Burn Test for Fiber Identification

Burn Test for Fiber Identification

When trying to identify an unknown yarn fiber, burning the yarn can help to identify the fiber content of the yarn. (This works for fabric as well)  The following are some various characteristics of burning yarn:

Cotton Burns rapidly, yellow flames, continues burning; afterglow smells like paper residue is a brown tinged end, feathery ash
Linen Burns slower than cotton; afterglow smells like rope ash maintains shape of swatch
Ramie Burns slowly smells like rope ash maintains shape of swatch
Rayon Burns slowly smells like paper or rags very little residue, fluffy ash
Silk and Wool Burns slowly, usually self-extinguishing smells like hair residue is crushable black bead (silk) or small, brittle, black bead (wool)
Most synthetic fibers Nylon, polyester, acrylic, tend to melt and fuse. Nylon and polyester leave a hard, gray or tan bead; acrylic will leave a crisp, black mass.

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  1. Bleach is another method of identifying if a fibre is man made or natural. [NOTE: Exercise caution when using any bleach products. It is worth knowing that, not all bleaches are created equal. Janola is my recommended brand.] Place a small amount of ‘neat’ bleach in a clearly labelled jar. Place a small end of yarn into the bleach and leave to soak for a good half hour or longer. Natural yarns will dissolve in the bleach, whereas man-made yarns will not. Blends of natural and man-made yarns will partially dissolve.


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