Forensic analysis of textile degradation and natural damage

Smith, M.J. and Thompson, K. (2017) Forensic analysis of textile degradation and natural damage. In: Carr, D. (ed.) Forensic Textile Science. Series: The Textile Institute book series. Woodhead Publishing: Duxford, pp. 41-69. ISBN 9780081018729 (doi: 10.1016/B978-0-08-101872-9.00004-2)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.

Publisher's URL:


This chapter covers the various types of degradation processes that a textile is subjected to throughout its lifetime and how these affect its properties. Natural, regenerated and synthetic textiles are considered. Their inherent properties are discussed in relation to behaviour as well as the effects of additives used in processing. The textile's normal lifecycle cycle begins with processing, which is followed by wear, use, laundering and disposal. However, textiles involved at a crime scene could be subjected to much harsher treatments often in a bid to destroy them and this is also discussed. Therefore the degradation pathways of differing textiles will vary due to their differing chemical and physical structure, processes used during manufacture, end use and treatment. Typically a textile will exhibit an increase in brittleness, and associated loss of strength and sometimes colour change as a result of degradation. The main degradation pathways occur through hydrolysis, oxidation, photodegradation, biodegradation, abrasion, tearing and cutting. It is rare for these pathways to occur in isolation and the degradation of a textile is usually a combination of many factors. These degradative processes are caused by a number of environmental and usage parameters such as heat, sunlight, bacteria, fungi, chemicals, accidental spills and pollution wear. The methodology of identification and determination of damage to a textile is discussed. The sample size available for analysis may influence the type of analysis used and also the range of different measurements that can be realised. The numerous types of conditions that textiles are subjected to throughout their lifetime cause damage, which can range from flattening of their fibres to their complete breakdown. How this occurs not only depend on the textile type but also on its treatment from production to eventual end of use.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Dr Margaret and Thompson, Mrs Karen
Authors: Smith, M.J., and Thompson, K.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Publisher:Woodhead Publishing

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record