Keeping Your Acrylic Knits Fit
If you have shopped for sweaters or other knit garments, you have probably noticed that many of them contain a fiber called acrylic. Before purchasing garments containing this fiber, it is important to be aware of potential problems and how to care for acrylic knits properly.
What is acrylic?
Acrylic is a fiber often found in women’s sweaters, knit suits, pants, skirts, and dresses. It is characterized by its ability to stretch and conform to the shape of the body and recover to its original dimensions once the tension is released. Garments containing acrylic fibers are popular due to their reasonable price and the fact that they are available in a wide range of bright, fashionable colors.
What types of problems can acrylics experience?
Occasionally, these garments may shrink during the care process. This is almost always a result of improper blocking or heat setting during manufacturing. An acrylic fabric that has not been properly stabilized will suffer drastic changes in shape from normal wear and care. The fabric can stretch during wear and shrink from the heat and tumbling of cleaning-possibly as much as several inches.
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine if an acrylic knit has been stabilized to withstand a cleaning process. Once the shape of the item has been distorted, there is no way to restore the garment to its original dimensions. Since there is no way to control this problem, acrylic knits that stretch or shrink in normal wear or care should be returned to the retailer or manufacturer.
Another problem with acrylics is their tendency to stretch when exposed to high temperatures. In some acrylic knits, especially those with loose and open knit constructions, permanent stretching and distortion can occur during normal circumstances of wear.
Some acrylic knits are bulky, and the knit is rather loosely constructed. These garments have a greater tendency to become snagged or pilled during normal use or to stretch and distort. Unfortunately, once an acrylic fiber stretches, it is usually permanent.
How can you keep your acrylics fit?
- Be sure to check the fiber content label of garments, especially sweaters, for acrylic fibers before cleaning or ironing. This is especially important, as acrylic knit garments may be difficult to distinguish from wool or other more stable fiber types. Also check the care label for special precautions.
- Dry acrylics on a cool, short cycle at temperatures no higher than 120°F.
- Never hang acrylics to dry. Tension from the weight of the water may cause the acrylic to stretch. Because acrylics have a low moisture absorbency and dry rather quickly, it may be best to lay these items flat to allow them to dry.
- Iron using light steam. Tension placed on the yarns, along with the heat of the steam, will often cause drastic stretching.
- Avoid handling acrylics while warm. Acrylics have a greater tendency to permanently stretch if tension is placed on them while they are still warm.