How to know if your wool clothing item is made from real wool?
The importance of verifying whether a piece of wool clothing item has wool content or not can never be overstated. This can help you avoid laundry accidents especially if you purchase a fabric with no fiber content label or come in possession of an unmarked material or piece of vintage clothing.
Furthermore, knowing the wool content of a material is important if you intend to sell it or gift it out, as this will help you label it properly for potential buyers or recipients who could be allergic to wool. This information is equally important if you intend to dye your fabric as most dyes are specific to certain fibers.
Here are two different tests that you can use to determine the fiber of your fabric with the help of common household items.
Real Merino Wool
- chlorine bleach
- Small glass bowl
All our work is reader-supported – when you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. The decision is yours – whether you decide to buy something is entirely up to you.
The Burn Test - Identify Real Wool
We explicit point out that this test should not be performed at home! Be warned that something could catch fire - if you are not working carefully enough!
There are certain safety precautions that must be put in place before carrying out a burn test. First, you need to make sure you’re working in an area that is well ventilated. The burning fabric should only be held with tongs or metal tweezers and there should be a fire extinguisher around, just in case.
Also, avoid using refillable lighters or matches with strong fuel smell, it is better to use a disposable lighter – the smell of the fiber is essential for identification. The fact that you need to be able to identify the smell of the fiber explains why you should not do this test when you have a cold or sinus problem.
You need to carefully remove several fibers from the mystery fabric from a place where it won’t be noticed. Wind the fibers tightly around one end of a metal wire that can’t burn.
Fill your glass bowl with some water.
Light your match
Hold fabric over bowl and touch with the lit match. An original wool fabric will immediately catch fire and maintain a steady burn, though it might be difficult to keep it burning. Burnt wool fabrics have the smell of burning hair.
Animal fibers – wool, cashmere, merino, and silk – all smell like burning feathers, with a sharp hint of burning sulfur. They also form a tiny firm black ball of ash but you can crush it between your fingers when it has cooled down!
Oil-based fibers burn with a smoky black flame, they form a tiny sticky black ball that’s at about 400° F and can cause deep skin burns. When it’s cold you can’t crush it!
The burning test is a rapid method for identifying fibrous materials and other materials, also plastics. It is used to distinguish between the major types of raw materials and between the various synthetic fibers. It is not very suitable for textile of different fibrous materials. For this purpose, the different fibers would have to be separated from the composite and tested individually.
The following table gives a brief overview of characteristic features of burning natural fabrics and synthetic fibers:
|Natural Fiber / Synthetic||Flame||Smell||Flammability||Firing Residue|
|bright flame||similar to burnt paper||burns very quickly, afterglows, glow can be reignited by careful blowing||whitish, light, finely spreadable ash|
|only small yellowish white flame, burns down quickly||after burnt hair||extremely fast, especially with loose fine fibers, the flame extinguishes easily||charcoal-like friable, easily pulverized ash residue|
|Like Wool||Like Wool||Like Wool||Like Wool|
|bluish glowing inside||like candle wax||Quickly Flammable||practically no residues, melts - slight traces of soot|
|blue flame with yellowish edge, not sooting||like fingernails||melting, then burning, foaming and creating brown-black edges||glassy, yellow to dark stringy fused pearl|
|indefinite||melting, then burning||very hard melting pearl|
The Bleach Test - Recognize Wool Counterfeits
You need to carefully remove several fibers from the mystery fabricfrom a place where it won’t be noticed.
Place the cut out piece in a small bowl and cover it with bleach.
Keep the bowl in a ventilated room for 8 hours.
Check the cut out fabric. Real wool will dissolve substantially or disintegrate completely.