Difference between Silk and Satin

By: | Updated: Dec-27, 2021
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The word “silk” is often associated with the adjectives “smooth,” “soft,” and “lustrous.” However, so is the word “satin.” So, if the terms “silk” and “satin” both refer to that lustrous fabric, are they one and the same? If you don’t know the answer, this article is for you.

Summary Table

Silk Satin
A type of fabric A type of “weave” or a method of making fabric using natural or synthetic fibers
Made from the larva of silkworms, particularly the Bombyx mori species Can be made from natural (like silk or cotton) or synthetic fibers (like nylon or polyester)
Has a shimmering look because of the prism-like structure of the silk fiber Has a glossy look because of the “floating” threads on the surface of the fabric
Soft, smooth, lustrous, breathable; delicate (should not be machine washed, wrung, or exposed to sunlight) Texture and durability depends on the base fiber used for the weave; silk satin is delicate but polyester and nylon satin is more durable
Time-consuming and expensive More affordable since most satin today is made from synthetic fibers


Silk or satin

Silk is made from the larva of silkworms, particularly the Bombyx mori species. The larvae feed on mulberry leaves for about 40 days and then spin a pod around themselves to pupate. This pod is made of a high-protein animal fluid which will then be made into a continuous silk thread. A single cocoon can produce up to a thousand yards of raw silk thread.

The silk fabric was originally discovered and developed in China as early as 6000 BC. Nowadays, silk is also produced in other countries such as Thailand, Italy, India, Spain, and France. Silk was originally used for opulent decorations and clothing but is now used for scarves, lingerie, elegant gowns, nightwear, underwear, shirts, home decorations, and even shoes.

Silk is famous for its shiny, shimmering finish, a factor that makes garments look and feel like luxurious fabric. This shimmering surface is because of the prism-like structure of the silk fiber which causes the cloth to produce a wide array of colors when it reflects light. Moreover, silk is also used by many because it is lightweight but strong, breathable but insulates well, and resilient but comfortable. Silk is also mild on sensitive skin because it is made of natural materials.

Fabric made of silk can be expensive because producing silk is a long, tedious process; it needs hundreds of thousands of larvae and a great deal of effort. Artificial silk was invented as a cheaper alternative to real silk, but it did not have the coveted shimmering effect of real mulberry silk. Also, real silk is delicate and requires a lot of care. To lengthen its life, silk should only be hand washed using mild soap and cold water. It should never be wrung, machine-washed, or exposed to direct sunlight.

Contrary to popular belief, the word satin does not refer to a type of fiber. Satin is a “weave” or a method of creating fabric. It is created by weaving the threads in a way that certain strands “float” on the top surface of the fabric. These floating threads reflect light, thus creating a glossy finish.

In the 12th century, satin rose to fame in Europe, where it was originally done using silk threads. It was very expensive back then until people started to use more affordable types of fiber such as cotton, rayon, wool, and nylon. Nowadays, the majority of the satin cloth on the market is made with polyester. In fact, if you ask for “satin” at a store, it is almost always understood that it is polyester satin. Satin (polyester satin) is extensively used for lingerie, underwear, nightgowns, casual wear, formal wear, gowns, athletic wear, jackets, neckties, ballet shoes, upholstery, bedspreads, and home decors.

Satin traditionally has a glossy side and a dull side. Its durability is highly dependent on the base fiber used. For instance, silk satin is delicate but satin made of polyester and nylon is strong, thick, and generally resilient.

Different techniques have later been developed to create different satin finishes. Here are some types of satin based on the technique and base fiber used:

  • Double faced satin
  • Faconne
  • Charmeuse
  • Baronet
  • Farmer’s satin
  • Antique satin
  • Surf satin
  • Sultan satin

Silk vs Satin

What, then, is the difference between silk and satin?

The greatest difference between the two is that silk is a type of fiber that is produced by silkworms from the species Bombyx mori, whereas satin is a type of weave or a method of making fabric. Satin is not a type of fiber.

The best way to get a feeling of the difference between silk and satin is to look at the same fabric on the surface. The blends are different in color, texture and feel.

Both silk and satin have a lustrous look. For silk, the shimmering look is because of the prism-like structure of the fiber that reflects light. For satin, the glossy finish is because of the “floating” threads that reflect light on the surface.

Silk is breathable, gentle on skin, smooth, and soft. It is expensive and lustrous on both sides. Satin, on the other hand, is now almost always made of cheap synthetic fibers (mostly polyester). It is typically glossy on one side and dull on the other and can feel rough. It is also more durable and less delicate than silk, which cannot be wrung, machine-washed, or exposed to direct sunlight.

Satin pillowcases are commonly used as a decorative pillowcase or bedspread, while silk pillowcases are typically used for undergarments. Silk is the traditional material for lingerie, nightgowns, stockings, and gowns. Satin fabric is the traditional material for swimwear and is often used to make formal evening gowns. Satin is a type of fabric that comes in many different styles, like sateen, crepe de chine, luster satin, etc. Cotton pillowcases can be made from silk, but it is not the same as the silk produced by silkworms. It is simply a kind of fiber.

Silk products have a glossy, shimmering appearance and can be worn by women of all ages. They are also soft and smooth. Satin is typically a rough, inexpensive fabric. It is made from synthetic fibers and often feels scratchy to the touch. Satin weave is typically used for dresses, pants, skirts, and gowns.

Satin products usually have an unpleasant chemical smell, and some are prone to discoloration. Hypoallergenic and safe to use on babies, silk products are easily cleaned and are typically softer than satin. Satin is usually more resistant to wrinkling and frizz, but the end result is not as shiny or smooth.

The absorbent quality of silk is second to none. This makes it the ideal choice for clothing, and the luxurious feel will have you feeling glamorous. However, the process of producing silk is labor-intensive and expensive. Both silk and satin are easy to care for, and the difference between the two is that satin is often a type of weave or a method of making fabric.

Bed sheets made of silk or satin are thicker than sheets made of cotton, which is why they are usually much more expensive. The fiber produced by silkworms has a very high quality and the thickness of the silk thread is just perfect. It has a certain degree of elasticity and its smoothness makes it one of the most attractive fibers in the world. Also, it might help with beauty sleep.

The Natural Fiber of Satin vs Silk

Silkworms have been a source of silk since the Neolithic age. Silk is a protein fiber produced by caterpillars and mulberry leaves. The long silky thread produced by the larvae is called a cocoon, which is made up of two layers: the inner layer called “cocoon” and the outer layer called “silk”.

Temperature-regulating silk fibers are produced by Bombyx mori. It has a silky smooth surface and is produced in two forms: one with natural color and the other dyed in white, pink, purple, blue or green. Silkworms spin silk when they are stimulated by light and vibration. It is a type of natural silk that has a smooth surface and is used for sewing clothes, fabric, wallpaper, bags, napkins, bedding and other textiles.

Silk has been a valuable material for thousands of years. Manmade fibers are so much better than natural ones, so why is silk still being used? Because it’s strong, beautiful, and versatile. As mentioned, silk has a smooth, luxurious feel that’s soft and drapes beautifully. It can be easily woven into clothing, upholstery, handbags, scarves, and home décor.

Synthetic fabrics and synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are so much cheaper to produce. The chemical industry not only produces fabrics but also plastics, artificial fibers, and other materials. These synthetics are cheaper to produce and can be blended with natural fibers to make them look and feel like silk. Synthetic fibers are more easily dyed, so they can be used in bright colors that natural fibers cannot match.

Breakage, twisting, and creasing are the main problems in the manufacturing of silk fabrics. This is due to the fact that there are no abrasion resistant fibers in silk and it can be easily abraded. Thus, a simple material like polyester can easily compete with silk in terms of cost and appearance.

Pure silk can be hard to find. It’s been in production for thousands of years, but there are very few factories that produce it. Some companies use the silkworm’s cocoon to make a silk-like fabric. But this is a far inferior product that has no real silk fibers in it. Satin sheets are not real silk. They are made from polyester fibers and are a much cheaper product.

In addition, allergic reactions to the silkworm are known, including respiratory problems, swelling of the lips and tongue, itching, eczema and rash. The allergy can occur because of cross-reactivity with other materials that are produced by the same silkworm. Allergens and parasites in the caterpillar can cause skin problems and rashes. Symptoms usually appear within two to four hours after exposure.

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