Acrylic Vs Polyester: Difference Between Polyester and Acrylic

There are so many unique and different fabrics you can choose to work with. Each one has its purpose and nuances. Finding that perfect material for your sewing project is not going to be that easy especially when you are a beginning sewer.

There is actually one real similarity between these two fabrics. They are both man-made. Even the fibers have different sources as acrylic comes from a cellulose-based fiber and polyester is made from a petrochemical-based fiber.

To learn more differences between the two materials just continue to read our article. It has those differences and more. Only a few minutes are required to get the information you want to know about when it comes to these two fabrics.

Are Acrylic and Polyester the Same?


In a word, no. Acrylic and polyester are not the same. While the two fabrics are man-made, they have different sources and different properties. One of those differences is that acrylic is made from a different set of monomers and polymers which degrade a lot easier than the polymers used to make polyester.

The names of those polymers and monomers are complicated and it is best to say that they are chemically sourced which does not always make them the healthiest materials to wear. Both should be long lasting and it does take polyester between 20 and 200 years to finally leave the landfill.

But if you can’t afford natural fabrics, these are good substitutes as they come in a nice array of colors and textures. Your results should look fine although both materials may have that artificial look and feel to them.

Differences Between Polyester and Acrylic

Category Acrylic Polyester
Origin cellulose based polymers & monomers Oil products and petrochemical polymers
Years in use since the 1940s since the 1940s
Biodegradable better than polyester it takes a very long time to degrade
Feel soft, much like wool can be soft but artificial feel to it
Flammable yes, it will burn yes, but it will melt
Pilling yes, this material is prone to pilling not this one is not
resistance to abrasions no very easy to scratch, etc yes and it is hard to scratch, etc
breathable not really can cause over heating fast if worn in warm weather better than acrylic but not as good as natural fibers
cost affordable affordable
Stain resistance vulnerable to oil based stains and odors vulnerable to oil based stains and odors
moisture absorbance it will absorb water it will absorb water
care easy to care for but will shrink if you are not careful not prone to shrinking and you need to watch the heat levels

Is Acrylic or Polyester Warmer?


Acrylic is warmer than polyester. It is actually warmer than polyester as it has very little breathing ability. that factor is what keeps acrylic from being used as insulation. While it is the better fabric on a very cold day, it does not insulate very well.

The purpose of insulation is not only to keep you nice and warm which acrylic does well, it is supposed to be able to breathe enough so you remain comfortable and do not overheat. That is where polyester comes in.

Since it breathes better than acrylic it is often used as insulation material instead of acrylic. If you want to overheat and lose weight fast, just wear acrylic in warm weather.

Usually, acrylic is used in lining in boots, the faux fur decorating your nice winter coat, and similar tasks. Polyester is used in jackets, clothing, lining, insulation, and so on.

Does Acrylic or Polyester Shrink?

One of the reasons that polyester was invented was to reduce the amount of shrinkage that takes place in natural fibers. It was made not to shrink and when blended with those natural fibers, your clothing should remain the same size.

Acrylic will shrink but that usually takes place when the washing and drying temperatures are too high. You may experience a little shrinkage when you use your iron and have its temperature above the acrylic setting.

If you are careful though, you should not see much shrinkage when you do your acrylic laundry. Cold water washing and hang drying are the best ways to care for acrylic or any fabric for that matter. Cold water seems to be everyone’s friend.

Polyester is not good with high temperatures either but it is made of plastic and any shrinking you see is most likely due to melting.

Polyacryl vs Polyester


This is comparing apples to apples and usually, neither fabric have a very good reputation among users. Polyacryl was made to mimic wool but it seems to fall far short of that goal if all the negative reviews are to be believed.

Polyacryl may add a little loft to the garment you are buying but it does not seem to excel over wool in warmth, durability, comfort, and so on. Polyester is an artificial fabric that has a little more breathability than acrylic so you would be getting an advantage if you bought a polyacryl garment.

The advantages of both fabrics are nullified by the fact that both materials are treated with more harsh and toxic chemicals than you want to think about. For many people that is the deal-breaker no matter how affordable the clothing item is.

It is a question you have to answer for yourself as those harsh chemicals not only get absorbed into the ground, it can be absorbed into your skin.

Modacrylic vs Polyester

Modacrylic fabric is going to be stronger than polyester simply because it is a thicker fabric. But they both offer about the same amount of insulating powers that you should stay warm if you wear either material in a coat, etc.

Usually, modacrylic is used in rugs and wigs but when it is made into a garment, it has superior durability to polyester. When you are using this fabric in industrial and professional settings, it should last and endure the rougher treatment with ease.

The problem when determining which is better comes in when you look at the fact both fibers can be woven or spun into a variety of styles and types of fabrics. Which fabric is better depends on how it was made.

Check the label to see the different fibers blended with both fabrics when made into clothing items. Those additives also make a difference in the quality and durability of either material.

Acrylic vs Nylon


Outside of the fabric world, both fibers are made into plastic sheeting with different functions and capabilities. Also, acrylic is a very transparent material often called the clearest plastic of all.

When you buy fabric made from either material, this is what you are up against--plastic. Neither material will breathe very well and nylon should have more stretch than acrylic. Nylon is a good reinforcement fiber in critical clothing areas.

But the two fabrics share the same negative elements that come with all man-made fibers. The harsh chemicals used to make both fibers are not environmentally safe and take a long time to degrade when thrown away.

This is the biggest concern you have to face as both materials do have their positive contributions to make to your fashion style, warmth, and clothing budget. When you need stretch, nylon is the go-to fabric as it is the same material as elastane and lycra.

Acrylic Polyester Blend Fabric

For furniture, this may be a good blend to have on those outdoor pieces you spent so much money obtaining. You may want the dominant fabric to be polyester to get the most out of either material.

Yet, polyester may be too hot to sit on, and adding acrylic makes the material more comfortable. Given acrylic’s tendency to overheat you may want polyester added to any clothing made from acrylic. It breathes better and it helps keep you comfortable avoiding the overheating that comes with acrylic only fabric.

You are going to get this blended material in a lot of excellent color hues which will add to your fashion style. Hopefully, the polyester will stop the acrylic from pilling and shrinking when you launder it.

Also, both fabrics are said to resist moths and other fabric eating bugs that like to ruin what you buy and put outside to enjoy.

Acrylic vs Polyester Blanket


While not perfect, the polyester blanket will help you stay comfortable and warm all night long. The reason for saying that is that polyester is good at insulating and better at breathing than acrylic blankets will be.

To keep you nice and comfortable throughout the night, acrylic would have to be blended with a better fiber that does breathe well. The acrylic only blanket will have you overheating very quickly if you leave your room temperature at warm levels

Acrylic vs Polyester Yarn

In this comparison, you will find that both yarns will have the same properties as the fabrics will have. Acrylic yarn will have vivid colors and be sun safe due to its manufacturing process.

Plus, it is quite washable and quick drying. However, the yarn tends to pill or will develop that pilling problem. One thing you should be wary of is that acrylic can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Polyester can be recycled and usually does not stretch out of shape. It does resist bugs and mildew while remaining stain resistant for most stains. It will absorb oil-based stains and odors though.

Then both yarns are easy to care for and handle pets and children quite well. Polyester yarn should breathe a lot better than acrylic making it a better fabric to wear when those temperatures surprise you and get warm quickly.

Acrylic or Polyester Socks


If you want your feet to stay nice and toasty warm, then you probably will want to wear 100% acrylic socks. The material’s lack of breathing makes sure your body heat does not escape and helps keep your feet nice and warm.

Then if you want to have your feet stay nice and comfortable, you may want to wear 100% polyester socks. The breathing capability of polyester helps regulate the heat a little better and your feet should not overheat.

The best sock to wear when wearing synthetic over natural fibers would be a 91% acrylic and 8% polyester blend. you get breathability, comfort, and durability all rolled into one pair of socks.

But if you want a top thermal sock to replace the polyester with 21% merino wool, lower the acrylic to 66% add a little nylon and spandex and you have a comfortable, warm sock that won’t choke your feet or ankles.

Acrylic vs Polyester Bed Sheet

The same principles will be at work here and when you want to stay really warm all night then you should use a 100% acrylic bed sheet over a polyester one. that way you can lower the room temperature without sacrificing any comfort or warmth.

But if you like to keep the room temperature a little higher, a polyester sheet will let your body breathe while you sleep. Not as much as wool or cotton will but enough so that your body should not overheat at any time during the night.

The one drawback you have to worry about with either type of fabric is that they do not absorb any sweat germs. if left alone for several days, you will find that both sheets will have some unhealthy bacterial growth especially if you are a night sweater.

Both types of sheets should be washed more frequently than natural ones due to this problem. Also, if you have an allergy sufferer in your home, these sheets may not be the best to use on their beds.

Acrylic vs Polyester Outdoor Fabric


When it comes to outdoor furniture and fabric, acrylic seems to be the way to go. Polyester tends to get too hot to sit on and that would be due to the plastic elements found in its fibers and other factors.

Acrylic is the way to go as when it is given the solution-dyed process, its colors last longer, they are more vivid and the material is more water-resistant. Plus, this material should be cooler to sit on when the day is a lot hotter.

An ideal choice would be an acrylic-coated polyester fabric. You get the best aspects of both fabrics and the durability levels go up as well. The material resists mold or mildew growth.

Also, the colors should not fade any time soon. That extra protection saves you some money and keeps your outdoor areas looking their best.

Acrylic vs Polyester Awnings

Awnings are about the same as it is with outdoor furniture. While you do not sit on your awnings having a better fabric like acrylic resisting the heat will help keep you cooler when you are underneath it.

The best fabric to use for awnings, and it is often used with that outdoor accessory, is acrylic-coated polyester. This is so for the same reasons it is ideal for outdoor furniture. You get mildew resistance, better water resistance and the awning comes in many hard to fade brilliant colors.

The awning should last you a lot longer when it is made of that acrylic-coated polyester material. Individually both fabrics have their strong suits but put them together and you should have a superior fabric than those individual ones.

Is Acrylic or Polyester Better?


If you want an honest opinion, we would state that they are about the same. Each material has its purpose and each excels in those individual purposes. That makes it hard to say which is better.

If you are talking about performance then polyester may have the edge as it does not overheat you and has a little breathability to it. Acrylic may have brighter colors than polyester but looks are not everything.

When you want a top fabric, you may want to consider either an acrylic polyester blend or an acrylic-coated polyester fabric. When combined, you tend to have a better fabric overall.

The problem is that both fabrics are high in harsh and toxic chemicals. These chemicals are bad for both you and the environment and may outweigh all the advantages you get from using these materials in your sewing projects.

Some Final Words

When it comes to comparing synthetic man-made fabrics the differences are not always evident when you simply look at them or touch them. You do have to do a little research to see what makes each fabric unique and good enough to be in your sewing projects.

Both of these fabrics will work well but they have their drawbacks when compared to natural fibers. Pick the one that works best for the purpose you have in mind.

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