Acrylic Yarn vs Cotton Fabric: Which is Better?

Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics in the textile industry due to many of its admirable qualities. It is cheap, easily accessible, and contains hypoallergenic qualities that make it smooth to the skin and suitable for those with fabric allergies.

Acrylic Yarn vs Cotton

However, acrylic yarn is another fabric with the same useful properties as cotton and is just as cheap and accessible as cotton fabric. But there is a catch; it is used differently from cotton. Read along to discover how acrylic yarns differ from cotton and how we can get the best out of them.

What is Cotton Fabric?

Cotton fabric is a type of natural fabric derived from the bolls of the cotton plant. Textile workers harvest the fibrous cotton bolls either by hand or with the aid of a machine and process them to form long threads of varying lengths, depending on the type of cotton plant.

Cotton Fabric
Cotton Fabric

The fabric is lightweight, breathable, and can absorb up to 20% of its weight. It is hypoallergenic and rarely reacts adversely to the wearer’s skin. This property makes cotton ideal for delicate skin and baby clothes, and cotton is also a prominent summer cloth for many.

What is Acrylic Yarn?

On its own, acrylic yarn is a form of synthetic fabric made by processing a petroleum-based chemical called polyacrylonitrile. Compared to most synthetic fabrics, acrylic yarns are lightweight, soft, and hypoallergenic. They do not trigger fabric allergies like cotton and are even used for baby clothes.

Acrylic Yarn

Acrylic yarns are, however, extremely durable and are famous for being able to handle rough treatment. Some acrylic yarn products have been known to be passed down from one generation to another. However, like most synthetic fabrics, they are not that breathable and are used more in cold weather.

Differences in Texture and Appearance of Acrylic Yarn and Cotton

Cotton fabrics have an incredibly soft feel and are less likely to irritate the skin. Most cotton fabrics are woven, so they are more breathable and suitable for summer. 

Some cotton types are weaved closely together; this type of weaving is called a satin weave and can give the cotton fabric an almost shiny look that is extremely luxurious in appearance and touch. Other cotton types, like Egyptian cotton, tend to be coarse at first but become softer with time. In principle, the longer the length of the cotton plant, the softer the final fabric will be.

On the contrary, acrylic yarn is rough to the touch but can become very soft and lightweight when knitted; they are breathable fabrics, not as breathable as cotton. They possess this property because acrylic yarns are synthetic and mostly knitted into clothes, costing them some of their breathability. 

In appearance, acrylic yarns also vary greatly. Their looks come down to what you want from the fabric. Acrylic yarns come in a wide range of hues and colors. Some acrylic yarns are shiny and brightly colored, while others are more subdued. This color range is one of the selling points of acrylic yarns.

The Reaction of Cotton and Acrylic Yarn to Heat

Heat is detrimental to cotton and acrylic yarn, but not to the same degree. Most cotton fabrics tend to shrink when exposed to hot temperatures, and however, acrylic yarns tend to melt when exposed to extremely hot temperatures. Putting both fabrics away from heat, especially acrylic yarns, is advisable.

How Acrylic Yarn and Cotton are Used Differently?

Cotton fabrics are versatile, and their uses stretch across the fashion industry to even the medical Fields and home decor. Here are some uses of cotton fabrics:

  • Cotton is used in the fashion industry to manufacture multiple products, including shirts, skirts, gowns, jackets, and even underwear.
  • Cotton gauze is used in the medical field to create a dressing for injuries.
  • Cotton is used to create hygienic products such as diapers, pads, tampons, etc.
  • They create home decor and household items such as curtains, tablecloths, bed sheets, etc.

Acrylic yarn has many admirable qualities that make them more preferred for stitching and knitting projects than cotton. Knitters, especially beginners, will enjoy knitting with acrylic yarn because it is smooth and has low friction; this makes it easy for the yarn to slide into the fabric to make clean stitches.

Acrylic yarn also comes in a wide range of colors, another property that gives knitters more freedom with design and experimentation. The result is often a smooth finish, giving acrylic yarn the reputation as a cheap alternative to wool. Acrylic yarns are mostly used to produce sweaters, blankets, and bedding.

Which Yarn is Better?

Cotton yarn is a natural fiber that is more breathable and absorbent than acrylic yarn, which is a synthetic material. This makes cotton yarn a better choice for items like dishcloths, washcloths, and summer garments. On the other hand, acrylic yarn is often softer and more pliable than cotton yarn, which can make it a better choice for items that need to be stretchy or drapey, like hats or shawls.

However, acrylic yarn is more affordable and easier to find in a wide variety of colors than cotton yarn. However, others noted that cotton yarn is more environmentally-friendly, as it is biodegradable and can be grown sustainably. Some users also mentioned that cotton yarn can be more difficult to work with, as it can split easily and has less stretch than acrylic yarn.

The choice between cotton and acrylic yarn will depend on your specific project and preferences.

How to Care for Acrylic Yarns and Cotton

Like any other fabric, endeavor to check the manufacturer’s label to find the best way to take care of your fabric. This precaution applies especially to cotton, which has many types.

Caring for Cotton Fabric

Apply the following precautions when washing your cotton material:

  • Wash cotton either by hand or with a washing machine. Keep the temperature cold, as hot temperatures may cause the fabric to shrink.
  • Air dry cotton if possible; limit the number of times you put them in a dryer.
  • Iron cotton clothes while still damp, or use steam or sprinkle option on your iron.
  • Store the fabric in a cool, dry area to avoid the onset of mold and mildew growth.

Caring for Acrylic Yarn

Acrylic yarn is very tough and remarkably easy to care for. However, this doesn’t mean you can afford to be careless about your acrylic yarns. Here are some precautions to take:

  • You can wash your acrylic yarn with a hand wash or a washing machine, as they are incredibly tough and withstand the strain. Wash in warm or cold water.
  • Use a regular laundry detergent as it doesn’t require special care or shrink easily like wool.
  • Flat dry acrylic yarn when possible. When using a dryer, it’s best to set it to a lower setting, as heat is very averse to acrylic yarn.
  • Avoid hanging your acrylic yarn, as this would deform the shape of the cloth.

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