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 Test silk.
What is The Burn Test? - An Easy and definitive way to Determine Genuine silk
This is an old method used since the ancient times and it’s origins can be traced back to the Silk Route. (Around 114 BCE – 1450s CE)
This life-hack of the past is a tried and tested method used by traders of the silk route to confirm the goods they bought were made from actual silk.
This is the easiest way to identify genuine silk from the fake synthetic fabric and is fairly easy to perform provided the instructions are followed with caution.
Things That You Need To Perform Silk Burn Test
Some fibers are slow in igniting, but then burn quickly.
Others can burn hot and produce a painful burn if caution is not maintained.
Be extremely careful to keep your hair out of the flame.
Be very certain that you are not wearing flammable materials when testing.
Do not stand anywhere near any flammable materials.
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.
How to Identify Silk Using Burn Test - Video
We recommend that you watch this demonstration video first to know what to expect when performing the silk test.
Learn How to identify silk without using any fancy lab equipment in less than 3 minutes.
You can follow along or come back to this blog post after you have finished watching our video about the silk burn test.
Steps to Perform the Silk Burn Test:
- 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.
- Twist the threads you’ve just extracted to form a manageable tassel or a bunch.
- Place the threads onto the scissors or pliers and keep it away from your body, loose clothing and flammable objects.
- 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 human hair are made from protein.
- 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.
- 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.
- The residue will form a molten glob of plastic with a black smoke and cannot be crushed into fine ash.
- Likewise, if the silk is a blend of polyester, cotton, modal viscose or other any synthetic fibers it will melt into a molten ball of plastic. Blends will also show similar characteristics to that of fake silk.
What Happens when you burn Silk? - The Silk Burn Test Results
On performing the silk burn test, you’ll observe the following:
- Silk burns as long as it is in contact with the flame.
- Silk burns slowly and does not melt, but shrinks near the flame. Burnt silk has the odor similar to that of burnt human hair.
- Burnt silk curls into irregular hollow beads that are black and brittle.
- These beads crush into fine ash with a crisp sound.
- Silk is self-extinguishing, that is, it burns itself out.
- Cellulosic fibers (cotton, linen and rayon) burn rapidly with a yellow flame. When the flame is removed, there is an amber afterglow, then soft gray ash.
- Polyester will shrink from the flame and burns slowly giving off black smoke. Has a distinct sweet chemical odor.
Sometimes, it is not possible to perform a burn test. This is where other methods come in handy
Watch The Label before you buy
In this fast moving world of e-commerce, many people prefer the ease and convenience of shopping online. It goes without saying that one should carefully read the specifications of the product and inspect the label before buying. Don’t just believe the product title, scroll down to find the technical specifications about the textile. Often hidden in small print, if a product is made from pure silk it will be labelled as 100% silk under technical specifications or textile information.
Why would someone sell artificial silk saying its real? Because there’s no law against naming a product “silk satin” when its textile content is actually 100% polyester. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see that “silk” or “silky” is very often used in product names just to indicate a fine, smooth fabric regardless of content. Amazon and eBay is full of misleading product listings, silky smooth satin shawl doesn’t mean its made from silk. It’s just a creative way used by merchants to trick the system and sell mass produced cheap goods.
If the seller doesn’t provide textile content information at all, you could potentially be scammed.
Price of the Finished Product
As a rule of the thumb, if the price of silk product is too good to be true, it is most likely fake. The online ecommerce website are plagued with mass produced scarves, shawls, bonnets, ties, cravats, pillow covers, sarees made from polyester labelled as 100% Silk.
You simply cannot buy a pure silk scarf or a neck tie for US$5.
Raw silk prices have skyrocketed in last one year, which has disrupted production in the value chain.
Raw silk prices jumped over 65 per cent from June 2021 quarter as per the official data by the, Raw silk demand has also seen steep rise after the pandemic as economic activities jumped suddenly. Weavers of silk scarves, shawls and stoles in the cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana in the Punjab State of India have stopped production as they are unable to pass on higher cost. They could not come out from the impact of production disruptions due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Tri Star Overseas, is one of the few silk scarf and silk shawl manufacturers in India who are still weaving these products whereas others have resorted to using modal or silk blends.
Luster and Smoothness Test
Silk is called the “queen of natural fibers” because of its unique qualities, such as extra fineness, luster, and feel.
Natural silk is known for its luxurious pearlescent 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 made of man made materials like polyester tends to have a flat white sheen regardless of the angle.
For a smoothness test, you should run your hand across the material in order to feel the texture of the cloth.
The Natural silk fibers should feel sleek and the entire cloth should drape naturally around your body.
Artificial silk won’t be as smooth and will be relatively stiffer when you try to tie it or drape it around your shoulders or neck. The art silk fabric is more prone to wrinkles and creases because of the stiffness.
In conclusion, the silk cloth will have a mother-of-pearl shine and will be smooth to touch.
You can take your product to a third party laboratory so that they can perform the tests in a scientific and controlled manner to get accurate results. The equipment, instruments, testing technology, skilled and experienced manpower comes at a cost.
For example, The Single Fiber Linear Density & Tensile Tester, one of the equipment used in testing silk yarn and fiber costs over USD$10,000. The labs charge anywhere from USD$150-200 for complete analysis of textile (Quantitative analysis of silk inclusive of identification of fiber)
Moreover, the process of lab testing is intensive and will at least take a week for it complete.
Also, you’ll have to sacrifice your favorite scarf, saree or tie. Yes, these tests are destructive and need a considerable piece of cloth to perform the tests.
So, it is advised that one should choose this method as a last resort.
FACT: The series of Lab tests will include burning of the silk fibers.
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 answer your question – how to identify silk and its confirm its authenticity.
As a bonus, Here’s an info graphic you might want to keep in handy.
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How to Identify Silk - F.a.q
We have included answers to some frequently asked questions on how to identify silk. Hope these clear your doubts. Comment below what method you used. Let us know if we missed something.
How does real silk look like?
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.
How can you tell the difference between silk and polyester?
What is the difference between silk and satin?
Silk is a fiber whereas Satin is a type of textile weave. Silk Satin is a fabric that has warp dominant weave which gives it a distinct shimmery appearance.
How to check if my silk saree is pure or not?
- 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.
Does silk wrinkle easily? How To Get Wrinkles Out Of Silk
- 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.
How to wash pure silk?
- 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.