Acetate Fabric Characteristics, Uses, Examples, and Care

In between fabrics have their place in the fashion world like all other fabrics. They are not completely synthetic and not completely natural. That means that you get the best of both worlds when you use an in-between material for your sewing projects.

Originally, acetate was used to dissolve varnish but early in the 20th-century process was invented to turn the product into fibers and spun into fabrics. This material drapes well, and hangs nicely, and can be used for drapes, evening attire, and clothing.

To learn more about this in-between fabric just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know about if you are planning on using it someday for a great formal gown or as drapes.

Acetate Fabric Examples


This fabric, on its own, has a silk-like quality as well as a silk-like sheen. It is often blended with silk, cotton, nylon, and wool to make it stronger. Examples of this material would be found in wedding dresses, ties, scarves.

Made from chemicals and wood chips, acetate is the 2nd oldest man-produced fabric right after rayon. It took about 3 decades to perfect the process and the result of that hard work was one type of fabric that rivaled silk.

When it is made into a ribbon, the fibers are given a satin weave to make those ribbons look great. Also, this material will resist mildew, stains, and shrinking. It is a fabric that is biodegradable so that is good news for the environment.

Graduation gowns are often made from acetate materials to help the graduates to stand out and look good.

Acetate Fabric Pros and Cons

Every fabric has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Acetate is no exception to the rule. Here are some of the best pros and cons that this fabric has:


  • It is very biodegradable
  • The material is moth resistant
  • The material is mildew resistant
  • The fabric drapes very well
  • A myriad of colors and sheens
  • The material dries quickly
  • It resists shrinking
  • Does not create a lot of static electricity
  • Has a high luster, an elegant feel, and look
  • It does not pill


  • No stretch to the material
  • Can rip very easily
  • Can melt when it gets too hot
  • Most likely needs dry cleaning but check the care label to make sure
  • Can wrinkle very easily

The melting aspect is something you have to watch out for when you go to iron the fabric. Getting rid of the wrinkles will take very low heat.

Acetate Fabric Characteristics

The best characteristics are found in the positive aspects of this fabric. It is a lightweight material that may be a little hard to control when you are sewing it but its look when you are done, makes the effort worth it.

Then, its elegant look and feel will have you thinking you are wearing silk if you did not make the dress yourself. The fabric is smooth to the touch, soft, and very colorful. While it is basically very hard to dye, it does come in a variety of colors.

What makes it a very good fabric is that it will resist shrinking. As long as you do not put the washer and dryer heat up too high, the fabric should come out the same size it went in. You may not even have to use your dryer as it dries too quickly.

What Does Acetate Fabric Feel Like?


This material feels a lot like silk does when you rub your hand over the surface of the fabric. There is a softness and gentle touch against your skin so you should remain comfortable even when you have to move a lot.

That silk-like feeling may provide you with a sophisticated air that brings you more confidence as you walk into a room full of strangers. Long hours inside a dress made from this material should not be a problem and you should not feel any discomfort at any time.

Then with its excellent drape, you should feel a lot of freedom. This freedom lets you move, glide, or walk without any embarrassing moments taking place. Unfortunately, what you won’t feel is a lot of security as this material is not durable and can rip quite easily.

Is Acetate Fabric Breathable?

On its own, it does not seem to be that breathable. In all the sources we checked, not one mentioned its ability to breathe. While it drapes well and is lightweight you should not have any problems, hopefully, with staying cool.

When it is blended with other fibers like wool and cotton then the breathability factor will go up. Natural fibers tend to breathe better than synthetic ones. In its clothing application, you may see more breathing taking place depending on how the fabric is used and which fibers are blended n.

Nylon is not good at breathing so do not expect to stay cooler when acetate is blended in with those fibers. When you have an outfit that drapes well, your body heat should escape a lot quicker than if you were wearing a tight form-fitting outfit. The amount of breathing you get will depend on the design of the clothing item as well.

What does Acetate Fabric Look Like?

This fabric comes with multiple sheens to it, depending on the colors that it is dyed into. Then it has a great look just because it comes in a variety of good colors that will complement your figure.

But the weave style, the sheen, and those colors all come together to give this material an elegant look that will rival silk. It was made to mimic that natural fiber and bring the cost of looking great down to affordable levels.

While this fabric is not completely natural fiber, it does tend to outshine many of its natural fiber fabrics competitors. It has an eye-turning silk-like look quality that is very hard to describe when the garment is put together correctly.

You just have to see it to believe it as describing the look of this fabric is trying to describe the look of a Rolls Royce to someone who doesn’t know cars.

Acetate Fabric Uses


There are many applications for this fabric. The list just for clothing items is very long and can get a little tedious. But here goes: formal shirts, evening gowns, knitwear, wedding dresses, and other wedding attire, suits, blouses, ties, coats, sweaters, sportswear, hats, and even men and women’s underwear.

Then for non-clothing items, you can see this fabric in umbrellas, furniture, furniture upholstery, drapes, curtains, carpets, and other home decor items that require fabrics. Then it is also used in cigarette filters to remove tar and nicotine while you smoke.

Not to be left out, this material can be woven into holiday ribbons to make any gift look better. That is a pretty good line up for being an in-between fabric. if you thought about it, you probably could think of more uses for this material.

Acetate Fabric in Hot Weather

While it is not a very breathable fabric per se, this material has some qualities of silk in it. That could be because it is sometimes blended with silk. Acetate may take on different qualities due to the different fibers it is blended with.

One thing is for sure, that like silk, it helps keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The drawback is that you cannot perspire when you wear this material. The color and design fade with both time and perspiration.

You will want to wear it when you know you will be in a cooler environment and you won’t be sweating while there. The fabric is also not very durable so you may have to watch what you do when you decide to put those garments on that are made from this material.

Watch sharp corners as well as snagging the fabric could cause tears very easily.

Acetate Fabric for Lining

This acetate option is said to be the best substitute for polyester as its lining qualities outshine that synthetic material by far. That is not just in the color of the material either. The lining material comes in a fine array of colors to match your garments.

Then, the material is usually of good quality and has more body than polyester. Plus, it is very soft when you put your garments on. The beauty of this lining is more in line with the color scheme but the feel of it adds to that beauty.

Your arms and legs should slip[ on and off quite easily when you use this material as a lining fabric. This fabric may be on the inexpensive side, but it won’t make it look like you pinched a few pennies when you add it to a nice coat or dress.

Is Acetate Fabric-Safe?


Not really. There are several reasons for saying that. Before we get to those reasons, the clothing material is safe to a point and you would have to make a dumb move, etc., to really come face to face with its more risky side.

One reason it is not a safe material is because it can melt on you. Not while you are wearing it, but through extremely high temperatures that come with your washer, dryer, and iron. You have to be really careful when laundering acetate material.

A second reason it is not considered safe is because of all the chemicals used in its construction and the added chemicals to give this fabric some of its positive characteristics. These chemicals are not non-toxic so you need to watch how often you wear them.

The last reason would be that this material is not really fireproof. It can burn or melt even with a spark from a fire hitting it.

Acetate Fabric Price

The cost of the fabric will vary depending on who is selling it. We have seen some of this material go for as little as $5 per yard while lining fabric was costing upwards of $20 per yard.

Then there were prices in between those figures. Wholesale you would get a lot better deal, but you would have to buy a lot to justify the low price. Some of those prices were just over $1 per yard.

The best thing to do is shop around and compare prices. Some fabric stores send out coupons so you can save even more by finding and using them to buy your acetate fabric. Look for closeout sales as well to cut your costs even further.

Can You Wash Acetate Fabric?

It is a possibility but with acetate being a delicate fabric, chances are the care label will say dry clean only. But you would have to check different acetate clothing out to see if that is a standard instruction.

There is always the possibility of handwashing dry clean only items. But you should be careful with the amount of water you use and the temperature. If you use this technique, hang drying is the best option.

It is not that you can’t use your dryer it is just that this material dries quickly and you can save on your electric bill if you hang dry all of these materials. When it says dry clean only the best option is usually to dry clean the garments. Erring on the side of caution protects you and your clothing budget.

How to Wash Acetate Fabric


This is a delicate fabric and one that can tear very easily. That means you need to use a delicate touch when you want to clean your blouse, etc. The safest method is hand washing but hand washing without agitation or kneading.

The first step would be to turn on your cold water tap and let the water run through the material. There is no need to knead or do anything else except to move the blouse, etc., so all parts have the water running through them.

Next, fill the tub with some mild or gentle laundry soap that is free from dyes and fragrances. Just dip the item in the soapy water, gently shake the material then rinse the soap out.

You can repeat this process two or three times and then let the material drip dry for a few minutes. Lay flat on a towel to dry. You might need to change towels and turn the garment over at some point. The spot you place the towel should be warm, airy, and dry.

How to Iron Acetate Fabric

This is possible but the material can burn very easily. What that means is that you should not linger over any one spot for too long. Nor should you press very hard as it is still a delicate fabric.

Set your iron to very low heat as besides burning you can also melt the material with too much heat. Then turn the garment inside out and place a pressing cloth over it. The material should still be damp before you start to iron.

The pressing cloth is optional and best for the exterior of the material but it comes in handy for all sides of the fabric. That is all there is to ironing this cloth. The key is to just watch your heat levels and keep the iron down low.

Can You Steam Acetate Fabric?

Steaming seems to be the preferred method of removing wrinkles from this fabric. Just watch how hot the steam gets as you do not want to deform any part of the shirt, etc. Keep the wand moving or lift your iron off the fabric before giving it a shot of steam.

There may be other techniques to handling wrinkles with steam and your iron but these are the better options. With a steamer, you can hang up the garment while you wait for the steam to do its job.

Just a word of warning, do not over steam the fabric as it is still delicate and even too much steam may harm the material. Play this by ear and watch out for melting.

Can You Bleach Acetate Fabric?


It seems that it is possible to do this part of the laundry cycle. But you have to watch the PH levels. Those levels cannot go above 9.0. The type of bleach you can use can range from hydrogen peroxide to oxygen bleach but like all other fabrics, do a little bleach test first to make sure it won't damage the material.

Clorox has said you can use regular leach but that may be a biased opinion and an attempt to keep selling that product. They also recommended their Clorox2 stain remover and color booster.

You may want to go natural instead and stick to hydrogen peroxide or some other formula you can find on the internet. It is risky to use bleach on delicate materials like acetate.

How to Whiten Acetate Fabric

One way to do this would be to use warm water in the wash and add the Clorox stain remover and color booster. The reason for that is because this option is one of the safer options to use. It is a very mild oxygen bleach.

You can try soaking the fabric in a mixture of regular bleach and cold water and keep it in this solution for about 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water and repeat the process with laundry soap and bleach.

Bleach is known for harming delicate fabrics so you should proceed with caution and do not oversoak the material. Watch the clothing carefully and get ready to pull it out if you see anything go wrong.

How to Unshrink Acetate Fabric

You can try to use your iron to unshrink this material. It has worked on rayon and this material is fairly close to that one. But generally, when you shrink an in-between or synthetic fabric, it is basically impossible to unshrink them.

Then for acetate that resists shrinking, you would have had to do something extraordinary to get them to shrink. If the fabric has melted, then it won't be repairable. Melted fibers cannot return to normal and are ruined forever.

Also, you can try line drying to see if hanging the material by its threads will relax them enough so that they return to their original shape. But don’t hold your breath. When dealing with these types of materials, you never know what type of result you will get.

Can Acetate Fabric be Dyed?


It can but do not expect it to respond very well to those dyes that are made for natural materials like wool or cotton. The problem is the dispersed dye you need to use requires very hot water to make the process work.

That water temperature may melt your fabric while you are changing its color. It is just hard to say as different people get different results. You will have to rinse with cold water as soon as possible after the process is over. This will cool the fabric down quickly and may spare it any damage.

The best thing to do is find some scrap acetate and test it out before you submerge the real garment.

Some Final Words

Acetate fabric was invented in the 19th century to help replace silk, mimic the positive characteristics of that material as well as lower the cost of clothing. However, the result was a delicate material that can damage quite easily if you are not careful. On the brighter side, it does feel like silk and comes in a lot of different colors.

Leave a Comment: