Acrylic fabric is made from the chemical acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile, which is a petrochemical derived from refining crude oil, is also used in the production of resins and plastics.
There are two methods of creating acrylic fibers: dry spinning and wet spinning. In wet spinning, acrylonitrile polymers are injected through spinnerets into a chemical bath where they then solidify. The solid fibers are pulled from the solution. In dry spinning, the solid fibers are retrieved after the solution has evaporated.
To be considered acrylic, the fabric fibers must consist of no less than 85 percent acrylonitrile. Additional chemical compounds can be added to improve dye absorption or to make the fibers flame retardant.