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Acrylic Yarn vs. Cotton Yarn: A Comprehensive Comparison

Both acrylic yarn and cotton yarn have their unique advantages and are suitable for different types of projects.

Choosing the right yarn for your knitting or crocheting project is crucial for achieving the desired outcome. Acrylic yarn and cotton yarn are two of the most popular options, each offering unique properties and benefits. This article will provide a comprehensive comparison between acrylic yarn and cotton yarn, helping you make an informed decision for your next project.

What is Acrylic Yarn?

Acrylic yarn is a synthetic fiber made from polymers derived from petroleum products. It is widely used in the crafting world due to its versatility, affordability, and ease of care.

Properties of Acrylic Yarn

  1. Durability: Acrylic yarn is strong and resistant to wear and tear, making it suitable for everyday items.
  2. Elasticity: It has good elasticity, which helps maintain the shape of knitted or crocheted items.
  3. Colorfastness: Acrylic yarn is known for retaining vibrant colors even after multiple washes.
  4. Hypoallergenic: As a synthetic fiber, acrylic yarn is less likely to cause allergic reactions compared to some natural fibers.
  5. Lightweight: Acrylic yarn is lightweight, making it comfortable for wearables.

Related Reading:How to Make Acrylic Yarn Less Fuzzy?

What is Cotton Yarn?

Cotton yarn is a natural fiber made from the cellulose fibers of the cotton plant. It is prized for its softness, breathability, and versatility.

Properties of Cotton Yarn

  1. Softness: Cotton yarn is naturally soft, making it gentle against the skin.
  2. Breathability: It is highly breathable, making it ideal for warm-weather garments and accessories.
  3. Absorbency: Cotton yarn is absorbent, which helps keep the skin cool and dry.
  4. Strength: Cotton yarn is strong and durable, especially when wet.
  5. Hypoallergenic: It is a great choice for people with sensitive skin or allergies.

Acrylic Yarn vs. Cotton Yarn

CategoryAcrylic YarnCotton Yarn
CostMore affordable than natural fibers like cotton or wool.Generally more expensive than acrylic yarn.
CareMachine washable and dries quickly.Can shrink and wrinkle; requires careful washing and drying.
Colors and TexturesAvailable in a vast array of colors and textures.Generally available in a wide range, but may be less varied than acrylic.
BreathabilityLess breathable, can be uncomfortable in hot weather.Highly breathable and comfortable.
Environmental ImpactHigher environmental impact as it is petroleum-based.Eco-friendly, renewable, and biodegradable.
DurabilityStrong and resistant to wear and tear, but prone to pilling over time.Strong and durable, especially when wet.
ElasticityGood elasticity, helps maintain the shape of items.Less elasticity, which can affect the drape and fit of finished items.
WeightLightweight.Heavier, which can make large projects cumbersome.
VersatilityVersatile for various projects due to a wide range of textures and colors.Versatile for a wide range of projects from garments to home decor.
ColorfastnessRetains vibrant colors even after multiple washes.Colors may fade over time with frequent washing.
HypoallergenicLess likely to cause allergic reactions.Great for people with sensitive skin or allergies.
SoftnessSoft, but generally less so than cotton.Naturally soft, gentle against the skin.
AbsorbencyLess absorbent, which can be a downside for certain projects.Highly absorbent, keeps skin cool and dry.

Comparing Acrylic Yarn and Cotton Yarn

Comfort and Wearability

Acrylic Yarn: Soft and lightweight, but less breathable. Suitable for colder climates and items that need to retain warmth.Cotton Yarn: Soft, breathable, and comfortable. Ideal for warm-weather garments and items worn close to the skin.

Durability and Maintenance

Acrylic Yarn: Highly durable, machine washable, and dries quickly. Prone to pilling.Cotton Yarn: Strong, especially when wet. Can shrink and wrinkle. Requires careful washing and drying.

Environmental Impact

Acrylic Yarn: Made from petroleum products, not biodegradable, and has a higher environmental impact.Cotton Yarn: Natural and biodegradable, with a lower environmental impact. Organic cotton is even more eco-friendly.


Acrylic Yarn: Available in a wide range of colors and textures, suitable for a variety of projects.Cotton Yarn: Versatile but typically available in fewer colors and textures compared to acrylic. Ideal for summer wear and household items.

Best Uses for Acrylic Yarn

  1. Blankets and Afghans: Durable and easy to care for, making it perfect for items that will be used frequently.
  2. Toys and Amigurumi: Affordable and available in vibrant colors, ideal for creating playful and colorful toys.
  3. Winter Wear: Warm and insulating, making it suitable for scarves, hats, and gloves.
  4. Home Decor: Versatile and durable, great for decorative pillows, throws, and other home accessories.

Best Uses for Cotton Yarn

  1. Summer Garments: Breathable and absorbent, perfect for lightweight tops, dresses, and shawls.
  2. Baby Items: Soft and hypoallergenic, ideal for baby clothes, blankets, and accessories.
  3. Dishcloths and Towels: Absorbent and durable, making it excellent for kitchen and bathroom textiles.
  4. Market Bags: Strong and durable, suitable for reusable shopping bags and totes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between acrylic yarn and cotton yarn?

The main difference lies in their composition: acrylic yarn is synthetic, made from petroleum products, while cotton yarn is a natural fiber from the cotton plant. This difference affects their properties, environmental impact, and best uses.

Which yarn is better for warm-weather garments?

Cotton yarn is better for warm-weather garments due to its breathability, absorbency, and comfort against the skin.

Is acrylic yarn suitable for baby items?

Yes, acrylic yarn is suitable for baby items as it is soft, hypoallergenic, and easy to care for. However, some prefer cotton yarn for its natural feel and breathability.

How do I care for items made from acrylic yarn?

Acrylic yarn items are machine washable and dry quickly. They should be washed in cool water and dried on a low setting to avoid pilling and maintain their appearance.

Can I use cotton yarn for winter wear?

While cotton yarn can be used for winter wear, it is less insulating than acrylic or wool. For added warmth, consider blending it with other fibers or using it for layered items.

Is one type of yarn more environmentally friendly than the other?

Cotton yarn is generally more environmentally friendly than acrylic yarn as it is natural and biodegradable. Organic cotton yarn offers an even lower environmental impact.


Both acrylic yarn and cotton yarn have their unique advantages and are suitable for different types of projects. Acrylic yarn offers durability, affordability, and a wide range of colors and textures, making it ideal for everyday items and winter wear. Cotton yarn, on the other hand, provides natural softness, breathability, and eco-friendliness, making it perfect for summer garments, baby items, and household textiles. Understanding the properties and best uses of each type of yarn will help you make the right choice for your knitting or crocheting projects.

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