How to Quickly Identify the Material of Elastic Bands Using the Burn Test?

In the textile industry, accurately identifying the material of elastic bands is critical to ensuring that products meet specific quality and safety standards. As the CEO of a company that specializes in high-quality custom elastic, I share a simple technique for determining the material composition of webbing through a burn test. How to use this method effectively?

The burn test involves extracting several warp and weft yarns from the elastic band and burning them to observe the flame, melting behavior, odors, and ash residue. This simple, yet effective method provides quick and reliable results based on observable physical phenomena during combustion.

Understanding the response of different materials to flame can immensely aid in material identification. Here’s how different fibers react when exposed to fire:

What Do You Observe When Burning Nylon and Polyester?

Nylon Webbing: Melts and shrinks near the flame, forming drips and bubbles without a continuous burn. It emits a celery-like smell. The residue forms hard, round, light, and brown to gray beads.

Polyester Webbing: Similar to nylon, it melts and shrinks near the flame but continues to burn with little smoke and emits a very weak sweet odor. Its ash is hard, round, and typically black or light brown.

These observations help distinguish nylon from polyester, which can often appear similar in unburnt form.

How About Natural Fibers Like Cotton and Hemp?

Cotton: Ignites quickly, burns with a yellow flame and produces blue smoke, smelling like burning paper. It leaves a small amount of powdery, black or gray ash.

Hemp: Also ignites quickly and burns similarly to cotton but emits a woody ash odor. Its ash is grayish-white and powdery.

The distinct smells and ash types are key indicators that help differentiate these natural fibers from synthetic ones.

What Should You Look for in Acrylic and Polypropylene?

Acrylic: Softens and shrinks near the flame, burning rapidly with black smoke and a white flame, continuing to burn away from the flame with a sharp, burnt meat-like odor. Its ash is irregular, black, hard, and crumbly.

Polypropylene: Similar to acrylic in its softening behavior near the flame, but it burns slower, emitting a petroleum-like odor. Its ash is light brownish-yellow and crumbly.

These properties are significant when distinguishing between commonly confused synthetic materials.

Special Cases: Vinylon, Chlorofiber, Spandex, and Fluorofiber

Each of these fibers has unique characteristics when burned:

  • Vinylon: Not easily ignitable, melts into a gel, and burns with thick black smoke and a bitter aromatic odor.
  • Chlorofiber: Difficult to ignite, extinguishes once away from the flame, and emits greenish-white acrid smoke.
  • Spandex: Melts and burns with a blue flame, continuing to burn after removal from the flame, and leaves soft, fluffy black ash.
  • Fluorofiber: Hard to ignite, melts but does not burn, emitting toxic gases and leaving hard, round black beads.

Safety Precaution:

Always conduct the burn test in a well-ventilated area and keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Ensure that you wear protective gloves and safety goggles to prevent any accidental injuries. Fire safety is paramount, as the materials being tested can emit toxic fumes or behave unpredictably when exposed to flame.


Using the burn test is an effective way to quickly identify the materials used in elastic bands. By observing how different fibers react to fire, you can determine their composition and ensure that your products meet the required specifications and quality standards. Always remember to perform tests in a controlled environment and handle all materials with care to ensure safety during testing.

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