Q: Many knit garments are constructed of acrylic yarn. Sometimes permanent stretching or distortion occurs after cleaning and steam finishing acrylic knits. Why does this happen?
A: Professional cleaners can avoid stretching acrylic knits by taking some precautions.
Knits are characterized by their ability to stretch and conform to the shape of the body and recover to their original dimensions once the tension is released. However, acrylic knits will elongate or stretch excessively and not recover if exposed to elevated temperatures or steam.
Stretching or distortion can occur if the garment is tumbled freely (not netted) in a warm tumbler or subjected to any tension during steam finishing. The weight of the garment alone, if not handled carefully, can cause stretching during steam finishing. Unfortunately, once stretching or distortion occurs in acrylics, the damage cannot be remedied.
Acrylic knits should be placed in a net bag on a short cleaning and drying cycle. Drying temperatures should not exceed 120°F. After tumble drying and cooling, the garment should be removed immediately from the tumbler and folded on a hanger to avoid excessive wrinkling. If finishing is necessary, avoid contact with steam while applying tension.
Actually, acrylic knits usually perform better in a wet-cleaning process. This requires hand soaking in warm water and mild detergent, thorough rinsing, and laying flat to dry, preferably on a sweater net to facilitate air circulation around the fabric. Normally, steam finishing is not required after this care process.
DLI Silver, Gold, and Premier Members may learn more about acrylic knits by checking the following DLI bulletins:
TABS 419: Acrylic Knits Can Stretch
Fibers & Fabrics 397: Acrylic Knit Trim
Fibers & Fabrics 532: Proper Handling of Acrylic Knits