Identification of Silk


Silk is a natural protein fiber that is produced by the larvae of silkworms. It is widely used for making textiles, garments, and other luxury items. The identification of silk is important for textile industry, as it helps in distinguishing silk from other fibers and also in determining the quality of the silk.

In this lab, we will learn how to identify silk using simple tests and microscopy. We will also learn how to differentiate silk from other fibers commonly found in textiles.


  • Silk sample
  • Cotton sample
  • Polyester sample
  • Wool sample
  • Microscope
  • Burner
  • Beaker
  • Water
  • Tweezers
  • Glass slides
  • Cover slips


  1. Visual Inspection:

The first step in identifying silk is to visually inspect the sample. Look at the fabric and observe the texture, sheen, and drape. Silk has a smooth and lustrous surface with a soft hand feel. It drapes well and has a unique rustling sound when it is rubbed.

  1. Burn Test:

The next step is to perform a burn test to distinguish silk from other fibers. Take a small sample of each fiber and burn it with a lighter. Observe the flame, smoke, and ash produced.

  • Silk: When silk is burned, it produces a smell of burnt hair and leaves behind a fine, powdery ash that is black and crispy.
  • Cotton: When cotton is burned, it produces a yellowish flame with a smell of burning paper. It leaves behind a soft and fluffy ash that is light gray in color.
  • Polyester: When polyester is burned, it produces a black smoke with a sweet smell. It leaves behind hard beads that are black and shiny.
  • Wool: When wool is burned, it produces a smell of burnt hair and leaves behind a black, powdery ash that crumbles easily.
  1. Microscopic Examination:

The final step is to examine the fibers under a microscope to confirm the identification. Take a small sample of each fiber and place it on a glass slide. Add a drop of water to the sample and cover it with a cover slip. Examine the fibers under a microscope.

  • Silk: Silk fibers are smooth and have a triangular shape with rounded edges. They have a characteristic striated appearance with regular, longitudinal lines.
  • Cotton: Cotton fibers are flat and twisted with irregular, oval-shaped widths. They have a twisted appearance with occasional knots and tangles.
  • Polyester: Polyester fibers are smooth and have a circular shape with a smooth surface. They have a uniform width and no striations or longitudinal lines.
  • Wool: Wool fibers are irregular and have a scaly surface with a wavy appearance. They have a wide range of diameters and a crimped appearance.


In this lab, we learned how to identify silk using simple tests and microscopy. Silk can be distinguished from other fibers by its visual appearance, burn test, and microscopic characteristics. This knowledge is important for textile industry and for ensuring the quality of silk products.