Burn Test Chart

Fabric Identification - The Burn Test

We use the fabric burn test method to figure out the content on many of the fabrics we carry. Because we buy closeouts or deadstock fabric, we don't always get labels from the mill showing the exact content. You can use this method at home to determine mystery fabrics in your stash. 

Precautions
Use caution during burn test. Use a ceramic plate, metal can or glass ashtray. Do not use plastic containers. Always have water nearby or have some in the bottom of your burn dish.

The Method
Cut a 1” long triangular shaped snippet off from your fabric. Hold snippet in a pair of tweezers over the dish. With either a match or lighter, the snippet should be put directly into the flame long enough for it to catch on fire.

Fibers can also be identified through the smell of the smoke it gives off in burning and the ash or melted bead that remains after it has burned. Some fabrics are blends, and the blend of fibers may make the burn test a rather unreliable test for fiber content. Moreover, some fabrics have chemical finishes and sizings applied to them that will change the way they burn, making the burn test further unreliable.

Reaction of Fibers to the Burn Test
Cotton Fabric is a natural fiber.  It burns quickly and may flare up when lit. After burning, it continues to glow then produce a soft, gray ash. It will smell like burning paper or grass. The smoke is gray or white. Shop Cotton Fabric

Linen Fabric is a natural fiber. It burns like cotton but it may take longer to ignite. After burning, it continues to glow then produce a soft, gray ash. It will smell like burning paper or grass. The smoke is gray or white. Shop Linen Fabric

Rayon/Tencel/Modal/Lyocell Fabric are all man-made natural fibers, made from cellulose.  It burns quickly and may flare up. After the flame is removed, it may glow a bit longer than cotton. It smells like burning paper and leaves soft, gray ash. It may also leave a wispy tail after extinguished.  Shop Rayon Challis Fabric 

Silk Fabric is a natural fiber. It burns slowly and self-extinguishes. It leaves a gritty ash that smells like burning hair.  It gives out little, to no smoke. Shop Silk Fabrics

Wool Fabric is a natural fiber. It burns slowly, sizzles and self-extinguishes. It leaves a gritty ash that smells like burning hair. Shop Wool Fabric

Acetate Fabric is a man-made natural fiber. It burns quickly and melts. It can even flare after the flame is removed. When extinguished, the bead is hard and cannot be crushed. There is no ash but the smell is very noticeable smelling like vinegar. Acetate can be found in both wovens and knits. Acetate is most popular in lining fabrics.

Nylon Fabric is a synthetic fiber.  It melts without burning, the sometimes burns slowly. A hard bead forms and smells like burning celery. Nylon can be found in both wovens and knits. Browse our website to find a wide variety of nylon fabric by the yard.

Polyester/Acrylic Fabric is a synthetic fiber. It burns quickly and melts. A hard black bead forms and smells like sweet chemical. Use caution as the flame may flare up. Polyester can be found in both wovens and knits. Browse our website to find a wide variety of polyester fabric by the yard.

Learn more about caring for your fabric.