Silk vs. Satin: What is the Difference?


The biggest difference between silk and satin is that silk is a fiber and satin is a type of weave. Satin must be used in conjunction with a fiber such as silk, polyester, cotton, or wool, in order to make a useful fabric. Silk is a fiber that can be made into a number of different textiles including organza, charmeuse, chiffon, and of course, satin. Although satin is commonly and most famously made from silk, lower priced imitation satins, made from synthetic fibers such as polyester, have made substantial gains in popularity over the last 30 years.   


This is Silk vs. Satin: What is the Difference?

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In this article you'll find information relating to silk, satin, their differences and similarities, as well as the pros and cons of both textiles.


Silk and satin are often mentioned together, as well as confused for one another. Continue reading to learn more about both silk and satin. 


Contents:

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Silk vs. Satin

Silk and satin are often conflated and mentioned together, and for all the things silk and satin have in common, a plurality of differences exist as well. Our article takes a look at the differences between silk and satin, as well as their respective characteristics, features, advantages, and drawbacks. 


What is Difference Between Silk and Satin?

Silk and satin have many similarities as well as many important differences. 


The biggest difference is that silk is a fiber and satin is a weave. Silk is a natural fiber that comes from the cocoons of silkworms. Satin is a type of weave that can be used in conjunction with a variety of fibers including silk, polyester, cotton, wool, and more. 


Silk and satin are often used to make the same types of items, which includes blouses, shirts, pajamas, dresses, lingerie, pillowcases, sheets, and scarves


As a fiber, silk can be weaved into many different types of variations including satin, charmeuse, chiffon, organza, and twill silk. So although silk is sometimes satin, satin is not always made from silk.


The satin weave can be used with both natural or synthetic fibers, and is often made from silk, polyester, cotton, wool, and spandex. The two most popular types of satin are silk satin and polyester satin


Let's take a look at the key differences between silk and satin. You may also wish to read our complete article explaining the differences between satin and silk.

CATEGORY

SILK

SATIN

COST

Expensive

Silk satin is expensive, while polyester and synthetic satins are much cheaper

TEXTURE

Soft and smooth; shiny, glossy outer surface; dull backside; lightweight

Smooth; shiny on both the sides, lightweight 

BREATHABILITY

Extremely breathable 

Silk satin is breathable, polyester satin is lacking in breathability

TYPE OF FIBER

Silk is naturally produced by silkworms

Satin is a weave that can be made with a variety of synthetic and natural fibers

CARE METHODS

Its best to hand wash or dry clean your silk clothing

Polyester satin can be put in the washing machine and dryer in most cases

HYPOALLERGENIC/
ALLERGIES

Silk is hypoallergenic and repels dust, mold, and allergens

Synthetic satins such as polyester and spandex are non-hypoallergenic; silk satin is hypoallergenic

LUXURY

Silk is perhaps the most luxurious fabric in existence

Synthetic satin maintains an "affordable luxury" feel, while silk satin is very luxurious

MOISTURE WICKING

Silk is a moisture wicking fabric 

Satin is a moisture wicking fabric

SKIN AND HAIR

Pillowcases, bedding, and clothing made from silk are excellent for your skin and hair because of silk's smooth surface and natural, hypoallergenic properties; good for beauty sleep

Fabrics made from synthetic fibers such as polyester or spandex can have adverse effects on hair and skin because of the chemicals used in production

USES

Pajamas, shirts, blouses, dresses, scarfs, robes

Pillowcases, sheets, shirts, blouses, wedding dresses, pajamas


What is Silk?

Silk is perhaps the most luxurious fabric on the planet and can be crafted in a number of ways to produce chiffon silk, mulberry silk, silk charmeuse, silk brocade, and more. 


Read: Glossary of Silk Fabrics and Weaves


Silk is an ancient fabric that originated in China nearly 5,000 years ago when Empress Leizu noticed that a silkworm had fallen into her teacup and started to unravel while she watched curiously. Even today, China produces about 80% of the world's silk, with Japan and India in a distant second and third. 


Silk is usually used to make swank clothing garments such as pajamas, shirts, blouses, dresses, scarfs, and robes. 


How is Silk Made?

Silk is naturally made fiber that comes from silkworms through a process referred to as sericulture, also known as silk farming. 


During sericulture silkworms are fed heaps of leaves until they become fully grown and spin their silk cocoon. Once the cocoon is fully constructed it is then placed in boiling hot water so that the silk threads can be extracted and processed. 


These silk threads are then dyed, spun, and weaved together to make the silk cloth that is used to make our silk shirts, blouses, dresses, pajamas, scarfs, and bedding. 


To learn more about the step-by-step process of silk production, please read How is Silk Made?


What Does Silk Feel Like?

Silk feels soft, smooth, and drapey on your skin. Silk has a breezy, lightweight feel that will give you a sense of relaxation and satisfaction. Silk is a natural fiber and it definitely feels like it, as it somehow feels healthy, refreshing, and earthy. 


Silk garments often come with a loose fitting design, which makes for an airy and sensationally comfortable experience. Once you wear silk clothing, it can become quite difficult to return to clothing made from any other fabric once again, as the feeling is just not quite as satisfying. 


To learn more please read What Does Silk Feel Like?

Silk Pros

  • Soft, smooth, drapey, luxurious
  • Natural 
  • Durable and strong  
  • Glossy sheen 
  • Super comfortable 
  • Hypoallergenic 
  • Breathable
  • Moisture Wicking 
  • Good for skin and hair

Silk Cons

  • Expensive 
  • Delicate 
  • Requires special care and maintenance 

Silk Pros

Silk Cons

  • Soft, smooth, drapey, luxurious
  • Natural 
  • Durable and strong  
  • Glossy sheen 
  • Super comfortable 
  • Hypoallergenic 
  • Breathable
  • Moisture Wicking 
  • Good for skin and hair

  • Expensive 
  • Delicate 
  • Requires special care and maintenance 


What is Satin?

Satin is a type of weave that is used in combination with a number of fibers, that are both natural as well as synthetic and include silk, polyester, wool, cotton, and spandex to name a few


Satin is regarded as a vibrant, smooth, sheen, and elegant fabric. Polyester Satin is the most popular type of synthetic satin, and is almost as synonymous with satin as silk is.


Satin made from synthetic fibers does a great job imitating the luxurious and unique feeling of 100% silk satin, however is does feel a little less ritzy than pure silk satin. The advantage is that although synthetic satin may not be quite as luxurious as silk satin, it is certainly much more affordable


Learn more details by reading our full article What is Satin?


How is Satin Made?

Satin is a weave that can be made from a variety of different fibers both natural as well as synthetic. 


When satin is made from silk, the process begins with the production of silk fibers by silkworms. The cocoons are then boiled, and the silk threads are extracted. After the threads have been dyed and spun, they are weaved using the satin technique to create a useful silk satin fabric.


Synthetic satin, such as polyester satin, is man made in processing plants and comes from chemicals such as terephthalic acid and ethylene. Once these synthetic fibers are made, they are then weaved using a satin technique, and eventually become usable synthetic satin cloth. 


Since satin is merely a weave, it must be paired together with a fiber such as silk or polyester to make a real textile. 


Satin is a weave that uses a 4:1 ratio, which means that there are 4 weft threads wrapped under every 1 warp thread. The unique combination of the weft and warp threads gives satin its glossy and vibrant appearance. 


When the weave is adjusted this can change the look, feel, density, thread count, and thickness (momme) of the satin cloth. 


What Does Satin Feel Like?

Satin has a smooth and lightweight feel that brings a sense of calm and relaxation. The unique touch of satin is one of a kind and flows naturally down the curves and bends of your body. 


Polyester satin offers a very satisfying feel, and its touch has a much more expensive feel than the actual price tag; good value for a reasonable price. 


The touch and feel of silk satin is so soft and elegant that it is impossible to overstate. Silk satin has the ability to change your mood, your confidence, and maybe even your life. Silk satin has a magical, breezy, drapey, lightweight, and smooth feel.


To learn more please read Does Satin Feel Like Silk?

Satin Pros

  • Durable
  • Cheaper than silk (when made from synthetic fibers)
  • Soft and comfortable  
  • Smooth texture
  • Machine wash and machine dry (if made from polyester)

Satin Cons

  • Limited breathability (if made from synthetic fibers)
  • Delicate 
  • Can feel like an imitation when made from synthetic fibers

Satin Pros

Satin Cons

  • Durable
  • Cheaper than silk (when made from synthetic fibers)
  • Soft and comfortable  
  • Smooth texture
  • Machine wash and machine dry (if made from polyester)

  • Limited breathability (if made from synthetic fibers)
  • Delicate 
  • Can feel like an imitation when made from synthetic fibers


Silk vs. Satin: Which is Better?

When comparing silk and satin it is important to note that satin is often made from silk fibers and the main differences between silk and satin will occur when the satin is produced from synthetic polyester fibers. 


Choosing which is better between satin and silk will vary depending on each individual's budget and style preferences, as well as the occasion, what they plan to do, and how they intend to wear the garment. 


Cost

It is common knowledge that silk is an expensive fabric and that garments made from silk typically come with a hefty price tag. Polyester satin does not quite match the quality and feel of silk satin, but it does a decent job and comes with a much more affordable price tag.


Budget conscious buyers will likely prefer to buy clothing and bedding made from polyester satin, because it is much more affordable than silk satin.


For individuals looking for the highest level of quality and comfort, and aren't hesitant to spend a few extra dollars on designer fashion and luxury products, look to items made from silk and silk satin to fulfill your luxury desires.


Natural vs. Synthetic

Natural fabrics such as silk typically carry a more luxurious, soft, and breathable feeling than synthetic fabrics. In addition to this, silk is great for people with sensitive skin since no chemicals are added during production. 


Synthetic satin is man made and is derived from a substance called purified terephthalic acid, which is a petroleum byproduct. Fast fashion products are often made from these synthetic fibers and are known to be damaging to the environment. Silk is naturally produced and has an environmental footprint far smaller than fabrics made from synthetic fibers. 


So if you're looking so a fabric that is comfortable, stylish, as well as good for the environment, you would likely prefer to choose silk. 


Durability

Both silk and synthetic satin are strong, durable, fabrics that can last long periods of time if cared for properly. Polyester satin is more durable than silk satin because it is specially treated during production to be resistant to shrinkage, wrinkles, and damage. This high level of durability is why bed sheets and wedding dresses are often made from synthetic satin. 


Comfort

Silk and satin are both extremely comfortable but there is no debate that silk takes the prize when talking about comfort. Garments made from silk and silk satin are regarded as some of the most comfortable in the world, and while polyester satin does a great job emulating this, it does not give the buyer quite as high a level of comfort as silk satin does. 


Breathability

The long, thin, uniform, strands of silk that are used to make silk cloth allow it to be exceptionally breathable. This breathability gives silk the unique ability to keep you warm during the winter, as well as keep you cool during the summer, which makes silk a great fabric for all 4 seasons. 


Satin is also breathable, but only when it is made out of silk. One of the main drawbacks of polyester and other synthetic fibers is that they are not very breathable. This is one of the biggest differences you will feel when wearing silk satin vs. polyester satin. Items made from silk satin are much more breathable than items made from polyester satin. 


Skin and Hair

Silk is a great fabric when it comes to caring for your skin and hair. Pillowcases made from polyester, linen, or even cotton, may leave deep lines and creases in your face when you sleep, which can eventually lead to the formation of wrinkles. The smooth surface of silk pillowcases and silk sleep masks provide solves this problem and ensures the skin on your face will look refreshed, rejuvenated, and renewed every morning. If you are really looking to treat your skin well, try sleeping in silk satin pajamas, with silk satin sheets and silk satin pillowcases.


Care and Maintenance

Polyester satin has the edge on silk when it comes to ease of care and maintenance. Although you should always check the care label first, polyester satin can usually be machine washed and sometimes even machine dried. 


Silk is best cared for by either dry cleaning or hand washing. You may also sometimes be able to machine wash certain silk items, but it requires extra precautions like using a mesh laundry bag and very specific wash settings. 


Silk and synthetic satin are quite similar when it comes to ironing and getting wrinkles out. The most effective way to get wrinkles out of both silk and satin is by ironing.


To iron both silk as well as satin you will need a cotton pressing cloth, a spray bottle, an ironing board, and an iron. Use the iron on the lowest heat setting and always keep a pressing cloth between the surface of the silk/satin and the face of the hot iron. 


Silk vs. Satin FAQ

Which is better satin or silk?

Satin and silk are similar in a lot of ways, but also have some key differences. If you are budget conscious, you will likely prefer to buy polyester satin garments. If skin care, comfort, or luxury is your priority, then you would likely prefer garments made from silk cloth. 

Is silk or satin better for skin?

Silk is the best type of fabric for your skin. Silk is a natural, hypoallergenic fabric that repels dust, mold, and allergens, all of which can irritate your skin. Silk pillowcases are the best for your skin because they will not crease or make wrinkles on your face while you sleep. Sleeping in silk pajamas on silk bedding will be the best choice for people with sensitive skin, or for those people who want to care for their skin in the best possible way. 

Is satin more expensive than silk?

Satin is a weave that is often made with synthetic fibers. When satin is made with synthetic fibers such as polyester, it is much cheaper than silk. Polyester satin is only a fraction of the price of silk satin or 100% silk. 

Is silk or satin better for pajamas?

Silk is the best, most luxurious type of fabric for pajamas. Silk pajamas are not only soft and comfortable to sleep in, but they are also breathable, moisture wicking, and have the ability to regulate your body temperature. Silk pajamas are the most desirable type of pajamas in existence. 

Is satin polyester?

Satin is a type of weave that can be made from a variety of fibers including polyester, silk, cotton, wool, and spandex. The most popular type of satin is polyester satin. Polyester is not always satin, and satin is not always polyester, but satin can indeed be made from polyester. Satin being the weave type, and polyester being the fiber.