How to Identify Polyester

There are a few things to look out for if you think you’ve found a garment made of polyester. In theory, identifying a plastic fabric seems simple. In a lot of ways it is. But plastic is such a malleable substance, it can be hard to tell.

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It has the great ability to imitate the aesthetic properties of other fabrics which can make it harder to recognize. So how can we look out for the real deal?


The label is always the simplest and easiest to find out what it is. It will usually say ‘polyester’ on the tag if it’s in the composition, and it will state the percentage contained.

Just bare in mind that sometimes polyester can come under different forms. However, the majority of the time, it will just state polyester on the tag.


If you have a simple, thin tee shirt made of polyester, I find this quite easy to identify. Polyester has the ability to create a sheen, a smooth surface that can have a silky texture about it.

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However, if you have dry hands, you’ll sometimes notice how rough it can feel. If your fabric is a translucent plastic, you’ll noticed the roughness. If it’s satin, you’ll notice it can sometimes catch little snags of threads and pull then out. I find the rough texture quite uncomfortable a lot of the time, as tips of my fingers catch on these snags. This might also be a sign of slightly cheaper quality the worse it feels, but I find many types of polyester have this roughness to it.

Dries Fast

Have you ever accidentally spilled something on polyester? Whether its your clothes or your sofa, it dries very quickly, especially in hot weather.

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If you spill anything but water on it, you’ll know. It will leave a stain in the color of the liquid, like a red stain if you spill red wine on it. So be careful what you spill on it!

Burn Test

So if you’re not very sure, and you want to test it in a flame, this is what you should do. Take a small sample of a thread and hold it over a flame for a few seconds.

This is what you’re looking for. When you take it out the flame, it immediately extinguishes itself and it doesn’t keep burning, The burnt pieces of plastic become little black beads of melted plastic, and it’s important to note that it melts in the flame. It doesn’t become ash like natural fibers do.

Burnt polyester is said to have a scent that is slightly sweet, but it clearly smells like a burnt chemical or burnt plastic.

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If like me you’ve ever accidentally burnt a polyester shirt with your iron, you’ll also find the fabric around the burnt area becomes rock solid. It will feel like super glue has been stuck to your fabric.

So these few things might help you identify polyester. The more you observe and identify polyesters often, the more you can spot it without even checking the labels.

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