Close up of Persian silk rug

There are many reasons why you may or may not want a real silk rug. Real silk is a very luxurious material that looks and feels amazing – but it is also susceptible to wear and tear more than cotton, and tends to attract more pests. However, before you can decide if you want a real silk rug, you first have to know how to identify one. Thanks to modern textile production techniques, many cotton fibers can look and feel like silk to the untrained rug buyer. So here are a few ways to tell if fabric is silk or cotton.

Knot Count

Ask the person selling the rug what the knot count is. If the rug has more than 500 knots per square inch, it is almost certainly real silk. Some real silk rugs can have as little as 200 knots per square inch, but the general rule is that the higher the knot count, the more likely it is that the rug is silk. If you can’t figure out the knot count, take a look at the design. High knot counts lend themselves to extremely intricate designs. If the image on the rug is very detailed, you are more likely to be looking at a silk rug than a cotton rug.

Burn Test

This can only be done with a rug you own, but one way to tell if a rug is silk or cotton is to snip off a small piece from the edge of a piece of fringe, and run it quickly through a flame. You should smell something like burning hair, and the fabric should curl away from the flame. It should also extinguish on its own almost right away when pulled out of the fire, and there should be very little to no smoke. The burnt piece of fabric should have a small black ball at the end where the fabric burnt, and if you were to crush that, it should leave a fine powder on your fingers.

Friction Test

If you can’t do a burn test, one thing you can do is to rub a part of the rug between your hands very quickly, creating friction. Real silk should feel warm to the touch after that, while cotton and other fibers will feel cold.

Other ways that you may be able to tell include checking the fringe – real silk rugs will have fringe that is part of the rug itself, not sewn on after the fact, and doing a chemical test through an expert. While real silk rugs are not as common, because they don’t tend to be as hardy as cotton rugs, they are still an amazing find when you do confirm the authenticity.