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How to tell the difference between silk & polyester

No two fabrics are considered such polar opposites than silk and polyester. Polyester has a reputation for cheapness, itchiness and sweatiness, while even the word “silk” infers luxury and comfort. However, many people buying silk have still been duped into a cheap polyester rip-off. Here’s how to tell them apart.

Use water

Dunk both materials in some water, or simply try to mop some up. Silk, being a natural fibre, is very absorbent, but polyester won’t hold much water at all and will smear it around when you try to wipe something up. For the same reason, polyester will make you sweat when you wear it, but silk won’t.

Label check

Look at the label. Most people trying to sell polyester as silk will take off a “100% Polyester” label, but you never know. But if you’re simply unsure of an old scarf you bought years ago, take a look for the label. You’ll feel silly if someone else finds it later.

Burn some

Burn a small piece. Silk smells like human hair when it burns, but polyester will melt and burn with a black smoke. It will also smell like plastic, because that’s basically what it is. You won’t need much – just a couple of strands.

Charge it

Rub it on your hair. Polyester will create static – as it does when you take off or put on a polyester jumper, but silk won’t. Silk will, however, create a charge when rubbed against a piece of glass.

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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.