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How to know if a fabric is NATURAL or SYNTHETICAL... to NATURAL DYE at home.

When dyeing with natural colour, the selection of the fabric is a key step, Natural dyes only work with natural fibre. this means fibre made using a natural source, like a part of a plant or animal fur. But if you have at home a piece of fabric that you want to dye, and you don't remember the material that is made of, what do you do?

Here I'm going to explain a simple way to differentiate a natural fabric from a synthetical one.

How to differentiate a natural fibre from a synthetic?

You are going to need:

  • A piece of fabric, of which you want to know its composition.

  • Tweezers

  • Lighter

  • A ceramic plate ( to put the ashes)

  • A glass of water for safety reason


Step 1

Take the fabric and cut a small piece of it, like 5 cm.

Step 2

Take the piece of fabric with the tweezers and with the lighter, burn a small part of the fabric

Step 3

See how the fabric burns and what it smells like.

Natural fabric will

-Burn fast

-Produce a lot of smoke

-Burn to ashes

-Smell of burnt paper (Cellulose fibre) or hair (proteinic fibre)

Synthetic fabric will

-Burn slowly or turn itself off ( depend on the fire safety regulation in your country)

-Produce little smoke or very back smoke

-Became sticky when burning

-Smell like plastic

Let say for example that you have a linen fabric when you burn the fabric it will:

Burn fast, you will see a light yellow flame that advances quickly in the fabric.

this flame will produce a grey or white smoke but never a black or dark smoke, and will produce a lot more in comparison with a piece of synthetic fabric.

the smoke will have a strong smell of burning paper

the when you touch very carefully the fabric after burn the burnt part will turn into ashes.

( be very careful because it may be still hot, especially with synthetic fabric)

And if the fabric is synthetic you will notice that the fabric will:

Burn slowly or turn itself down ( depending on the fire safety regulations in your country)

the flame will produce a black smoke like the one you see in the picture above this smoke will have a strong smell of burned plastic. When the flame if gone the burning fabric will turn sticky and when it dries it will become a hard black ball.

That is all, as you can see this is a very easy and cheap way to know if a fabric is natural or synthetical. When I was studying fashion design in the university I always carried a lighter when I go to buy fabrics; you can always ask for a small sample to test the composition of the fabric.

If you want to see the fabric while they burn, in order to undestand better, check this video:

Let me know your result, I will love to see your experiments; please tag me on my Instagram @casacaribeitalia.


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