How to identify unknown fibers
If you have a ball of yarn and do not know the fiber content of the yarn, an easy way to distinguish the content is a burn test.
As easy as it may sound, burn test is very dangerous and you should be very cautious conducting it.
For safety reasons, do not perform the burn test on the ball of yarn.
Instead, cut a 4" (10 cm) piece and do the test far away from the rest of the yarn and other flammables.
Burn tests should be done by an adult with a bucket of water or a non-plastic sink with running water at hand.
I cannot emphasize enough about safety.
The burn test will allow you to determine if the yarn is made of natural fibers or man-made fibers.
Then, it would be easy to figure out how to take care of your garment made with that particular yarn.
Below is a list of different fibers and how to identify them with the burn test.
To see a chart explaining all the details of the burn test check out:
- Cotton is a plant fiber. When ignited it will burn with a steady flame and smells like burned leaves.
The leftover ash will crumble and you can blow out a small sample.
- Linen is also a plant fiber. It will smell like burnt leaves, but takes longer to ignite.
- Rayon is a cellulose fiber. It burns fast and leaves very little ash and smells like burnt leaves, like cotton.
- Silk is an animal protein. When ignited, it smells like burnt hair.
The ash crumbles, but it will not be extinguished as easily as cotton or linen.
- Wool is an animal fiber and just like silk, smells like burnt hair when burnt.
Wool is harder to ignite than silk. Wool does not stay aflame for long.
- Acrylic is a man-made fiber. It burns easily because it is made of petroleum.
It is hard to extinguish. The ash hardens easily and does not crumble.
- Nylon is a petroleum product too. It burns rapidly.
It does not produce ash but melts and smells like burnt plastic.
- Polyester is made of coal or petroleum products.
It melts just like nylon and the drops bond to any surface close-by including skin, causing a lot of harm.
Burnt polyester creates a black smoke.
- Blends are hard to distinguish as they will have all the characteristics of all the products involved.
You can only guess the content of blend with the burn test.
Nazanin S. Fard
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