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How do you know a cotton shirt really is cotton?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Flea Spray, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. sartorial_marxist

    sartorial_marxist Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    55
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2010
    i try not to be a cospiracy theorist, if the tag says 100% cotton thats what i go with especially from a respectable maker, also are people seriously burning their shirts, and if its poly what do you do walk back to the store and say

    "excuse me sir this shirt claims to be cotton but i intentionally burn it just to be sure and my conclusion is it must have some polyester in it due to the aroma it gives off while on fire i would like a full refund"

    really!


    I kid you not but I did that with an "ex-tailor" once and got a new shirt made up for replacement. Thankfully, the new shirt survived the burn test.
     
  2. in stitches

    in stitches Senior member

    Messages:
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    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2010
    Location:
    Charm City
    I kid you not but I did that with an "ex-tailor" once and got a new shirt made up for replacement. Thankfully, the new shirt survived the burn test.

    so now you have a burnt shirt sounds awesome[​IMG]
     
  3. Jay

    Jay Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    74
    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2010
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    You should be able to feel the difference. Also, there should be different care instructions because you cannot iron polyester on high heat like cotton.
     
  4. Ataturk

    Ataturk Senior member

    Messages:
    11,072
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    Apr 18, 2008
    You really can tell the difference between cotton and polyester by burning it. Just do it on pieces you're absolutely sure about to establish a baseline before testing the sample you're not sure about.
     
  5. Flea Spray

    Flea Spray Active Member

    Messages:
    28
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2010
    Someone on here has to have access to a scanning electron microscope.

    On a serious note, could you tell if a fabric was pure cotton or a mix by looking under a 'normal' microscope, like the ones you buy in hobby shops for kids?

    Obviously most people (including tailors) don't have any kind of microscope at hand, so the burn test is a practical method. But surely if, say, the police are examining fibres, they must initially look at them under a microscope or something rather than burn them to work out what they are?

    I did try the burn test on two suits I was given, and it did work. The one I suspected might have been the cheaper of the two was clearly real, course wool, whilst the one I thought was special was clearly man made! I'm not good enough to know if it was polyester or some other synthetic fibre, but I'm only interested in knowing if something is 1, cotton; 2, wool; 3, silk or; 4, anything else!

    I don't want to burn a new shirt and I'm certainly not good enough to identify mixed fibres reliably.

    I wonder if there's a potential scandal for high street retailers here? If a quiet news week led to a journalist buying a few 'pure' cotton and wool items from reputable shops, proving they contained polyester, and showing that identical items were available from smaller shops under different labels for less than half the price, I bet there'd be a bigger public response than when they expose hospitals for being deceptive over hygiene practices.

    But then, show me any industry where people do everything correctly and honestly! I like my new shirt. It's just that while I'm happy to pay more for pure cotton, I'm just as happy buying the same shirt for half-price just because it has a different logo on its label.
     
  6. in stitches

    in stitches Senior member

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    the best way is to tap the phones of the shirt maker and steal his mail to see what fabrics hes buying and how he is using it. then when you are in jail make sure your jumpsuit is cotton by setting it on fire while you are wearing it
     
  7. bigbucky

    bigbucky Senior member

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    Nov 8, 2010
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    E.LJ
  8. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

    Messages:
    10,562
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    Mar 10, 2006
    If you really want to be sure (and don't mind destroying part of the shirt), use this stuff on it. It dissolves plant fibres only. Any polyester would be left behind, even if only part of the whole yarn, provided you used enough solvent. On a more practical note, if you can't actually feel any polyester effect (funny feel to it, feeling hotter than usual, etc) while wearing it, I wouldn't worry too much. I would be suprised if a big retailer like M&S got hoodwinked, but with long supply chains these days, anything's possible. If it does turn out to be contrary to the label, you would definitely be able to get your money back, and actually, M&S would probably be quite grateful to be informed about this breach of their quality control.
     
  9. godofcoffee

    godofcoffee Senior member

    Messages:
    274
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Location:
    NYC
    Arid smell?[​IMG] Really? Ok, whatever. But if you burn plastic it gives off an acrid smell

    I'm with you, brah, "arid" doesn't make any sense. I'd guess he was being sarcastic were it not for the emoticon.

    On another note, if we're talking about the indistinguishability of different fibres under microscope, if the hand and heft is all the same, does it really matter?
     
  10. Shirtmaven

    Shirtmaven Senior member

    Messages:
    3,335
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2003
    Location:
    NYC
    I once leaned over a votive candle and my linen shirt caught fire. that did not smell nice. Arid/Acrid!!!
    Luckily, nothing else burned. but I really liked that shirt!! italian indigo linen. it was nicely faded.

    I burn test fabric from time to time.
    Poly cotton is rare these days, since non-iron finishes are all the rage.

    I did make myself a western shirt from a beautiful blue/grey plaid. very well made Italian fabric . I realized it was blended with polyester, when my body became very warm and itchy.

    I won't wear poly/cotton t-shirts for the same reason.
     
  11. Jared

    Jared Senior member

    Messages:
    1,635
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    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    You only need to burn the end of a single thread. It's quite obvious if it's synthetic, you'll think "oh, that looks like plastic melting". It's harder to tell the differences between polyester & rayon, and cotton & wool. But usually you're worried about a synthetic fabric being used to fake a specific natural fabric.
     
  12. matstyleku

    matstyleku Senior member

    Messages:
    155
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    I'm allergic to polyester, you guys can all just send your shirts to me and I will tell you if they are all cotton or not. Just be warned it may take a few months and a large number of wears for me to get a reaction. [​IMG]
     
  13. sportin_life

    sportin_life Senior member

    Messages:
    1,126
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2007
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    I take a bite off the shirt cuff. You can usually tell from the taste of the shirt and after effects of consuming it. Polyester tends to have a bitter aftertaste and will give you indigestion. Cotton, being natural, acts like fiber.
     
  14. MacDaddy

    MacDaddy Senior member

    Messages:
    165
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2010
    Location:
    Hyannisport,MA
    Someone on here has to have access to a scanning electron microscope.
    The only sure way to tell what anything is made of is with a mass spectrometer.Originally they were prohibitively expensive,in the millions of dollars,but they've gotten to the point where they are affordable.Many older but functional units are available for sale to the general public:
    Plasma quad 2 for only 6k:http://www.medwow.com/used-mass-spec...543260304.item
    Labx has tons of them: http://www.labx.com/v2/newad.cfm?catid=12
    This one is a portable self contained system,not sure of the price:http://www.kore.co.uk/ms-200.htm
    This one in very compact and the base unit is only $600!: http://www.labx.com/v2/adsearch/deta...?adnumb=431314
    These are amazingly tiny:http://www.labx.com/v2/adsearch/deta...?adnumb=431633
    The cheapest way is to pay someplace that has one to analyze a sample,I've seen places that will test a sample for as low as $10.Most universities and decent medical labs have one,if you know someone who works there they could hook you up.I had a girlfriend who worked at WHOI who would test anything I wanted but she quit because her boss,Robert Ballard,was a douchebag(to work for).Of course it can analyze anything,not just fabric,and the possibilities are endless.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  15. GoldenTribe

    GoldenTribe Senior member

    Messages:
    3,670
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    I burn a portion of the shirt. Polyester, being man-made, will give off an arid smell.
    lol
    You mean acrid
    [​IMG]
    uh no. I meant ARID. as in "dry", as in opposite of "wet"........[​IMG]
    [​IMG] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/acrid?r=1
     

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