Acrylic is an interesting material that we can find in a lot of clothing. Some synthetic garments could have high percentages of acrylic as an alternative to wool as a cost-cutting measure. You may also be interested in working with acrylic yarn. But, does acrylic shrink or stretch?
Does acrylic shrink?
The simple answer here is no. Acrylic doesn’t shrink so you don’t have to worry about your synthetic garments reacting in the same way as those made of wool. You can put an acrylic item in a synthetic wash as long as the heat isn’t too high. However, you do need to be careful with heat damage and watch out for acrylic stretching out.
Do acrylic sweaters shrink less than wool sweaters?
One of the reasons that consumers turn to acrylic sweaters over wool sweaters is that there isn’t the same risk of the material shrinking in the wash. You can put an acrylic garment in the washing machine with fewer concerns about the heat or the washing cycle and it should come out OK. Wool is far more temperamental and could shrink if washed at too high a temperature.
However, there is another risk when dealing with acrylic sweaters, and that is the risk of melting and damage when dried at high heat. Acrylic is a synthetic plastic, much like polyester, which means that there is a higher risk of heat damage at more extreme temperatures. Contact with hot surfaces or prolonged dry heat could damage the fibers irreparably. This could lead to some shrinkage, patches that appear melted, or other issues with the feel and fit of the garment. The best way to avoid this is to hang the sweater up to dry instead.
What about acrylic hoodies, hats, scarves, and other outerwear?
The same care instructions tend to apply to all items that are acrylic as a substitute for natural materials. So, if you have an acrylic scarf that falls into a muddy puddle, it has a better chance of coming out clean and the same size than if it were knitted from wool. Double-check any care labels and play it safe with any homemade items of clothing.
Do acrylic sweaters stretch out?
There is less of a risk of an acrylic sweater shrinking than there is of it stretching out over time. Some of these pieces can get a bit baggy and lose their form. While this is great for those that like the cozy, oversized look or that only wear the sweater at home, it’s not ideal for those wanting a snug figure-hugging piece.
This is where is it is important to look at the care instructions on your sweater to see how best to wash and dry it to avoid heat damage or stretching. You might find that it is less stressful to use a hand-wash cycle at a low temperature, or just to hand-wash them in the bathroom, to avoid any problems. It also helps not to wash these acrylic jumpers too often. There is the assumption that these pieces need to be washed after a couple of wears. But, you could wear them five times easily as outerwear as long as they don’t get too dirty or at risk of staining. Fewer washes are also a lot better for the environment as we limit water use and the chemicals that enter waterways.
What should you do if you want to shrink a stretched-out acrylic sweater?
As acrylic doesn’t have the same risk of shrinking as wool, you might wonder how you can shrink an acrylic sweater if it does get out of shape. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done because the effort taken to shrink the material with high heat could actually damage the fibers further. If it is stretched out, it is time to embrace it, repurpose it, or give it to charity.
Is it better to knit with acrylic than wool?
With all this in mind, you may wonder if you are better off knitting sweaters and other items with acrylic yarn. This isn’t a bad idea if you want something a bit more durable and less prone to shrinkage. But, don’t overlook wool if you prefer a natural approach and are prepared to care for it.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.