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Boy singeing a bat's wings, by Trophime Bigot

A singe is a slight scorching, burn or treatment with flame. This may be due to an accident, such as scorching one's hair when lighting a gas fire, or a deliberate method of treatment or removal of hair or other fibres.


A singe is a treatment available at a barber's.[1] A lit taper (candle) or other device is used to lightly burn and shrivel the hair. The practice of singeing was popular approximately a century ago; it was believed that hair had "fluid" in it and singeing would trap the fluid in. Singeing is supposed to have beneficial effects – sealing cut ends, closing up the follicles, preventing the hair from bleeding (a belief that has since been debunked)[2] and encouraging it to grow.[3] Singeing is still sometimes used to bond natural hair to hair extensions.[4]

Pre-industrialised cultures have also used singeing as a means to trim scalp or body hair, as a part of normal grooming or during ritual activity.[5][6]

Sir Francis Drake was famously said to have figuratively "singed the King of Spain's beard" when he raided Cadiz and burnt the Spanish fleet.[7]


In the agricultural industry, poultry and pork is singed to remove stub feathers and bristles. Kiwifruit vine leaders and canes are sometimes cauterised as a treatment for Pseudomonas syringae bacterial infection.


In the textile industry, loose fibres protruding on the surface of textile goods are singed to remove them. When done to fabrics containing cotton, this results in increased wettability, better dyeing characteristics, improved reflection, no "frosty" appearance, a smoother surface, better clarity in printing, improved visibility of the fabric structure, less pilling and decreased contamination through removal of fluff and lint.

The process is usually to pass one or both sides of a fabric over a gas flame to burn off the protruding fibres. Other methods include infra-red or heat for thermoplastic fibers. Singeing of yarns is called "gassing". It is usually the first step after weaving or knitting, though the fabric may be brushed first to raise the surface fibres.[8]

Cellulose fibres such as cotton are easily singed because the protruding fibers burn to a light ash which is easily removed. Thermoplastic fibres are harder to singe because they melt and form hard residues on the fabric surface.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Industry, Preston School of (1943). Trade Training and Vocational Guidance. Preston School of Industry. p. 241.
  2. ^ Medical Art and Indianapolis Medical Journal. 1918. pp. 171–.
  3. ^ Joe S. Riley; W. E. Daglish (1996). Zone Reflex Plus Translation Diet: Hydro-Therapy and Swedish Massage. p. 74. ISBN 0-7873-1124-3.
  4. ^ Ayana Byrd; Lori Tharps (12 January 2002). Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. St. Martin's Press. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-0-312-28322-3.
  5. ^ Bret Harte (1874). The Overland Monthly. A. Roman & Company. pp. 419–.
  6. ^ George Taplin; James Dominick Woods (1879). The Native Tribes of South Australia. E.S.Wigg. pp. 188–.
  7. ^ Jocelyn R. Rentoul (1983). "Management of the Hirsute Woman". International Journal of Dermatology. 22 (5): 265–272. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4362.1983.tb02136.x. PMID 6347918.
  8. ^ Rao, J. Venkata (March 2001). "Developments in grey preparatory processes of cotton textile materials". Indian Journal of Fibre & Textile Research. 26 (1–2): 78–92.