identify textile fiber

How To Identify A Textile Fiber Using Textile Science

The identification of textile fibers is a very important part of the study of textile science. At one time, simple fibre identification was a relatively easy task; most consumers could tell by appearance and hand whether a fabric was cotton, wool, silk, or linen.

Once the first manmade fibres were introduced, the process became a bit more difficult. Consumers usually could identify the fibre composition of fabrics made of 100 percent rayon or acetate, but blends of some fibres were difficult to identify. As more fibres were introduced, the task became progressively more difficult. Today, sophisticated techniques are usually required for accurate fibre identification.

The purpose of the Textile Fibre Products Identification Act was to provide information on fibre content of textiles at the point of sale. Consumers were at once relieved of the responsibility to identify fibre content of items they purchased; however, professionals working with textile products still must be able to identify fibres accurately.

Such individuals include retailers who suspect some textile products they bought for resale have been labeled inaccurately; customs officials who must identify imported fibres; dry cleaners who must clean an item from which all the labels have been removed; extension home economists who are asked to help solve a consumer’s problem with a textile product; and forensic scientists who must use a textile sample to help solve a crime.

What are the steps needed to identify a fiber?

  • For most individuals, the only information needed is a qualitative analysis of fibre content: what fibre or fibres are present in this product?
  • For others, a quantitative analysis of the product is also important: in what percentages are the fibres present?
  • With the numbers of fibres available today and the variety of blends being produced, neither analysis is easy.

Methods for qualitative identification of fibres include such procedures as burning tests, microscopy, density determination, moisture regain analysis, dye staining, chemical solubility, melting point determination, infrared spectroscopy, and chromatography. Simplified versions of the first six procedures are relatively easy to perform in most laboratories.

They require the use of a drying oven, an analytical balance sensitive to 0.005 gram, a compound light microscope capable of 200 x magnification, laboratory glassware, and a supply of chemicals.

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