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Polyester vs. Acrylic: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 11, 2023
Polyester is a synthetic fabric known for durability and wrinkle resistance, while acrylic is a wool-like synthetic fiber used for warmth and softness.

Key Differences

Polyester is a widely used synthetic fiber, known for its strength, durability, and resistance to wrinkles and shrinking. In contrast, acrylic is another synthetic fiber, often used as a wool substitute due to its warm and soft nature.
Polyester fibers are made from polyethylene terephthalate and are often used in clothing, upholstery, and industrial applications. Acrylic, made from polyacrylonitrile, is favored in knitwear, furnishings, and as lining materials due to its wool-like feel.
A key characteristic of polyester is its ability to blend easily with other fibers, enhancing durability and versatility in fabrics. Acrylic, on the other hand, is known for its lightweight, soft, and warm qualities, resembling wool in texture and appearance.
Polyester is generally more hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water easily, making it quick to dry. Acrylic, while also relatively hydrophobic, can retain more warmth even when wet, making it a preferred material in cold weather garments.
In environmental terms, both polyester and acrylic are non-biodegradable, but polyester is often recycled more frequently than acrylic, which can be more challenging to recycle due to its composition and wool-like properties.

Comparison Chart

Material Composition

Made from polyethylene terephthalate
Made from polyacrylonitrile

Texture and Feel

Smooth and varied depending on weave
Soft, wool-like

Primary Uses

Clothing, upholstery, industrial products
Knitwear, cold-weather clothing, furnishings

Moisture Absorption

Low; quick-drying
Slightly higher than polyester; retains warmth when wet

Environmental Impact

Non-biodegradable but often recycled
Non-biodegradable and less frequently recycled

Polyester and Acrylic Definitions


Polyester is known for its strength, durability, and resistance to wrinkling.
My polyester tablecloth looks as good as new, even after multiple washes.


Acrylic fibers are commonly used in knitwear and warm clothing.
My favorite winter hat is made from soft, colorful acrylic yarn.


Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum-based substances.
The jacket's polyester blend makes it durable and easy to care for.


Besides textiles, acrylic is also used in a variety of other products like paints and aquariums.
I prefer using acrylic paints for my artwork as they are versatile and dry quickly.


Polyester is a common choice for outdoor and performance wear due to its quick-drying properties.
My running shorts are made of polyester, perfect for any weather.


Acrylic is a synthetic, wool-like fiber known for its warmth and softness.
This acrylic sweater is incredibly warm and feels similar to wool.


Polyester is used in various applications, from clothing to home furnishings and industrial materials.
The polyester ropes we use are strong and weather-resistant.


Acrylic is often used as a more affordable and hypoallergenic alternative to wool.
Acrylic blankets are great for those allergic to wool but want similar warmth.


Any of numerous synthetic polymers produced chiefly by reaction of dicarboxylic acids with dihydric alcohols and used primarily as light, strong, weather-resistant resins in boat hulls, textile fibers, adhesives, and molded parts.


Acrylic is lightweight and retains warmth, making it ideal for cold weather garments.
The acrylic lining in my ski jacket keeps me exceptionally warm.


A wrinkle-resistant fabric of fibers made from any of these resins.


An acrylic resin.


Any polymer whose monomers are linked together by ester bonds


A paint containing acrylic resin.


A material or fabric made from polyester polymer


Of, or consisting of polyesters


Any of numerous synthetic resins; they are light and strong and weather resistant


A complex ester used for making fibers or resins or plastics or as a plasticizer


Any of a large class of synthetic fabrics


Polyester fibers are often used in blends with natural fibers to enhance fabric properties.
The cotton-polyester blend of these sheets offers both comfort and durability.


Is acrylic recyclable?

Acrylic is less frequently recycled due to its composition.

Can polyester be recycled?

Yes, polyester is often recycled.

What is polyester?

A synthetic fabric known for durability and low moisture absorption.

Where is acrylic primarily used?

In knitwear, cold-weather clothing, and furnishings.

Are polyester and acrylic biodegradable?

No, both are non-biodegradable synthetic materials.

Is acrylic a good wool substitute?

Yes, it's a hypoallergenic and affordable alternative to wool.

How does polyester react to water?

It repels water and dries quickly.

What is acrylic?

A synthetic fiber resembling wool, known for its warmth and softness.

Can acrylic keep you warm in cold weather?

Yes, it retains warmth effectively, similar to wool.

Is acrylic heat resistant?

It can tolerate low to moderate heat but may be damaged by high heat.

What are common uses of polyester?

Clothing, upholstery, and industrial materials.

Is polyester suitable for outdoor clothing?

Yes, its quick-drying property makes it ideal for outdoor wear.

Does acrylic absorb water?

It has low water absorption but retains warmth when wet.

Are there environmental concerns with acrylic?

Yes, similar to polyester, due to its synthetic nature and production process.

Is acrylic used in non-textile products?

Yes, like in paints, aquariums, and other items.

Can polyester be used in home furnishings?

Yes, it's common in upholstery and home textiles.

How does polyester handle heat?

It's generally heat-resistant but can melt at high temperatures.

Can people with wool allergies wear acrylic?

Yes, acrylic is hypoallergenic and a good alternative to wool.

What environmental concerns are associated with polyester?

Its production and non-biodegradability pose environmental challenges.

Is polyester comfortable for everyday wear?

Yes, especially when blended with other fibers.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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