Learn How to tell real silk cloth from polyester using a simple test

How to Identify Silk?

The best part about this method?
It's Free and you do not need any fancy equipment or a laboratory to determine silk.

The Burn Test: An Easy and definitive way to identify real silk

This is an old method used since the ancient times and it’s orgins can be traced back to the Silk Route. (Around 114 BCE – 1450s CE)

This is the easiest way to identify real silk from the fake synthetic one and is fairly easy to perform when the instructions are followed with caution. 

Silk SCARVES & Shawls

While you are here to learn how to identify silk.

Feel free to browse collection of silk scarves and shawls exclusively manufactured by Tri Star Overseas.

Things that you will be needing

  • The silk product (scarf, saree or cloth) you will be using to perform the test
  • A lighter or matchstick (to burn the silk threads)
  • A pair of clipping scissors (tweezers will work just fine)
  • A safe environment to perform the test (you don’t want to burn anything else and cause damage)

Although, you can perform this test at your home or at the vendor’s shop/factory. You should have instant access to water, use a sink or go outside.

Do not worry, the instructions are easy to follow but adequate measures are necessary to ensure safety.

Beautiful silk scarves in TRADITIONAL JAMAVAR PATTERNS

Performing the Burn Test

  1. Using scissors extract two or three silk threads (preferably, horizontal/warp threads) from the fabric carefully using the scissors from the farthest edge of the fabric.
  2. Twist the threads you’ve just extracted to form a manageable tassel or a bunch.
  3. Place the threads onto the scissors or pliers and keep it away from your body, loose clothing and flammable objects.
  4. Now, Carefully ignite the threads using the lighter while observing the smell and burning pattern. The threads should give a smell similar to that of burnt human hair because both silk and hair are made from protein.
  5. Genuine Silk will only burn as long as the source of flame is in contact with it. The residue formed will get crushed into fine ash upon lightly pressing it.
  6. On the other hand, polyester or other synthetic (man-made) threads are flammable (unlike silk). Polyester catches fire and burns completely while giving smell similar to that of burnt plastic or paper.
  7. The residue will form a molten glob with a black smoke and cannot be crushed into fine ash.
  8. Likewise, if the silk is a blend of polyester, cotton, modal viscose or other any synthetic fibers it will still burn into a molten ball of plastic. Blends will also show similar characteristics to that of fake silk.

how to perform the burn test - Video

We recommend that you watch this demonstration video first to know what to expect when performing the test.

Learn How to identify silk without using any fancy lab equipment.

Sometimes, it is not possible to perform a burn test. This is where other methods come in handy

Luster and Smoothness Test

Silk is known for its luxurious pearlescent sheen and luster, the color of the fabric should also change slightly depending on how you’re holding it.

The pearlescent effect is obtained by the interference of light reflecting from multiple angles of the product. On the other hand, Artificial fabric tends to have a flat white sheen regardless of the angle.

For a smoothness test, run your hand across the material.

The silk fibers should feel sleek and the entire cloth should drape naturally. 

Artificial silk won’t be as smooth and will be considerably stiffer when you try to tie it or drape it around your shoulders or neck.

In conclusion, the silk cloth will have a mother-of-pearl shine and will be smooth to touch.

Laboratory Test

You can take your product to a third party laboratory so that they can perform the tests in a scientific manner. However, this can turn out to be pretty expensive. 

Moreover, the process of lab testing will at least require a week.

Also, you’ll have to sacrifice your fabric. They need a considerable piece of cloth to perform various tests. 

So, it is advised that one should choose this method as a last resort.

FUN FACT: Lab tests will include burning of the silk fibers.

Mulberry Silk Satin

Conclusion

By now you should have an idea on how to identify silk without the help of expensive lab equipment.

In order to ensure authenticity of the silk, you should buy only from reputed manufacturers and vendors. There’s a popular misconception in buyers around the world that “only the Chinese manufacture the best silk you can buy”.

But in the recent years, this has changed. Many shady silk manufacturers and vendors have emerged who sell fake products at a fraction of a price of the original. Therefore, it is recommended to determine the origin of the silk used.

Although, it is said that silk was invented by the Chinese but India is one of the few countries where it was produced as early as 1500AD. In fact, India in the modern times has emerged as the second most producer of silk and its products.

In conclusion, Only reputed manufacturers and exporters are known to sell genuine products shall be entrusted as suppliers of silk scarves, shawls and other fashion accessories. 

At Tri Star Overseas, we have been manufacturing and exporting scarves and shawls made from 100% mulberry silk since 1957 and exporting to many of reputed fashion brands across the world.

Our scarves pass burn tests, even third party laboratory tests. Certainly, this method will help you to identify silk and its confirm its genuineness. 

As a bonus, Here’s an info-graphic you might want to keep in handy.

an infographic that shows easy methods to find out whether the silk is real or not

F.a.q

We have included answers to some frequently asked questions related to silk. Hope these clear your doubts. Comment below what method you used. Let us know if we missed something.

Silk is incredibly soft with a pearlescent sheen, giving it a high-end and luxurious appeal. The color of the fabric should change slightly depending on how you’re holding it against a source of light.

The most effective way to distinguish between silk and polyester is to watch them under light. If you watch silk, you can see subtle shine on it, and the luster will change color depending on the angle. On the other hand, synthetic polyester shines white under light. One can perform a burn test to confirm the authenticity.
  • First examine the fabric, look out for pearlescent sheen (the color of the shine will change slightly depending on how you hold it against light).
  • Consider the weight and price of the saree. A pure silk saree is usually ten times more expensive than artificial/synthetic ones.
  • Spun silk costs around ₹ 4500/- per kilogram. So, if your saree costs less than that, you need to check the authenticity.
  • Also, you can perform the burn test on the saree but remember to extract a loose thread in such a manner so that it does not ruin it.
  • Silk, although delicate develops far less wrinkles than other fabrics. Even if does, the wrinkles are easy to remove.  A hair dryer, steamer or an iron can come in handy to turn your clothing wrinkle-free.
  • Use an iron on the low setting to avoid damaging it. Cover the silk with cotton sheet/fabric rather than directly ironing it.
  • A hand-held steamer or a steam iron can be safely used to remove wrinkles from silk. Just keep the source of steam about 6 inches away from the fabric and move from top to bottom. The steam should loosen the fibers and render it wrinkle free.
  • Use a combination of fine mist spray bottle and hair dryer on the wrinkled area. Remember not to wet the area more than necessary, as drying will take time. Hot air will dry the area and remove the creases. If you are not sure of how hot the air will be, you can simply switch off the heating filament and blow normal air to dry the fabric.
All these methods involve water and heat, be sure not to overdo anything to avoid damaging or staining the fabric with water.
Follow the instructions on the care label of the garment.
  • Professional Dry Cleaning is recommended for most of the garments but one can easily wash silk at home if the stain is light to moderate.
  • Silk colors can often bleed. Perform a color fastness test using a cotton swab dipped in liquid detergent. Dab the swab on hidden seams to see if any dye comes off. Bright prints and colors that bleed should be dry cleaned.
  • For Washing: Fill a tub or sink with cold water and add a small amount of delicate-friendly liquid detergent. Lightly agitate for 2-3 minutes and rinse well. Continuous rubbing of a single spot can cause color lightening. Washing the entire garment is advised.
  • After rinsing, squeeze the excess water. Never twist or wring out silk garments/fabric, doing so can damage the fabric.
  • Avoid the dryer and lay wet silk garments under shade onto a clean, absorbent towels to get rid of excess moisture. Use multiple towels and then lay flat on a drying rack of towel.
  • If fabric care labels say the garment can be ironed, then iron on a low setting while the garments are still damp.
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