How to Wash and Remove Stains From Acrylic Clothes

Stack of plaids on the windowsill

UserGI15633745 / Getty Images

You can find acrylic fabrics in everything from sweaters to socks to children's pajamas. Popular for decades because of their durability and easy care, acrylic fibers are also used prominently in blankets, upholstery and even luggage. 

How to Wash and Remove Stains From Acrylic Clothes

As with any garment, it is best to carefully read care labels and follow recommended cleaning guidelines for that specific piece of clothing. The trim or inner structure may not be washable. But, most acrylic clothes can be machine washed in cold or warm water using your regular laundry detergent. Delicately-made items should be hand washed. Acrylic knit items like sweaters should be hand washed and dried flat to prevent stretching.

Stains on acrylic fabrics should be treated immediately or as soon as possible following specific stain removal guidelines for the type of stain. Never place an acrylic garment stained with oil in a hot clothes dryer because the heat can set the oil stain permanently making it almost impossible to remove.

Acrylic clothes can be tumbled dry on low temperatures. Do not use excessively high heat which can damage fibers, causing them to shrink or stretch and set wrinkles almost permanently. It is best to remove the clothes will still slightly damp and hang to finish air drying. 

Acrylic fibers can build-up excessive static and a small amount of fabric softener in the final rinse will eliminate clinginess or use a dryer sheet.

If ironing is necessary, use a very low iron temperature, steam, and a pressing cloth to avoid melting of the fibers. If the fabric becomes shiny or develops a hole, there is no way to reverse the damage.

How to Prevent Wrinkling of Acrylic Fabrics

  • Do not overload washer, clothes should move freely.
  • Use cold or warm water for washing and cold water only for rinsing.
  • If your washer has a high spinning rate for the final cycle (usually a high-efficiency washer), set the spin cycle rate to low
  • Dry clothing using the permanent press setting on your dryer. No high heat.
  • Remove clothing immediately at the end of the drying cycle and do not overdry.
  • Hang garments on hangers after drying to allow wrinkles to relax or fall out over a few hours.

What Is Acrylic Fabric?

Acrylic fibers are a man-made fiber produced with long-chain synthetic polymers composed of at least 85 percent acrylonitrile, a petrochemical. To improve the fiber's ability to absorb dyes, the acrylonitrile is usually combined with small amounts of other chemicals. Once the fibers are dyed, the fabric is colorfast. Acrylic fibers can be dyed in clear, vibrant colors that don't fade over time. Acrylic fibers can be dry spun or wet spun depending on the special properties needed for particular end use. Many of the performance microfiber fabrics are made of acrylic fibers.

Acrylic fibers are one of the few synthetic fibers that have an uneven surface when manufacturing is complete. The fibers can be cut into short lengths and spun into threads that resemble natural fibers. They produce a fabric that drapes well and has a silky feel. Acrylic fabrics can have bulk but still be lightweight.

The textile giant, DuPont developed acrylic fibers in 1941 and gave them the trademarked name, Orlon. By the mid-1950s, acrylic fibers and fabrics were in mass production for sweaters, gloves and any product that needed to provide lightweight warmth. 

Acrylic fibers are quick drying and offer excellent ability to draw moisture away from the body. The fibers are resistant to mildew, odor absorption, insect infestation, deterioration from sunlight, oil and most chemicals. Acrylic fibers can be manufactured to resemble wool, cotton or a blended appearance with a smooth or fuzzy surface. The fibers hold their shape well and are easy to wash.