How Do I Know If My Sofa Is Genuine Real Silk? | BCS Cleaning Specialists

How Do I Know If My Sofa Is Genuine Silk?

It’s all puppy dogs and rainbows when you first buy it – the fabric is gorgeous, the salesman said it was silk, and – regardless – you were utterly in love with your gorgeous piece of furniture. Then some over-enthusiastic guest gesticulates a bit too wildly and deposits coffee all over the sofa arm.


Second response: Mad and frenetic blotting with whatever slightly more disposable fabric happens to be nearby. A handtowel. A cloth. Your sleeve.

Third response: It’s still there. Gulp. Now what? Google……

Fourth response: Hesitation. Okaaaay, so the Interweb says if it’s silk I should treat it one way; if it’s not actually silk, a completely different way. Help!!!

Soooo, before you have a complete embolism about what to do, here’s the lowdown on how to tell if your stunning sofa (because, let’s face it – it really IS stunning, regardless of the fabric) is actually silk or is really ‘silk’.

There’s a few ways you can tell if a fabric is genuine silk or a synthetic man-made fabric that just looks like silk.


Okay, this probably seems a bit of a no-brainer, but if your sofa cost $600 it’s less likely to be genuine silk than if it cost, say, $6000.

Genuine, high-quality silk will always be relatively expensive. Synthetic fibers like polyester can be made to look like real silk to the untrained eye. And even though these fabrics can still be deliberately priced high, low prices usually indicate the fabric is not genuine silk. Real silk usually costs at least ten times as much as synthetics to produce.



Thai silk is renowned for its luster. Because silk is an entirely natural product, each fiber is slightly different in terms of thickness and color. This combination of threads in each of the weft and warp gives the surface a ‘shot’ effect that appears to shimmer and change color as the angle of light on it changes.

Because they are made by machine and are therefore completely uniform, synthetic fabrics shine uniformly white, no matter what the angle of the light.


Silk can be hand-woven or machine-woven. Hand-woven silk has its own individual characteristics. Each piece is unique. Look for minor variations in the evenness of the weave. These are natural in a natural, hand-woven fabric – they are what give each piece its individual character and value.

Machine-woven silk will have a perfectly even weave with no flaws … and very little character. Although since the silk itself is still natural it will have variations in thickness and color that give real silk its special luster and ‘shot’ effect.

Synthetic fabrics will mostly look perfect, although a very few artificial fabrics are made to look very realistic, including slubbing and slight imperfections.


Both genuine and synthetic silks with a printed pattern (different from a woven pattern) will have the pattern visible on only one side and just an outline of the pattern on the reverse side.

A woven pattern will be visible on both sides but the pattern on the reverse side may appear slightly “fuzzy”.

Ring Test

This test does not apply to all silk, since some silks are much heavier than others. But it’s still a good gage if you can find a spare corner of fabric hanging off the back of your sofa.

Genuine silk of lower ply can usually be easily threaded and pulled through a wedding ring, demonstrating just how silky smooth and flexible real silk is.

Synthetic fabrics tend to bunch up, making it very difficult or impossible to pull them through.

Burn Test

Admittedly, there’s probably things you will do to be sure it’s silk before trying this! Like calling us……!

However, it is a fairly definitive test if you happen to have a spare teeny piece of sofa fabric knocking about. It goes without saying but don’t set fire to your sofa. I said it anyway. So I guess it doesn’t go without saying….

Take a few threads (this is genuinely all you need) of the fabric and put a flame to them.

Genuine silk will burn with a smell like burnt hair (because it’s similar to hair in makeup) and will produce a black, powdery ash. It will only burn while the flame is being applied – take the flame away and the threads will stop burning. Cool fact: silk is naturally fire-retardant. Bonus!

A synthetic fabric will burn with a smell like burning plastic and will drip, form a black ball of residue (not ash), and produce black smoke. This is because synthetic, polyester-based fabrics are basically a plastic/oil derivative. Read: very flammable. It will continue to burn even after the flame is taken away.


So there we have it – our easy peasy suggestions for figuring out if your prized sofa is really really silk or if it’s just… ‘silk’. If you’re still not sure or even if you are sure and just need the blasted coffee stain removed, call the experts at BCS today at 801 561 1730 and we’ll whizz over and magic your stain away for you.

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