How to Tell Fake Fur From Real Fur

There is One Fool-Proof Test

Pierre Grzybowski of HSUS demonstrates the burn test.
Pierre Grzybowski of HSUS demonstrates the burn test. Doris Lin

Why Do I Need to Know?

Until December of 2010, learning how to tell real fur from fake fur was important because of a loophole in the U.S. federal labeling law that exempted garments with less than $150 of fur on them. Today, thanks to the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, every product containing real fur must be labeled as such. However, even now, knowing the difference is important because there have been instances where real fur has been mistakenly or misleadingly labeled or advertised as fake fur.

As Pierre Grzybowski, Deputy Manager of the Fur Campaign at HSUS, demonstrated at the Taking Action for Animals conference, it’s nearly impossible to tell real fur from fake fur by look or by touch. Real furs can be dyed any color of the rainbow, and fake furs can appear very real. Even touching the fur does not always reveal the answer, since today’s fake furs are designed to mimic real fur in every way.

The Burn Test

The best test is the burn test. In general, natural fibers burn and synthetic fibers melt. You probably won’t be able to do this test in a store, but if you buy an item or if you already have an item you’re unsure of, cut or pluck a few hairs off of the garment. Using a lighter or a match, try to burn the ends of the hairs. If the tip of the hair burns, crumbles away when you touch it and smells like human hair burning, it is real fur. If the tip of the hair melts, curls up into a hard ball and smells like an unnatural chemical, the fur is synthetic.

Federal Legislation

In the United States, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act was signed into law in December of 2010, and now requires that any item made with real fur be labeled as such.