How to Identify if an Ankara Fabric is 100% Cotton
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How to Identify if an Ankara Fabric is 100% Cotton

How does one identify if an Ankara fabric is 100% cotton?
Ankara, also known as African prints or Dutch wax prints, refers to vibrantly colored cotton fabrics that have become very popular in Africa, especially West Africa and Nigeria. Ankara fabrics are used to make colorful outfits like wrappers, skirts, blouses, jackets and even accessories.

When purchasing Ankara fabrics in Nigerian markets, it is important to identify if the material is made of 100% cotton or it has polyester blended in. 100% cotton Ankara fabrics have some distinct advantages – they are more breathable, absorbent, eco-friendly and often retain bright colors better after repeated washing.

How to Identify if an Ankara Fabric is 100% Cotton

How to Identify if an Ankara Fabric is 100% Cotton

This article will guide you on how to easily recognize if the Ankara you want to buy is pure cotton or a cotton-polyester blend.

How to Identify if an Ankara Fabric is 100% Cotton

The following are some of the best ways to know if your ankara material is pure cotton.

Check the Label

The easiest way is to check the label on the fabric roll. Reputable textile dealers usually provide details about fabric composition on the labels. These include information like -100% cotton, 80% cotton 20% polyester etc.

However, some sellers also put up fake labels so this may not always work. You need to further physically examine the fabric.

Observe How It Burns

One of the best ways to identify if a fabric is pure cotton or blended is to burn a tiny piece of it. Make sure you cut a little piece from the corner or inner side instead of burning the decorative outer side.

Hold the piece with a pair of pliers and light it with a lighter. 100% cotton burns quickly with an afterglow and smells akin to burnt paper without any molten bits. Blends with polyester melt as they burn while man-made fabrics like nylon would just melt. Cotton also leaves some ash residue.

Touch and Feel It

When you touch a 100% cotton Ankara fabric, it feels soft and breathable. Blended fabrics often feel stiffer. Thickness is also a good indicator – pure cotton Ankara usually falls between thin sheer muslin to thick denim. Extremely thin or see-through ones are likely a poly blend.

Cotton is also more absorbent than other materials. When you wrap the cloth around your fingers, pure cotton will begin absorbing any finger moisture immediately. Blended fabrics do not absorb moisture that fast.

Check Its Durability

Hold up the fabric with both hands and stretch it out as far as you can width-wise. 100% cotton has some natural elasticity and will stretch slightly before coming back to original size without damage. Fabrics blended with polyester stretch further but may get deformed if you pull too hard.

You can also twist a section of the material. Cotton would wrinkle up but retain original shape. Non-cotton blends are likely to permanently break their crispy shape. This shows cotton is more durable.

Weave Patterns Also Matter

Classic Ankara fabrics have intricate and stand-out weave patterns made possible by pure cotton’s versatility.

Check out the backside of fabric too – you can see through loose plain weaves in some cheap polyester blends while cotton has tighter weaves. Thin blends also allow light to pass through more easily compared to opaque cottons.

Price Also Tells the Tale

While there are some exceptions, pure cotton Ankara fabrics usually cost more than synthetic blends. The process of making high quality durable, absorbent cotton requires more resources. If you come across an unusually inexpensive Ankara cloth odds are it contains cheaper blended fabrics.

Wash It Before Use

If you still cannot confirm fabric composition after all these checks, there is one final way – buy and wash it! 100% cotton Ankara fabrics retain their color, shape and feel almost like new after washing. Non-cottons tend to lose vibrancy and their textures also deteriorate faster over washes.

Check how your fabric looks after washing it 2-3 times. If it retains all its qualities, enjoys its 100% cotton richness!


Identifying pure cotton Ankara requires reading labels, burning tests as well as reliance on touch, visual appearance and pricing.
Natural fabrics made of cotton fibers burn quickly, feel softer, absorb moisture faster, are opaque, stretch slightly without damage and hold colors better after washing.
With some practice, spotting 100% cotton becomes quicker in busy Nigerian markets.
And the extra effort is worth it to enjoy beautiful, durable and comfortable outfits that pure cotton Ankara provides.


About Mfonobong Daniel

Daniel is a seasoned content writer and the content manager at Ankara. He is a lover of books, creative writing, with a penchant for poetry and music. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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