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Rayon vs Silk: Comparison!

Have you ever questioned the differences between rayon and silk while shopping? They both have an impeccable shine and are soft to the touch. You may wonder what makes them so different. Well, right off the bat rayon has an identical look to silk for half the price. Silk on the other hand has other qualities that have won its desirability throughout the years. Putting them on a scale, comparing them, and debating “Rayon vs Silk” will surely be interesting. By the end of this, I can assure you that you will know what makes these unique materials so iconic.

The straightforward answer to this debate is silk. If you have the accommodations to take care of silk, then it is a better choice than rayon. In a way, it is the initial creation that rayon was even based on.

It is durable, soft, and shiny all at the same time with the ability to not wrinkle. Simple put it is a luxury fabric with solid reasoning behind it.

Key Takeaways

  • Both silk and rayon are almost identical to the touch.
  • Rayon is sensitive to heat which means that washing and drying it requires a little more effort than usual.
  • To achieve the best care for silk you can only dry clean it.
  • Silk is more durable than rayon being a more durable and flexible thread at the same time.
  • As material silk is wrinkle and crease-resistant.
  • If environmental safety is your concern both rayon and silk are decomposable.

Rayon Vs. Silk: Comparison

Rayon Material

As a manmade fabric rayon was created to have as much similar features to silk as it could. Having this goal in mind the manufacturers succeeded and rayon ended up earning the epithet “artificial silk”.

Invented in the late 1800s rayon is known to be a soft breathable fabric that is also lightweight making it ideal for a wide variety of uses. The luxury look it gives makes for half the expense of silk making it a great investment for a buyer or a manufacturer.

Rayon is made synthetically from wood pulp, mostly from bamboo. This may not seem a big deal until you learn that this characteristic makes it biodegradable in under three weeks. This a feature that is not found in a lot of textiles and is needed especially in today’s atmosphere. It is a natural fabric, but it is made through many processes. This makes it both synthetic and natural at the same time.

Silk Materials

The lavish thread is known as silk in found in nature more specifically silkworms. Most people do believe that being a part of mankind’s history for such a long period makes silk unreplaceable. That statement is not completely incorrect since it does take a lot to meet silk standards.

Silk is well known for its shine which gives it that exquisite look. Pairing this with the batterlike softness you would think that it cannot get better than that. It does though, silk has other great traits like breathability, elasticity, smoothness, and so on.

While it may be more expensive all the work that goes into it is worth it in the end when you look at the results. After all, there is a reason silk is known as “The Queen of Textiles”.

So, how do you choose between these two successful materials? By comparing the fibers across several categories such as textile feel, product aftercare, durability, and environmental safety, you will be capable of making an informed decision regarding both materials.

Textile Feel

It is a bit of a challenge comparing two fabrics that are known for their softness and shine but it is not impossible.

Being soft and shiny is not all rayon and silk are known for. Upon wear, you will notice rayon is a very breathable and lightweight fabric. The same goes for silk with an additional feature of temperature regulation, meaning no heat will be able to enter the garment, and the person wearing it will not feel overheated.

The main goal of the synthetically created rayon was to be as close to silk as possible. Something that they achieved successfully. While it is difficult to distinguish between the two due to their identical feel, if you are versed in textiles, you will be able to tell the difference. A significant advantage of rayon is that it costs less to purchase. Overall, the touch of rayon is similar to that of silk, and both have fantastic textures that have earned them their fame.

Product Aftercare

You may have heard that taking care of rayon or silk is hard. Whilst it is a tad bit intimidating, they are not that much of a hassle once you learn about them. But our goal here is to find which one of these two is less tiresome.

Rayon’s only major flaw is its sensitivity to heat. This means that when washing or drying the coldest setting should be used or on the contrary you risk your garment to be shrunken. An even better way to take care of rayon is to hand wash it with cold water and air-dry it. If you choose the air-drying route, it is very important to note that the article of clothing should be kept out of sunlight since that too can be a cause for shrinkage. This is all when it comes to taking care of rayon, just a little bit of consciousness is needed.

The luxury of silk on the other hand comes with more steps than that of rayon. By steps, I mean walking steps to the dry cleaner. To maintain the silk’s original feel and look it is best to take it to a professional. If worse comes to shove you may hand wash it in cold water gently with a small about of laundry detergent and then pat it dry with a soft cloth. towel. Even being this cautious does not ensure that your dress or suit will be secure.

I wouldn’t be surprised if reading about silks cares caused you distress, and I wouldn’t blame you either. Silk is a terrific choice if you have the time and resources to maintain it, but if ease of care is vital to you, I would avoid it and go with its competition in this “race”, rayon.


The durability of the fabric also determines how long the chosen article of clothing will last you, the buyer.

Rayon falls short in this area for several reasons. To begin with, wet rayon strands are prone to tearing apart. It is also a fabric with little elasticity, which implies that once stretched, it will be difficult to return to its previous shape.

When it comes to durability, silk wins hands out, especially when compared to rayon. This might also be the reason for its higher price, but it is worth it for a garment that will last you longer in your collection. Silk’s flexibility also provides wrinkle resistance, something rayon does not provide. Because silk is not manufactured synthetically, its strands are more difficult to break apart and thus harder to tear.

Environmental Safeness

Another aspect that is very interesting to compare rayon and silk is its deterioration in nature. Regarding environmental safety, I have good news for both.

Both materials decompose in nature! The only difference is that rayon takes only up to a couple of weeks while silk takes one to three years. In the end, they both do not cause harm to the world we live in, and you can safely purchase either one with a calm conscious.

Final Thoughts

What you choose in the end depends on you of course and I hope these points helped you decide and make a choice for the dilemma “Rayon vs Silk”. Though it is not an easy choice to make comparing artificial silk to original silk you cannot make a mistake with either one. Both give you a luxury feel, and it all comes down to your preferences.

            If you can afford the care for silk, then that is a splendid choice, but you should not feel pressured since rayon is a magnificent alternative that will also give you that lavish feel.

Further Reading

If you enjoy what you have read so far, you can read some more.

For instance, one list covers the greatest tiny irons for sewing, and another list features the top Pfaff sewing machines.

There’s also a comparison between Rayon and Viscose.