is spun by either dry spinning or wet spinning.
In dry spinning, the dissolved polymers are extruded into warm air. The fibers solidify by evaporation. In wet spinning, the polymer is dissolved and extruded into a bath and then dried.
Properties and Uses
In some ways, acrylic imitates wool. It has wool’s warmth and softness but does not absorb water. Instead, acrylic wicks moisture to the surface where it evaporates.
Acrylic is used in knitted apparels such as fleece, socks, sportswear, and sweaters. It is also used to create fake fur, craft yarns, upholstery fabric, carpet, luggage, awnings, and vehicle covers.
Characteristics of Acrylic Fibers and Products
- Resists abrasion (but can “pill”)
- Very resilient (springs back into shape)
- Resist wrinkling
- Very high heat can “melt” the fabric
- The right amount of heat can be used to permanently “heat set” a crease or pleat
- Easy to wash and wear
- Does not absorb water (can be uncomfortable when worn next to the skin in warm weather unless loosely woven)
- Dries quickly
- Attracts static electricity which also attracts dirt and lint
- Although they do NOT absorb water, they DO absorb oil and grease. This means synthetics
- resist soiling, but once an oil-based stain soaks in, it can be difficult to clean.
- Lightweight and fairly strong
- Acrylic can bulk to look like wool
- Drapes well and accepts dye easily
- Acrylic is an artificial fiber often used as a wool substitute.
- Acrylic became commercially available in 1950.