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October 26, 2016



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Fabric University, knowledge to make informed fabric decisions
Fabric University | Burn Test
Burn Test

How to Identify Textile Fibers Based on How They Burn.


Identifying Criteria
The burning test is a somewhat subjective , but simple , test based on the knowledge of how particular fibers burn. In the burning test, the following characteristics are noted:
  • Do the fibers melt and/or burn?
  • Do the fibers shrink from the flame?
  • What type of odor do the fumes have?
  • What is the characteristic s of any smoke?
  • What does the residue of the burned fibers look like?
The burning test is normally made on a small sample of yarns which are twisted together. Since the yarns used in one direction of a fabric are not always comprised of the same fibers used in the other direction, warp and filling yarns should be burned separately.

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Test Procedures
Select a small sample of at least six to eight yarns about 4 inches long, and twist them together into about a 1/8 inch in diameter bundle. Hold one end of the bundle with tweezers or two coins. A sheet of aluminum foil about 10 to 12 inches square can be used as a protected working area. If the sample ignites it can be dropped on the foil without damage. Either a candle or match can be used to provide the flame.

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The characteristics observed during the burning test can be affected by several things. If the fabric /yarn contains blends of fibers, identification of individual fibers can be difficult. Two or three different kinds of fibers burned together in one yarn may also be difficult to distinguish. Finishes used on the fabric can also change the observed characteristics.

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Some fibers are slow in igniting, but then burn quickly. Others can burn hot and produce a painful burn if caution is not maintained.. Care also must be exercised so that your hair is kept out of the flame.

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Criteria For Identifying Fibers
Natural Fibers

  • Cotton: Burns, but does not melt. It has the odor of burning paper,
  • leaves, or wood. The residue is a fine, feathery, gray ash.
  • Hemp: Same as cotton
  • Linen: Same as cotton
  • Ramie : Same as cotton
  • Rayon : Same as cotton
  • Silk: Burns, but does not melt. It shrinks from the flame. It has the odor of charred meat. The residue is a black, hollow irregular bead that can be easily to a gritty black powder. It is self-extinguishing, i.e., it burns itself out.
  • Wool, and other Protein Fibers: Burns, but does not melt. It shrinks from the flame. It has a strong odor of burning hair. The residue is a black, hollow irregular bead that can be easily crushed into a gritty black powder. It is self-extinguishing, i.e., it burns itself out.

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Manufactured Fibers
Most manufactured fibers both burn and melt, and also tend to shrink away from the flame. Other identifying characteristics include:
  • Acetate: Has an odor similar to burning paper and vinegar. It´s residue is a hard, dark, solid bead.
  • Acrylic: Has a fishy odor. The residue is a hard irregularly-shaped bead. It also gives off a black smoke when burned
  • Nylon: Has an odor likened to celery. It´s residue is initially a hard, cream-colored bead that becomes darker.
  • Olefin/Polyolefin: Has a chemical type odor. The residue id a hard, tan-colored bead. The flames creates black smoke.
  • Polyester: Has a somewhat sweet chemical odor. The residue is initially a hard cream-colored bead that becomes darker. Flames gives off black smoke.
  • Spandex: It burns and melts, but does not shrink from the flame. It has a chemical type odor. Its residue is a soft black ash
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