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Does Acrylic Stretch?

If you are a fan of knitted sweaters you probably have seen the different materials that they are made from. Of course, we have natural fabrics that sweaters are made from like wool, but if you read the label you will notice that some are also made from acrylic. This leads to the question of how to take care of acrylic and does it stretches out after washing. Keep reading to find out all about this type of fabric.

The fabric has a tendency to stretch when exposed to a high temperature. Depending on the type of knitting in the fabric, acrylic garments tend to get stretched out while wet, especially those with a loosely knit structure.

If you stretch your acrylic fabric too much it will get permanently destroyed. On the bright side acrylic, when it’s dry, stretches just the right amount, hugging your body perfectly.

Key Takeaways

  • Acrylic is synthetic and is made from petroleum.
  • Acrylic material was first made to mimic wool.
  • Its lack of breathability makes it perfect for the cold.
  • Acrylic knit garments do stretch at high temperatures or when weighed down with water.

Where does it come from?

Unlike natural fabrics that come from trees or animals, synthetics are manmade. Acrylic yarn falls into the second category. It is made from petroleum or coal-based chemicals. After the chemical process, the acrylic fibers are made and spun into yarn. Acrylic is one of the least breathable fabrics used in the textile industry and that is why it’s used for clothes and other garments that need to retain heat like sweaters or scarfs.

What is it used for?

Acrylic is light and thermoplastic fabric, making it the perfect insulator for winter.  A lot of things we wear in the winter are made from acrylic, such as sweaters, scarves, boot lining, gloves, and so on. However, it is also used in making furniture, especially outdoor furniture due to its rougher feel. You might not know it, but there are acrylics in a lot of things such as wigs, hair brushes, and even rugs. It was invented as a substitute for wool, so anywhere you can find wool, you can also find acrylics.

What are the advantages?

Acrylic fiber is very strong and durable even when exposed to the elements. It colors nicely meaning your clothes will not fade away. It is wrinkle-resistant, usually does not shrink, and resists stains. What we mean by this is that the chemicals in the fabric don’t allow the stain to penetrate deeply making it easier to clean. It is not a breathable fabric, meaning it retains body heat, making it the perfect fabric for cold days.

How to take care of acrylic?

Make sure to always read the label because, like many others, acrylic fibers are usually mixed with others to create the desired textile fabric. Turn the garment inside out before putting it in the washing machine and make sure to use a softer detergent that doesn’t contain bleach or harsh chemicals.

When it comes to drying, make sure that if you are using a dryer, it is not on maximum temperature, around 40°C should be just right. You can set the machine to tumble dry, but make sure to remove the garment right after the dryer is done. If you feel static electricity after drying, use fabric softener or dryer sheets next time. Make sure to never hang dry because the water will weigh the garment down and stretch it out in the process.

If your acrylic clothes need ironing, make sure to use the lowest setting in order not to melt or distress the fibers.

How does acrylic feel on the skin?

Acrylic is made to mimic a fabric usually, wool. In the old days both fabrics felt a bit scratchy on bare skin, but thanks to technology today they are soft and pleasant. Acrylic is perfect for people who have allergies to animal hair since wool is made from sheep. All in all, it is a very comfortable, soft, and warm material that makes you feel very cozy.

Is it sustainable?

Sadly no. Even though it can be used as a substitute for wool, it is not nearly as sustainable. This is because it’s dependent on extracting fossil fuels and the petrochemical industry. Fossil fuel extraction is not the only bad news due to its contribution to global warming, the actual manufacturing process also requires a lot of energy which leads to air pollution. It is not biodegradable and it can release harmful chemicals into the soil and waterways.


If you are looking for a warm sweater, gloves, and a scarf for next winter then acrylic is the way to go. The fabric was made as a cheaper substitute to wool and it’s a perfect choice for anyone who maybe has allergies or simply does not like to wear a fabric that comes from animals.

The fabric needs to be taken care of properly in order to last a long time though. You need to wash it with lukewarm water and make sure to dry it at a low temperature. Never hang your acrylic garments to air dry because the retained water will weigh them down and they will stretch.

Acrylics may have started off as a harsh fabric that itches the skin, but today, thanks to technology, manufacturers make it soft and cozy.  If you cannot afford a jacket with wool lining, don’t stress, acrylics do the job perfectly.

All in all, acrylic is an amazing man-made material that has a variety of uses, however, the biggest downside is its lack of sustainability. The fibers are made from petroleum which leads to global warming, plus the chemicals used in the manufacturing process end up in our soil and waterways. It is completely up to you what to wear the next time the weather gets cold. If you are looking for something stretchy, that hugs your body and keeps you warm, we suggest you get yourself an acrylic garment, and if you are eco-conscious, try buying secondhand to help the planet out.

Further Reading

You can read some other stretching blogs; there is one that answers if you can stretch rayon, and another one does answer if you can pull viscose.

There’s also a guide on how to shrink a fitted hat, and another lists the types of wool fabric.