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Silk or Satin? Learn To Tell the Difference

Differences Between Satin and Silk

Can’t tell the difference between satin and silk? Given their similarities, we don’t blame you.

Both fabrics have a soft, smooth, and luxurious feel. They’re most commonly associated with royalty, jewelry, and expensive gowns. Although they may look and feel similar, there are some key differences to take note of.

Is one better than the other? Are there significant differences between the two? When should you choose satin or silk?

We’ll help you figure out the answers in this article. Before we compare them, let’s get to know some basics about each material, including how they’re made.

What Is Silk?

Silk is the oldest type of fabric. It was invented over 12,000 years ago. 

Silk originally came from China where it was considered an exclusive material for the wealthy. There are even certain colors that denoted social importance. It was also used for writing! As trade between China and other nations opened up, silk became popular among the wealthy nobles and royals of the world since they were the only ones who could afford such a luxury.

Silk Route

The Silk Route or the Silk Road refers to the ancient trade route that connected China with the western world. It is so named because it was used to carry silk to destinations in the west while wool, silver, and goal were transported to the east.

Although silk is still considered a luxurious fabric, it is much more easily available due to the different varieties that are now available as well as the capacity to produce more of it.

How Is Silk Made? 

Silk is a well-known natural fiber that is derived from the larval cocoons of silkworms which is where it gets its name from. Now, if this is the first time you’re hearing about this, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a little icky. “Does it ACTUALLY come from worms?” Yes, it very much does.

Ick aside, however, silk is one of the best fabrics in the world given its durability, luxurious texture, and breathability. These advantages combined with the fact that it has to be farmed from cocoons as well as the time-consuming process it takes before you get a usable fabric make it one of the most expensive materials in the world.

What Is Satin?

Satin is the name of the weave used to produce the shiny, synthetic fabric. It’s unlike most fabrics that are generally named after the fibers that they are made from.

Satin is well-known for its glossy appearance which sets it apart. However, unlike silk, satin is shiny on only one side. It’s quite popular given its elegant appearance and cheaper production compared to silk.

Like silk, satin originated in China before becoming popular globally. 

How Is Satin Made?

Originally, satin was made using silk fibers in a satin weave. As a result, satin was initially also a sought-after fabric that could only be afforded by the rich.

However, modern-day satin is very different from what it used to be since it utilizes synthetic fibers rather than silk to reduce cost, make it more available, and easier to produce.

How Is Satin Different From Silk?

By now we understand that satin is the weave employed to produce its smooth and glossy fabric. This fabric can be produced from a range of different fibers including polyester, rayon, and cotton among others.

Silk, on the other hand, is an actual fiber weaved into the fabric. It can have a plain, twill, or satin weave. The answer to this question in the most literal terms would be that silk is a type of fiber and satin is a method of weaving.

We know that there is some confusion regarding this matter since a lot of people think of satin as a standalone fabric and not as a type of weave. To move past this misunderstanding, let’s contrast silk with a satin weave with synthetic fibers in a satin weave.

Here are some ways in which these two differ:

1. Durability

Silk’s durability partly depends on the kind of weave it’s made from. The silk fiber is one of the strongest and most durable fibers on the market. Fine and lightweight silk satin fabric is not as durable as silk twill fabric, but it still possesses some strength. Silk bed sheets are popular because of their durability and soft feel.

Synthetic satin, on the other hand, isn’t durable at all. It can get damaged with just a little bit of rough usage. Fabric pills and snags are quite common with satin. This is why it’s most often used for decorative purposes. Between the two, silk, no matter the weave, is much more durable than synthetic satin.

2. Breathability

Silk is a natural fiber derived from an organic source (silkworms) which contributes to its high breathability. Silk fabric helps remove moisture while regulating body temperature so it’s comfortable to wear even in warm regions (though not very hot ones). Conversely, it is also great to wear in winter since it helps retain body heat. The same goes for silk bedsheets. They are great to use no matter what the weather.

Satin weave from synthetic fabric isn’t very breathable. The artificial feel of synthetic satin can be quite unpleasant and the fabric is unable to get rid of moisture when the weather is hot. It is much better suited to colder, dry regions. If you like sleeping on cool surfaces, satin is a great choice because it’s cool to the touch.

3. Comfort

Silk has a soft and smooth texture that stays that way as long as it is properly cared for. It’s comfortable to wear in any season (although you might not want to wear it under the scorching sun since it heats up easily). Silk is a hypoallergenic material, meaning it isn’t vulnerable to allergens. This makes silk bedsheets one of the most comfortable to sleep on.

Satin weave from synthetic fabric isn’t the most comfortable cloth to wear, especially in hot and humid climates. But the same can be said of silk so one isn’t necessarily much better than the other in this sense. Like silk, satin is hypoallergenic. Since it’s technically plastic, there’s no room for allergens or dust particles to seep into its fibers.

4. Applications

Silk is a popular clothing material due to its elegant shine and finish. From formal dresses and gowns to bathrobes and lingerie, it’s used in different types of clothing. Silk is also quite commonly used in making bed sheets, pillow covers, upholstery, and other home decor fabrics. Sleeping on a silk bedsheet is said to be good for your skin since the fabric doesn’t trap dirt or allergens. Some also believe that sleeping on silk sheets can help avoid fine lines and wrinkles while keeping hair smoother and more hydrated.

Synthetic satin is used similarly in clothing apparel and beddings. It’s popular since it’s cheaper than silk while having more or less the same look (as long as it is high quality).

5. Care

Silk is a delicate fabric that needs special maintenance if you want to preserve its longevity. As long as you take good care of it, it won’t give you any trouble.

This, however, also depends on its weave. More durable weaves are easier to wash and care for than delicate weaves like satin silk. The important thing to remember when caring for silk fabrics is to not wash them with hot water and always have a soft touch when hand washing. Dry cleaning is recommended.

Just like silk, satin can be a bit tricky to take care of. Snagging happens quite often if special care is not taken while washing, or even while wearing it. It’s recommended to dry clean satin rather than washing it in water. This makes it more high maintenance than silk.

6. Cost

Silk has always been and continues to be an expensive fabric. There are various types of silk available in the market, and mulberry silk is said to be the most expensive type. This is because of the labor-intensive process required to harvest the silkworms where the fabric comes from.

Synthetic satin, on the other hand, is cheaper to make because it is mass-produced. Since it employs synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon (which are easy to manufacture) the cost of production is lower, making the price of the final product more affordable.

Wearing Silk Garments 

Because of silk’s luxurious look and feel, the fabric remains a sought after material for wearable items like blouses, robes, and loungewear. Family-owned textile company Sunday Citizen combines all the advantages of silk with durability and easy maintenance. Focused on comfort, quality, and affordability, Sunday Citizen offers beddings, camis, kimonos, sleep dresses, and other items that are made from washable sustainably sourced silk. 

Washable silk is dyed after the garment is constructed, allowing it to achieve a more vibrant color that doesn’t fade as easily. The company’s washable silk is less sheer and heavier while being easier to care for. You can enjoy its buttery soft feel and non-irritating hypoallergenic qualities then simply throw it in the wash to clean it.

Here are our top silk items from Sunday Citizen:

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Pillowcase Set. Woman hugging pillow and sitting on the floor.

Washable Silk Pillowcase Set

A pair of ultra soft 100% silk pillowcases that are also kind on your skin and great on your hair. 

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Sleep Dress. Woman wearing Silk Slip Dress.

Washable Silk Sleep Dress

Loose-fitting and breathable silk shorts developed for lounging and sleeping. Pari with our Washable Silk Cami for a pajama that makes you feel like sleeping beauty. 

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Cami and Track Short. Silk Pajama Set.

Washable Silk Cami

A cute and lightweight Cami made of ludicrously soft and, best of all, machine-washable silk. 

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Kimono. Silk Kimono Wrap.

Washable Silk Kimono

An incredibly soft and silky (duh) robe that makes you look and feel like modern royalty. Best of all, in the case you might spill something from your chalice, you can leave the washing to your loyal machine.  

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Track Short. Silk Pajama Shorts.

Washable Silk Track Shorts

Cute and lightweight Shorts made of ludicrously soft and, best of all, machine-washable silk. 

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Scrunchie Set. Blonde haired woman wearing scrunchie ponytail.

Washable Silk Scrunchie Set

A soft and luxurious silk pair to style hair, delicately. Featuring one black and one cream scrunchie per set, to go with every outfit.

How Be Sure if It Is Genuine Silk

How can you know if a fabric is genuine silk? There are a few things that you can do to find out:

  • Check for smoothness. Genuine silk is absolutely smooth and soft with an almost wax-like texture.
  • Try rubbing it with your fingers. If you feel heat, it’s real silk. Synthetic fabrics won’t generate heat from friction with your fingertips.
  • With your hand, gather some of the fabric into a ball. If you hear a tell-tale crunch, you’re looking at the real deal.
  • Examine how light reflects against it from different angles. If the sheen seems to shift and change, that’s real silk. Artificial silk reflects the same white sheen no matter how the light changes.

The Bottom Line: Which One Is Better? Should I Buy Silk or Satin?

Silk has always been recognized as the superior fabric of the two and this is reflected in its higher price tag. It’s more durable, breathable, provides maximum comfort, and has an unmatched luxurious feel.  

To recap, here’s how they compare:

  •   Durability. Silk is more durable than satin, however, they both need more care compared to other fabrics in general.
  •   Breathability. Silk is more breathable than satin. Silk is good for cold and warm weather while satin is better suited for colder temperatures.
  •   Comfort. Both have soft smooth textures that are hypoallergenic.
  •   Applications. Silk and satin are often used for bed sheets and clothes.
  •   Care. Both require special care but satin is generally more delicate.
  •   Cost. Silk is more expensive than satin.

If you love smooth and silky fabrics, silk and satin are great options. Choose silk if you can afford it and satin if you’re on a budget. Just make sure to give these fabrics the extra care they need to keep them in good condition for as long as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is smoother silk or satin?

Silk is naturally soft and smooth. Though satin has a similar feel, man-made synthetic textiles haven’t been able to achieve the same level of softness that silk offers. Satin is also much more susceptible to snagging compared to silk. 

Is satin just as good as silk?

If all you’re looking for is fabric with silky texture, satin can work but those who are well acquainted with the attributes of genuine silk acknowledge its superiority over satin. Silk possesses a level of softness and smoothness that other fabrics can’t match. It also degrades slower than satin.

Sunday Citizen Washable Silk Pillowcase. Woman laying sleeping on silk pillowcase.

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