Discover the World’s Finest Wool – How can you tell that it is 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 piece of fabric with no fiber content label or come in possession of an unmarked material or piece of vintage clothing.

How to know if your wool clothing item is made from real wool?

It is also essential to know the wool content of fabrics if you want to grab supposed bargains at markets while on vacation.

Unfortunately, valuable fabrics such as cashmere, alpaca or merino wool are often counterfeited or have a percentage of synthetic fibers added.

If you sell or give away fabrics, they should be adequately labeled because potential buyers may be allergic to wool or lanolin.

Information about wool content is also essential if you want to dye fabrics, 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:


Merino wool has many advantages and is perfect for hiking. Why? Merino underwear and merino sweaters dry quickly, even if you sweat a lot. Perfect for a mountain tour. In addition, merino wool does not smell, so you can wear the clothes for a long time without washing them. Merino Baselayer feels soft and cuddly warm on the skin.

Materials Required:

  • Match
  • Water
  • chlorine bleach
  • Small glass bowl

 

The Burn Test - Identify Real Wool

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.

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. 

Textile Fibers Burning Test by:chemixish

Performing the Burn Test

Step 1

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.

Step 2

Fill your glass bowl with some water.

Step 3

Light your match

Step 4

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!


Alpaca Throw Blanket - Hypoallergen

Alpaca Throw Blanket - Hypoallergen

Alpaca - Sheep Wool Blanket

 * Disclosure: Links marked with Asterix or some picture links on world’s-finest-wool are affiliate links.  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.

How different textile fibers burn!

The following table gives a brief overview of characteristic features of burning natural fabrics and synthetic fibers:

Natural Fiber / SyntheticFlameSmellFlammabilityFiring Residue

Cotton
bright flamesimilar to burnt paperburns very quickly, afterglows, glow can be reignited by careful blowing
whitish, light, finely spreadable ash

Wool
only small yellowish white flame, burns down quicklyafter burnt hairextremely fast, especially with loose fine fibers, the flame extinguishes easilycharcoal-like friable, easily pulverized ash residue

Silk
Like WoolLike WoolLike WoolLike Wool

Polyethylene
bluish glowing insidelike candle waxQuickly Flammablepractically no residues, melts – slight traces of soot

Polyamide
blue flame with yellowish edge, not sootinglike fingernailsmelting, then burning, foaming and creating brown-black edgesglassy, yellow to dark stringy fused pearl

Polyester
indefinitemelting, then burningvery hard melting pearl

The Bleach Test - Recognize Wool Counterfeits

Performing the Bleach Test

Step 1

You need to carefully remove several fibers from the mystery fabricfrom a place where it won’t be noticed. 

Step 2

Place the cut out piece in a small bowl and cover it with bleach.

Step 3

Keep the bowl in a ventilated room for 8 hours.

Step 4

Check the cut out fabric. Real wool will dissolve substantially or disintegrate completely.

identify real wool

It is not only a negative aspect when synthetic fibers are added to wool clothing. Synthetic or chemical fibers are characterized by their extraordinary durability.

They often make wool easier to care for, more elastic and even more durable. Synthetic fibers are usually added to outdoor apparel made of wool.

In terms of environmental compatibility, however, synthetic fibers are clearly inferior to animal or vegetable fibers.1

The semi-synthetic fibers viscose and modal offer an alternative. They are also produced chemically but are based on natural raw materials and are biodegradable and recyclable.

I hope this post has helped you to distinguish genuine wool products from fakes in the future. Thank you for reading about – How to identify Real Wool!

If you have something to contribute about wool counterfeits? We are very much interested in reading from you – leave us a comment

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  1. Carney Almroth, B.M., Åström, L., Roslund, S.et al.Quantifying shedding of synthetic fibers from textiles; a source of microplastics released into the environment.Environ Sci Pollut Res25,1191–1199 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0528-7

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