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How To Fireproof Fabric

by Victor

Examining the Flammability of Fabrics

When it comes to fabrics, it is important to consider flammability. This encompasses factors such as the speed at which the fabric will catch fire and how quickly it will burn. Additionally, the amount of toxic fumes that are produced is another important aspect to consider.

Fabric flammability is a critical aspect to take into account, particularly for draperies meant for public spaces such as a school, theatre, or event hall. According to federal regulations, drapery fabrics employed in these areas must be certified as fire retardant.

The flammability of certain fabrics can be lessened through the use of flame retardant chemicals. However, some fabrics are naturally more fire-resistant than others, including glass fibers and modacrylic, some synthetic fibers possess remarkable flame-resistant qualities. Additionally, certain polyesters can take a while to ignite and even have the ability to put themselves out. Nevertheless, when synthetic fabrics do ignite, they tend to melt instead of burning, which can cause serious burns if it touches the skin.

When it comes to natural materials, they generally don’t melt. Wool and silk, for instance, burn slowly, are hard to ignite, and may put out their own fire. However, with untreated fabrics like cotton and linen, they are much more likely to catch on fire quickly, leading to a rapid fire spread. Blended fabrics that have a mix of natural and synthetic fibers, like polyester-cotton, can be especially dangerous due to the faster ignition and flame spread of the natural fibers combined with the melting of the synthetic ones.

Weight and the kind of weaving of fabric can have an effect on its ignition and burning. Fabrics with a light texture and loose weave tend to catch fire more quickly than thicker ones with a tighter knit. Moreover, the surface texture of material can also be a factor in its flammability, with materials such as velvets and velour’s being more prone to burning than those with a smooth surface.

Fabrics’ Resistance to Fire

Fabrics’ capability to withstand fire is what is known as fire retardancy. It is a quality that is necessary for safety in various areas of life, particularly in the production of clothing. Fire retardancy can be achieved through the use of chemical treatments, changes in the fabric construction, or a combination of both. The most common type of fire retardant treatment is flame retardant chemicals, which are typically added to the fabric during the manufacturing process. Other methods, such as modifying the fabric structure, are also employed to increase the fire resistance of a fabric.

A comparison between fabrics that are flame retardant by nature and those that are treated to become flame retardant can be made. The former kind of fabrics is permanently resistant to fire, whereas the latter type has been chemically treated to gain flame retardancy.

A great way to reduce the flammability of fabric is totreat it with a fire retardant spray. Examples of natural fibers, such as cotton, are able to be treated with a chemical which effectively lowers their flammability to the point that it is almost impossible to combust. During a fire, the chemical and the gases and tars created by the fabric react together, transforming them into carbon char, which notably slows down the fabric’s burning rate.

Polyester fabrics with permanent flame retardant properties are created from fibers with fire retardant characteristics built into the molecules. Both Trevira and Avora  polyester fibers are capable of providing this type of inherently or permanently fire retardant fabric.

Synthetic fabrics may be characterized as either “durably fire retardant”, fire retardant, or non-fire retardant. The first option involves a process in which polyesters are chemically treated during the manufacturing stage with a non-water soluble chemical. Alternatively, they may be topically treated with chemicals post-manufacture, or left untreated (or untreatable) and thus deemed non-flame retardant.

Fabrics that are labeled “inherently flame retardant,” “permanently flame retardant,” or “durably flame retardant” will maintain their flame retardancy for the entirety of the fabric’s lifespan. Cleaning procedures can be consulted with the drapery manufacturer for washing or dry-cleaning.

Chemically treated materials labeled “flame retardant” will no longer be as effective in resisting fire after a certain number of washes. To preserve the fabric’s effectiveness, it must be dry-cleaned with a non-liquid solution.

It is a common misconception that flame retardancy is good forever. Generally, the flame retardant capability of a fabric that has undergone a topical treatment is only certified for one year. However, the amount of time the treatment will last can depend on how often the drapes are dry-cleaned and the environmental atmosphere in which they are used. It is recommended that topically treated drapery should be tested and re-treated annually by a certified professional if necessary.

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