space-filling model of the acetate anion.

Acetate is a fiber used for many different things but most commonly for fibers. Originally made in England by the Dreyfus brothers for a silk-like fiber, the dope was also used for varnish on airplane wings. Once the solution was perfected after World War I they were able to perfect the fiber-form and was taken to the United States, where it was and continues to be manufactured at a large rate. Acetate was the first thermoplastic fiber - many people were using hot irons to iron out wrinkles in their clothes and saw the issue that many fibers could not withstand the harsh temperatures they were exposed to.

Many acetate salts are ionic, indicated by their tendency to dissolve well in water. A commonly encountered acetate in the home is sodium acetate, a white solid that can be prepared by combining vinegar and sodium bicarbonate ("bicarb"):


Acetate is an ester of cellulose that varies chemical from rayon or cotton. In acetate, the two hydroxyl groups are replaced by bulky acetyl groups. Characteristics such as low absorbency and low dye affinity can be attributed to this chemical difference.

This is the chemical structure of the acetate anion.

Other Characteristics

  • Aesthetics: excellent. Acetate was manufactured to be similar to silk and to this day is advertised as a luxuriously beautiful fabric with wonderful luster and drape and a smooth hand and texture
  • Durability: poor, with bad abrasion resistance, tenacity, and elongation
  • Comfort: moderate. It has low absorbency (because of the structure, as mentioned above) and bad thermal retention
  • Appearance Retention: poor, with bad resiliency, dimensional stability, and elastic recovery. Acetate is prone to atmospheric fading

Environmental Concerns

Similar to rayon, acetate has many environmental concerns. It is also made of wood pulp so the issue of cutting down trees and endangering species is similar. One difference is that acetate is dry spun and rayon is wet spun. With dry spinning, the ability to minimize environmental issues concerning the solution after spinning is lessened because it is easier to reuse the solution. An additional problem is that acetate requires dry cleaning, which poses an additional chemical use that is dangerous to the environment.