Distinguishing Linen From Cotton
Linen (flax) is sometimes confused with cotton; the two fibers are used in similar fabrics for clothing and household goods. Microscopic examination is the most certain way to differentiate between the two fibers however, several other tests are often used. Remember that chemical treatments and substances used in finishing, such as sizing, will affect test results. Try more than one test to be sure of your assessment.
- Draw a fiber between tightly pressed fingernails. If it remains crisp and upright, it's probably linen. If it wilts, it's likely to be cotton.
- Linen cloth absorbs a drop of water faster than cotton cloth of the same weight. Also, linen absorbs more moisture before feeling wet than cotton. It absorbs about 20 percent of its weight before its surface feels wet.
- Finally, linen irons dry more quickly than cotton.
- When held to the light, the fibers of a linen cloth appear more textured than cotton fibers.
- When broken, linen yarn has straight ends; cotton yarn has softer and fluffier ends.
- Linen is generally cooler to the touch than cotton.
- Linen shrinks less than cotton.
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