Acrylic is a synthetic fiber made from acrylonitrile, a clear plastic. Acrylic carpets became popular in 1960s. The fiber, also known as "art wool," was seen as a wool substitute. Of all synthetics, acrylic is closest to wool in appearance and feel. It's cheaper than wool and has some desirable characteristics. It's sold under brand names like Acrilan, Orlon and Creslan. Though it has lost some of its popularity in recent years, acrylic still has a number of advantages:
- Acrylic gives you the look of wool at a lower cost.
- It's springy like wool; it has a luxurious "hand."
- It resists soiling, stains, static and mildew. It's easier to clean than wool.
- Unlike wool, acrylic is not susceptible to moth damage.
- Acrylic colors are bright and resist fading in sunlight
- While wool holds moisture, acrylic wicks it away.
But acrylic fiber carpets have some drawbacks that have limited their use. Acrylic is not as durable as wool, nor as resilient. It has a tendency to become fuzzy as fibers deteriorate and to pill like polyester. Acrylic is easily stained by oil and grease.
You are most likely to encounter acrylic in blends with wool. These have been created to make wool carpeting less expensive and to give it some of favorable qualities of acrylic. Pure acrylic fiber is more popular for scatter rugs. Because it wicks water and dries quickly, it's often seen in bathroom rugs. Any carpet containing acrylic fiber is best for low-traffic areas.
Read on for lots more information about carpet fibers.